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Firmenich: Prospering in Naturals Together

Firmenich is cementing its commitment to natural ingredients and small farmers with its Naturals Together initiative.

Firmenich is cementing its commitment to natural ingredients and small farmers with its new Naturals Together event, part of an initiative bearing the same name.

The event, held in New York City Nov. 17 and 18, saw the Swiss-based oil house hosting producers of 40 ingredients — including rose, jasmine, vanilla, patchouli, eucalyptus, vetiver and mint — who hailed from 15 countries.

“Firmenich works with about 100 suppliers of natural ingredients around the world,” said Dominique Roques, head of naturals purchasing, innovation and promotion at Firmenich. “They are the first link in the chain of creating fragrances. All of these people are living and working with small farming issues. These people are remarkable but isolated. We decided that if we wanted to progress on challenging natural ingredients to be the best we could be, we would hold this summit and discuss responsible sourcing and innovation while addressing challenges. For many years, a lot of good things in naturals have been done here and there. Now we want to be global. We have the responsibility of safeguarding several hundred natural ingredients.”

That can be done by sharing best practices, solutions to challenges and addressing the climate issue, said Roques. “We want, 15 years from now, to see the natural palette of natural ingredients growing. That is how we will measure success.”

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Among the farmers who attended: Gigi Chan Hoi, general manager of Authentic Products, a Malagasy national whose business operation with Laurence Cailler, chief executive officer of Authentic Products, specializes in vanilla, and Raja Palaniswamy, the India-based director of Jasmine C.E. Pvt. Ltd.

Palaniswamy, who works with his cousin Vasanth Venkatasamy, signed a joint venture with Firmenich in April 2014, and since then, has launched several new products around essential oils and extracts in India. Palaniswamy noted that, with the support of Firmenich, the company has dramatically grown its network of contract farmers and diversified its portfolio.

“We felt that we needed innovation, better products with better technology,” said Palaniswamy. “We wanted to partner with someone from the natural world. Working with Firmenich is a great opportunity; they have joined hands with us and helped us to come out with more innovative products. This has helped in focusing on strengths.”

“We have worked with Firmenich for more than 10 years,” said Chan Hoi, who grew up in a vanilla-producing family. “In the beginning, we were working with 350 farmers. We are now working with 3,750 farmers. The level of security and the pricing is invaluable for all of the farmers. Farmers know that their raw materials will be purchased, and that gives them security and helps to give their children a better life. We’ve been able to build wells in the 42 villages where previously they had no clean water. Before, many would have to walk 22 kilometers to get to the closest doctor. Now, there is a dispensary that they can more easily get to. Madagascar is an extremely poor country, and we see the joy on everyone’s faces because of Firmenich.”