The Lavender Bears’ Picnic

Bobbie bear in plush toy form

Bobbie bear in plush toy form

If you go down to the woods today you’d better not go alone…especially not in China where you might be witnessing one of the biggest bear jamborees on earth.  It seems that a fad of huge proportions was born this past year.  The Bridestowe Lavender Estate in Tasmania had been selling only the occasional Bobbie Bear in lavender plush stuffed with dried lavender, ten a month or so up until 2013, when a Chinese actress posted a picture of herself with Bobbie on social media.  Bobbie was, according to Zhang Xinhu, the perfect companion on a cold night in Shanghai.

After that, Bobbies began selling like crazy, up to 4 thousand a month and Bridestowe was at the limits of its  lavender production.  That was when their problems really began.Shortly afterwards the Chinese concern which Bridestowe had subcontracted  with to manufacture the material for the

The Teddy Bears' Picnic

The Teddy Bears’ Picnic

Bobbies’ plush coats began making Bobbies of their own.  The stage was set for a battle over the business.  Bridestowe was forced to withdraw from the bear market for a time…

Bridestowe is back with more lavender bear products now, and a new plan to expand its original business in Asia.  I hope they succeed.  But what an interesting turn of events! Shortly after lavender became material non grata in Western perfumery, it has become the core of a monster business in China.  This does make you wonder how wise it may have been for IFRA to impose a near ban on lavender?

Bridestowe sells lavender soaps and sachets as well as the Bobbies who seem to come in larger and smaller sizes, the larger one also being a heating pad.  The estate which is a hundred years old, was established to grow lavender for the essential oil, by its founder, a British perfumer.  These days essential oil only forms part of the market of Bridestowe, and not the largest part either.

If most of the EO goes to Japan, most of the foot traffic the estate attracts comes to Tasmania, another big source of revenue, plus the Bobbies, cosmetics and lavender ice cream bring in more profits than the old essential oil production did nowadays. It seems that Bobbie Bear has helped put Tasmania on the map.

Lavandula angustifolia

Lavandula angustifolia

At the same time in Provence there is a blight on lavender plants, Phytoplasma Stolbur, carried by leaf hoppers and posing a real threat to the lavender production in Southern France. Some of the fields have small almost shriveled plants.

These are bad times for lavender lovers, I’ve written already about a faux estrogenic scare from lavender products, but this seems to have blown over, and in the meantime there is no really good substitute for lavender.  Nothing else mimics lavender effectively, as the Chinese know by now.

Add to these misfortunes the rather silly EU decree that all lavender must be classified as a chemical, and that therefore all producers and distillers must meet the same rigorous tests as chemical producers do for their products.  This for a substance that has been tucked into sheets and perfumed baby layettes for a thousand years and more.  It’s simply unbearable…

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12 thoughts on “The Lavender Bears’ Picnic

  1. I didn’t know that Lavender was under the IFRA cosh to that extent: the mind boggles, really! Between that and the blight, things look bleak for lovely lavender.

    I’d better make the best of it whilst I can.

    • I hope that the EU sees the light on lavender. I mean how dangerous can one little old herb be?

      Meanwhile, I admit to looking out for old canisters of Yardley Lavender!

      • Actually, I already have lavender bears (not super-plush ones) from Norfolk Lavender, and I’m still standing!

        You’d think that centuries of use would stand lavender in good stead. I really can’t fathom that thinking process.

        • I ought to be a goner too with all my lavender bushes over the years. Worse yet, make lavender vinegar and add it to the bath water.

  2. Well! I did not know any of that! I grew up in Tasmania and yes, Bridestowe has been around since forever. Those soaps and sachets were a feature of my childhood, so I find it hard to get excited about lavender. Everyone and their grandmother had a lavender bush in the front garden when I was growing up.

    • Guilty! I’ve got lavender bushes stashed just about everywhere and am looking for more places to put more in, plus this year am growing green lavender. My garden sounds like a nursery rhyme.

      Didn’t know about Bridestowe until I read this report in the Financial Times, and couldn’t imagine how something like a bear sachet could become so popular. It seems that as a child, you were enjoying what is now regarded as an iconic product by the Chinese.

      • I should clarify that I remember Bridestowe for the organza-wrapped sachets and soaps I’d see in tourist shops and market stalls. The bears are new to me. I just looked at the website. $90 for a bear-shaped heat pack seems very steep to me! I liked the look of the teas though. Never tried lavender tea.

        • They must feel after the phenomenal success of the bears they feel they can charge $90! I agree it’s a bit much for a bear shaped sachet. Hadn’t realized the bears were a relatively new product-so there you go.

          Lavender tea is something new to me also- shall see if I can find a recipe come lavender season…

    • He’s a beauty isn’t he? My daughter who is into stuffies, said, “Aw! Cute!” You know the rest was history for Bridestowe.

  3. Unlike Vanessa, I am a fan of the note so I’m extremely upset about that EU stupidity… Though, I’m very angry with the whole idea of limiting any of the ingredients for everybody for the products, use of which is strictly voluntary, when some people might have some mild allergic reaction to it… It boggles my mind! Peanuts should have been outlawed decades ago!!! Anyway…

    It was a great story! I felt an immediate urge to buy a lavender bear… though probably not for $90…

    I look forward to hearing about/seeing your green lavender.

    • I look forward to finding a nice big hole for the green lavender! I have been digging about the property and composting so much that have to be careful not to step in them and twist an ankle. Must be part terrier 😉

      Anyway the lavender limiting and testing tends to drive me bughouse also. How can it be dangerous? If it is then label it, but we’ve probably said all this before! Naturally I still wear lots of Pour un Homme, lavender ban or no.

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