Paris - The French have long prided themselves on their sexual prowess, but a new breed of entrepeneur armed with ethically-sourced condoms and preservative-free vibrators wants to take the eco-conscious to new heights of organic ecstasy.
When he launched the first 100 percent organic “erotic cosmetics” line two years ago, Frederic Donnat saw a gap in the market that was “more interesting than the usual organic beauty products”.
The owner of French firm Divinextases has since seen sales triple to 450 000 euros (over R6m) after refocusing his online business to “eco-erotic” products, earning him a quality label from France's national organic federation.
With eight products today, he hopes to introduce four new items next year and is seeking to start exporting to “mature markets” in Sweden and Norway, the 45-year-old said.
From balms for buttocks left sore by a spanking session to intimate perfumes, all Donnat's products are made in France with sustainable materials from reputable sources. They use beeswax and shea butter rather than palm oil and all are wrapped in recyclable packaging.
“Take care in love” is the attitude at Laboratoires Claude, a manufacturer of organic pills to be used “as a one-off or as regular therapy, half-an-hour or an hour before” sex for heightened pleasure.
Still “the only player” on the domestic market - whose pills are sold in pharmacies, organic stores and sex shops - the brand wants to diversify into aphrodisiac-laced tea and sugar, and to develop its distribution network, company director Fleur Phelipeau said.
For 2014, Phelipeau is projecting a 300-percent increase in sales thanks to customers who may be worried about the contents of offerings from more traditional competitors.
“Eighty percent of the products on the market contain Viagra, which can be dangerous for older men,” she said, while reassuring potential buyers that only organic plants are used in Laboratoires Claude's capsules.
With supplies struggling to match this increase in demand, Phelipeau will have to use manufacturers outside France for the kind of plant extracts required, such as Peruvian maca, long used by men in the Andes to boost libido.
Other brands are drawing in eco-conscious consumers with initiatives to help forests.
British company French Letter sells carbon-neutral condoms made from natural latex produced in sustainably-run forests.
Meanwhile the promise of French website arbredesplaisirs.com (Forest of pleasure) to plant a tree in the Amazon rainforest for every sex toy purchased is the big attraction. That, and the recycling service for worn-out vibrators, of course.
And the technology behind sex aids is also getting a green makeover.
Last year, French brand Passage du Desir introduced rechargeable batteries for vibrators.
After experiencing a 20 percent increase in sales from “intimate” products, company president Patrick Pruvot has another eco-friendly nouveaute in mind: an entirely solar-powered vibrator.
But some are cynical about the rise of the organic sex shop. Easy Love, a network of lingerie and erotic accessory retailers, claimed eco-erotic products “have sold very badly” and dismissed the concept as “a publicity stunt”.
Adeline Andray, a spokeswoman for Dorcel, a leading erotic film retailer, said that the pleasure factor of a product still trumped its organic credentials, though the company is monitoring the success of their rivals' creations.
Despite these criticisms, France's eco-erotic entrepeneurs are adamant: sex sells. They remain convinced that sex with a conscience might sell even better. - Sapa-AFP