Givaudan’s pioneers: Tracing our collective DNA
Imagine a strand of DNA, the molecule that contains the unique genetic code of all living organisms. It codes the instructions for making all of our body’s proteins, determining how long we live, how we grow and perform. But can it also express culture? Behaviour? Values?
Over two and a half centuries, the pioneering people of Givaudan have contributed many firsts to the flavour and fragrance industry. From the earliest artisanal creation of aromas and scents, to the industrial revolution that led to mass production in the 19th century, and today’s increasing focus on sustainable solutions and innovative green chemistry, we have continually evolved and adapted.
Throughout this journey, a common thread has emerged, one that Givaudan’s employees around the world today think of as our ‘DNA’. Cultural DNA can be seen as a metaphor for how people within an organisation work together. At Givaudan, it is expressed as a combination of behaviours and traits that fall under three themes: inspiring, challenging, with heart and soul.
Andreas, Head of Givaudan’s Talent Acquisition Centre of Excellence, explains how this culture links the Company’s pioneering past to the present day: “When you look back to people who over two hundred years ago were already travelling the world in search of exotic ingredients, you have to imagine that it took a great deal of curiosity, not to mention courage and passion, to explore and settle in far-off lands. Today, these pioneering traits have merged across different times and places, diverse cultures and backgrounds, to create a shared culture in which these values continue to flourish.”
Andreas notes that the creation of flavours and fragrances is not an industry like any other.
For many of Givaudan’s perfumers and flavourists, as well as other functions, the opportunity to touch people’s lives through sensory experience can feel less like a career and more like a true vocation.
“Culture creates a common language whether you work in flavours or fragrances, in Kemptthal or in Singapore. We’re a global group but of a size that allows individuals to make an impact. This means that if you have an idea that can bring value, you must also be able to drive it forward. You can’t be afraid to challenge others’ ideas but it must be in a way that is constructive and team-oriented. If you bring that mindset, and have the right experience and skills, you can really achieve something.”
Many of Givaudan’s inspiring pioneers are immortalised in the book, ‘An odyssey of flavours and fragrances’, published in 2015. Here, we contrast a few of their stories with the testimonials of employees profiled on our Careers section, to demonstrate how the pioneering spirit continues to be part of our cultural DNA.
Ernest Guenther, the famed chemist who travelled the world on behalf of New York-based Fritzsche brothers, wrote in 1947 about new sources of supply in the introduction to his landmark six-volume work, ‘The Essential Oils’. He could not have imagined that it would remain a standard of the industry some seventy years later. “It has been the author’s rare privilege to witness most of these developments at hand. His travels for more than twenty years have taken him the length and breadth of Europe, through Africa, Asia, Australasia, into the new producing centres of North, Central and South America – in all of which places he surveyed the production of essential oils at their source.”
Jaggu, Principal Flavourist, Singapore, shares his inspirations:
“I am fortunate to come from India, a place rich in spices to inspire a flavourist. I started with Givaudan in Bombay, then moved to Johannesburg, to Brazil, Shanghai and now Singapore. The experiences, tastes, behaviours and emotional states in these places are sensory inputs for you to make better flavours and incorporate those learnings into your creations. You learn the nuances, like the notes of music, and it’s just like any other apprenticeship, whether you’re a painter, or learning music, you learn to compose, to create harmonies but it takes time. It’s a journey.”
Germaine Cellier was a strong-willed young chemist from the Bordeaux region of France who was hired to work in Roure’s composition laboratory in Neuilly in 1930. Dressed in an ultra-chic suit, a cigarette dangling from her lips, she would regularly stop by a café to bet on the horses while her two assistants went from stall to stall at the local market seeking inspiration for her colourful compositions. Known for keeping the company of artists and couturiers, Cellier’s creations were as unconventional as her personality: the originality and classic simplicity of her formulas led to a dozen historic perfumes for famous couture houses including Robert Piguet, Pierre Balmain, Nina Ricci, Balanciaga and Hermès.
Ong, Commercial Head, North Asia, believes in challenging himself to go further:
“While I was taking my engineering degree, inside me there was something that wanted to be more connected with people. What’s really important is for the individual to say: how much more can I stretch myself doing this job? How much more can I offer to help other people and, in that process, learn more? It’s not always what you know technically, but how much you want to learn. How hard you want to try to make sure that the fragrances you put on the shelf truly delight consumers.”
With heart and soul
Legendary perfumer Jean Carles embodied a passion for creation and a commitment to the future. He was the first to conceive of a true form of apprenticeship for perfumers in 1946. In his work, ‘Méthode de création en parfumerie’, he suggests that creating perfume is an art, not a science: “When you try too hard to balance a perfume, you extinguish it, you suppress its character. One must not be fearful, or seek to avoid a dominant element in a perfume – this ‘fault’ has often lain at the root of a great success.”
Lara, Production Specialist, (East Hanover, USA), shares her heartfelt experiences as a trainee.