Firmenich leads the way on biotech fragrance

By Simon Pitman

- Last updated on GMT

Firmenich leads the way biotech fragrance

Related tags Ingredients Perfume

Firmenich has been an early pioneer in harbouring biotechnology to advance its portfolio of fragrance ingredients, a move that has also helped to increase efficiencies and cut its environmental impact.

Cosmetics Design spoke to Armand de Villoutreys, President Perfumery & Ingredients, Firmenich, to find out how the Switzerland-based ingredients giant has incorporated the technology in to its business, highlighting both the advantages and some of the challenges.

The company’s biotechnology journey only began in 2014 when it launched its first bio-based ingredient, Clearwood, an award-winning range developed using the company’s white biotechnology platform to produce a warm woody note fermented from sugar cane.

The company has subsequently built on that range with the launch of Ambrox Super, also produce on the white biotech platform to bring a sustainable amber note to its portfolio for a fragrance that is otherwise difficult to source and produce.  

In this question and answer interview Villoutrey explains about the extensive development programme that is helping it to make the high demands that are set by today’s discerning fragrance consumers

What impact is this technology having on the Firmenich fragrance portfolio? ​ 

Firmenich is committed to advancing innovation and creativity so our fragrances sustainably meet consumers’ needs. With our new Perfumery and Ingre

Armand de Villoutreys, Firenich president of perfumery & ingredients

dients Business Unit, we are set to be even more creative and agile in offering the widest and richest palette of sustainable fragrances to our customers and their consumers. This is why we are continually strengthening our best-in-class palette of ingredients including Synthetics, Naturals and our industry leading White Biotech platform, responsibly.  

Our research teams propose about 2,000 biodegradable synthetic molecules annually and only four make the cut, along with a number of new naturals, into our perfumery palette. In our search for game-changing ingredients, we seek qualities that open up new olfactive directions, drive fragrance performance and are readily biodegradable, in line with our Green Gate programme. 

With our pioneering bio-based ingredients, Clearwood and Ambrox Super, we are opening the next era of excellence for our ingredients, as we are not only adding unique olfactive profiles, but also crafting molecules that deliver optimized environmental performances.  

How does the technology help the company to broaden its offerings to the market?

We see significant growth opportunities for our bio-based ingredients from our white biotechnology platform that we’ve been running for nearly 15 years with the recent launches of Clearwood and Ambrox Super. Both ingredients are growing fast thanks to their outstanding environmental profiles and their versatility across all segments of perfumery. We believe we have only scratched the surface of what is possible and are firmly committed to continue developing cutting edge bio-based ingredients.

Is the technology having a positive impact on the company’s sustainability rating? If so how?​ 

At Firmenich, we believe that Business is a force for good. That’s why our philosophy is to integrate sustainability within our long term innovation programs aiming to shape new game-changing ingredients for both perfumery and flavor palettes. All of our new ingredients need to not only open up new olfactive and taste profiles, but they also need to be fully sustainable, in line with Firmenich’s Green Gate programme. Green Gate was created by Patrick Firmenich in 2007 and is today one of the first filters in our new ingredients selection process.

What benefits do ingredients developed with this technology bring to formulators?

Our creators are the essence of Firmenich. It’s their unique talent that shapes our unique creative signature, and combined with our Ingredients portfolio, the broadest and finest in the industry, we have an undeniable edge.

Our perfumers needs are consistent and precise, and these needs apply to all categories of new products including novel bio-based ingredients. These needs can be summarized in the following equation: a new product has to be more sustainable than the available alternatives, must be cost-effective versus the available alternatives, and most importantly must bring new or different olfactive facets to the creation palette. A new ingredient is introduced only if these 3 conditions are met in full.

 What benefits to these ingredients bring to consumers?

 While consumers are increasingly drawn to natural products and fragrances, their sustainable supply, availability and price are a challenge. That’s why Science plays a critical role to meet consumer expectations while preserving natural resources. In this context, Firmenich is committed to using and creating biodegradable ingredients, applying the highest toxicology standards, and leading in green chemistry.

As a result of our efforts, the health and environmental impact of our ingredients is impressive. Synthetic ingredients can bring social, environmental, and economic benefits by making appealing well-being and hygiene products affordable for vulnerable communities. Our science-driven and nature-inspired solutions play a critical role in our balanced portfolio of ingredients, alongside botanicals.

What other possibilities is this technology likely to bring to the fragrance category in the future?

We believe that white biotechnology will continue to bring sustainable innovations to our ingredients palette, either by delivering radically new ingredients or by allowing improvements to existing ones. Coupled with our established expertise in chemical engineering, our green chemistry philosophy, and the array of technologies and research fields that we pioneer, white biotechnology also has the potential to further reduce our global manufacturing footprint by replacing petrochemical intermediates with sustainable carbon sources for the benefit of all our stakeholders.

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