The Estée Lauder Cos. Inc. held a cocktail party Tuesday evening to introduce the company’s newly installed president and chief operating officer, Fabrizio Freda, to Wall Street. Freda, the former president of the Global Snacks Division of Procter & Gamble Co., joined Lauder in March with the understanding that he will move up to chief executive officer within two years.

At the company’s Fifth Avenue headquarters Tuesday, roughly 20 analysts and investors mingled with the beauty firm’s top management, including Freda, ceo William Lauder and Dan Brestle, vice chairman and president of Estée Lauder Cos., North America, according to some of those in attendance.

In a research note released Wednesday, Wachovia Capital Markets analyst Jason Gere wrote of the meet and greet: “While no prepared remarks or announcements were made, we gather by management’s tone and conversation that long-term change could be under way at [Estée Lauder Cos.]. We are pleased with management’s openness toward such change, but still believe it will take time for it to benefit the bottom line.”

Gere added that Freda said international expansion will focus on building dominant market share in important regions. He wrote, “Freda stated he would rather have a 40 percent share in China than a 10 percent share in each of the emerging markets.” On the fragrance front, the analyst stated Brestle said there’s an opportunity to extend beyond its prestige mentality and launch more midtier brands.

— Molly Prior

Firmenich Opens Center

PARIS — In a bid to focus on creativity and increase synergies between its fragrance and flavors divisions, Swiss fragrance supplier Firmenich recently unveiled a new state-of-the-art creative center to some 700 clients in Paris.
The 90,000-square-foot building in the Parisian suburb of Neuilly-sur-Seine unites the firm’s flavors and fragrances units, which were previously located in separate buildings.

“This way we can stay ahead of trends,” said chief executive officer Patrick Firmenich, pointing out the food and beverage industry’s influence on fragrance over the past decade, such as tea notes appearing in scents following the growing popularity of iced teas in the U.S. At the same time flavors are increasingly becoming enriched with floral notes, he said.

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This story first appeared in the May 22, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

As well as inaugurating the Paris location, Firmenich is investing in a new factory in Gujarat, India, for synthetic and natural fragrance ingredients, due to open in 2009. The company is also constructing a new fragrance development center in São Paulo, Brazil, which will be operational by yearend, and plans to regroup its various activities at its headquarters in Geneva.

Also this month Firmenich launched an advertising campaign highlighting values such as independence and creativity, to reinforce the firm’s image and stand out in a saturated fragrance market, which saw some 700 launches in 2007, according to executives.

This year’s projects are being concocted in a very different environment. The Paris center is designed to increase transparency in the fragrance world for clients, some of which have very little exposure to fragrance compositions.
A laboratory on the first floor is designated for customers, where they can see how Firmenich’s perfumers work plus participate themselves in minor modifications to fragrance formulas.

The building itself has been designed to optimize working conditions for Firmenich’s perfumers. An air ventilation system means there is not even a whiff of scent while each perfumer’s office has thick glass walls to reduce both noise and olfactory contamination. “It’s very important to have a quiet space for concentration,” said master perfumer Alberto Morillas, the nose behind recent hits such as Daisy and Armani Attitude, who writes his formulas mostly by hand.

Meanwhile, on the ground floor, a custom-made automated compounding machine, containing 400 raw materials, can be used by Firmenich’s noses to produce formulas overnight and by morning, 40 percent of a juice can be finished.

— Ellen Groves

L’Oréal Plans Rio Facility

PARIS — L’Oréal plans to open a research and development laboratory for Latin America in Rio de Janeiro. The company stated the facility would speed up the development of its products, create new formulas adapted to Latin America, evaluate new technologies and study local sourcing of raw materials. While the French beauty giant is currently in talks with the State of Rio’s government about the possible move, the firm stated it will inaugurate a provisional lab dedicated to hair care in its industrial site in Rio in a few weeks. The facility is to be staffed by Brazilian researchers who have been training with L’Oréal in France for about a year. They’ve already developed some products specifically for brands in Brazil.
In other company news, L’Oréal has begun recruiting employees through Facebook with an application, called “Work With Me,” developed with the TMPNeo agency.

— Jennifer Weil

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