You may not have heard of Firmenich, but their ingredients are probably in your household right now. They may have had a hand in making your laundry detergent, or perhaps your breakfast cereal. Let’s take a look at this family-owned Swiss firm, still going strong after 125 years.
Firmenich is a B2B specializing in research, creation, manufacture, and sale of perfumes, flavors, and ingredients. They’re the largest privately held company in their industry, and the 2nd largest fragrance and flavor company in the world.
History of Firmenich
Founded in Geneva in 1895, the company – then known as the Chuit & Naef Co. – initially specialized in fragrances. Their first customer was the French perfumer François Coty. In part by using the synthetic scent ingredients Firmenich created, Coty was able to make fine fragrances that were affordable for everyone, rather than exclusively luxury goods.
Firmenich soon began to develop flavors as well, creating raspberry, citrus and strawberry flavorings in the 1930s.
In 1939, the Nobel Prize for Chemistry was awarded to Leopold Ruzicka for the discoveries he made while working in Firmenich labs. Ruzicka received the prize for his ground-breaking work with terpenes and polymethelenes. Ruzicka was also the first to chemically synthesize the male sex hormone androsterone.
There were more breakthrough achievements over the next decades. Firmenich invests 10% of turnover (which was 4.3 billion Swiss francs in 2021) in R&D. These investments paid off with the inventions of new synthetics such as musk and amber. The development of the worlds’ first white biotech ingredient in 2014 was followed by others in 2016 and 2018.
Embracing the newest technology, Firmenich uses AI in the search for better fragrances and flavors. In 2020, the company invented the first AI-augmented laundry care fragrances, and also created the first AI-designed flavor. Firmenich received the 2021 Digital Innovation of the Year award in November.
“AI is a cornerstone of Firmenich’s innovation that allows us to marry the most fundamental elements of our DNA: cutting-edge research and development with the unique expertise and creativity of our perfumers and flavorists.” Firmenich CEO Gilbert Ghostine.
Culture and Values at Firmenich
Innovation at Firmenich happens not only in the laboratory. Through the years, the company has created a great place to work. They’ve had a pension fund for all employees since 1945. Other progressive policies followed, such as flexible work hours, a progressive retirement system, and the creation of work units for people with physical and mental disabilities. In 2018, the company became one of only seven multinationals to be EDGE-certified as a gender-equal employer. In 2019 the company implemented global paid parental leave for both male and female employees. Today, Firmenich employs over 10,000 people in 83 affiliate locations across the globe.
Firmenich has long recognized that their success, like everything else, arises from nature. They have made sustainability a priority. Their R&D follows principles of Green Chemistry whenever possible. In 2020, the company announced that all their operations worldwide are powered 100% by renewable electricity. They’ve successfully uncoupled company growth from CO2 emissions, with growth up 18% and emissions down 30% since 2015.
Firmenich is rated #1 in their industry for sustainability by CDP, the Financial Times Climate Leaders, the World Benchmarking Alliance, and Sustainalytics ESG. The Union for Ethical Biotrade verifies Firmenich is the first company in the world to equitably share the benefits that arise from their biodiversity-based R&D with local communities, through sustainable practices and collaboration.
There are more astronauts than there are perfumers, according to Firmenich. In such a rarified field, this company continues to successfully merge the ancient mystique of flavorists and perfumers with the most modern technology. Their business practices demonstrate that they recognize how essential it is to value nature and the lives of all the people working in the firm.
“Our creativity and science enables us to address some of the world’s greatest challenges, such as Hygiene and Sanitation, Health and Nutrition and Climate Change. Today, more than ever, I am proud to say that Firmenich is more than a Business. We are a Family, with a Legacy!” says Gilbert Ghostine.
It takes some of the best people in the world to build a company that remains at the forefront of science and innovation for more than a century. If you want to build a brand with a legacy, contact to find the talent that can get you there, contact grapefrute today.