As a kid growing up in France I was never without my tin of Cachou Lajaunie, some tiny liquorice lollies that made my tongue completely black! Every time I go back to France I make sure I buy a few little boxes to take a bit of this Toulouse specialty home.
Cachous have been around for ages, but were mostly made famous in the 80′s by this really short but efficient ad, named “La Belle de Cadiz”!
The director David Niles consequently won a “Commercial of the Year” award for the ad, which has since acquired a real cult status. Not too bad for only 3 seconds!
The noise it makes when you shake the tin is also very recognisable and was used in another commercial: “Cachous Lajaunie, la petite boîte jaune qui fait tchik-tchik!”
Cachous come from the Areca Catechu (Betel nut palm), a tree found in East India producing Betel nuts. The paste extracted from the nuts is then boiled and filtered, and the result after evaporation is the cachou. Its virtues are similar to nicotine: hunger suppressant and stimulating.
Reformulated by pharmacist Léon Lajaunie around 1880 in Toulouse as a breath freshener for smokers and for general oral hygiene, the cachou belies its size by packing a punch of flavour, thanks to a savant combination of liquorice and mint. The design of the round tin was created by a clock-maker friend of Léon, so that it conveniently fits in a watch-pocket.
Léon was business savvy and marketed his product very well; he set up one the first in-store advertisings on an enamel sign. Later, the famous poster artist Leonetto Cappiello also designed beautiful signs for the Cachou Lajaunie.
Léon’s efforts seem to have paid off, as the Cachous Lajaunie were an instant success! In 1904 he sold the formula and brand to the Sirven family, who expanded the business even further. A few decades later, Cachous Lajaunie became part of the Cadbury-Schweppes group, and were recently bought by Kraft Foods.
For all these reasons, the Cachous Lajaunie have become a cultural icon and it looks like they are here to stay, with millions of these little tins sold worldwide every year!
I now challenge you get that slogan out of your head, it’s been a few days I just can’t stop myself singing: “Chi-cachi-Cachou Lajaunie, Lajaunie… Han han !”