Swiss fragrance maker expands Singapore presence with $13m facility

Firmenich's new creative centre was officially opened yesterday by (from left) its president of perfumery and ingredients Armand de Villoutreys, Singapore Economic Development Board chairman Beh Swan Gin, Firmenich CEO Gilbert Ghostine and general ma
Firmenich's new creative centre was officially opened yesterday by (from left) its president of perfumery and ingredients Armand de Villoutreys, Singapore Economic Development Board chairman Beh Swan Gin, Firmenich CEO Gilbert Ghostine and general manager Rajan Arul.PHOTO: FIRSIN FIRMENICH

Switzerland-based Firmenich, the world's second-largest fragrance and flavour company, has expanded its presence in Singapore with the opening of a $13 million Global Perfumery Creative Centre at Science Park yesterday.

The 3,500 sq m state-of-the-art facility now houses the company's leadership teams for three product categories - hair care, soap bars and detergent powders.

It includes everything from washing machines to mock-up hair salons so scientists and perfumers can produce and evaluate fragrances before they are sold to clients, typically household product makers, which use these fragrances for their final products.

The creative centre has "climatic labs", where staff can replicate the climate conditions of certain countries and seasons - say, summer in Brazil or winter in China - to test how their fragrances would hold up in those temperatures.

"We have been present and continuously investing in Singapore since 1974, a strategic growth hub for Firmenich across Asia and also globally," said Firmenich chief executive Gilbert Ghostine.

"This new creative facility reinforces our commitment to deliver the most innovative consumer-focused fragrance solutions to our clients and their consumers."

Firmenich set foot in Singapore 43 years ago with a representative office. In 1991, it opened a manufacturing plant in Tuas, which is still operating. It has 300 staff here.

The 120-year-old firm, which is fully owned by the Firmenich family, works with a plethora of multinational clients. It requested that the media refrain from naming any of these companies, but they include major household brands.

Last year, revenue grew more than 8 per cent to 3.2 billion Swiss francs (S$4.5 billion).

While working with luxury brands such as Calvin Klein and Kenzo to make high-end perfume, the company is also doing its bit to tackle the sanitation crisis in the developing world.

A few years ago, it took up a challenge issued by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to address the problem of foul-smelling public toilets in countries such as India. New toilets are being built in these places, but after a while they are rarely used because they smell so bad, and instead people defecate in the open, which in turn leads to unsafe water, poor sanitation and the spread of infectious diseases.

Firmenich has since developed a fragrance that blocks certain receptors in the human nose, making it incapable of registering certain bad smells. It plans to commercialise the product next year, after which it can be donated to communities that need it the most.

Singapore Economic Development Board chairman Beh Swan Gin, who was at the opening, said in a statement that Firmenich's new creative centre is a significant addition to Singapore's ecosystem for consumer businesses, and a strong testament to Singapore's attractiveness as a global business and innovation hub.

"It builds on and expands the integral role that Singapore plays in Firmenich's growth in Asia-Pacific."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 19, 2017, with the headline 'Swiss fragrance maker expands S'pore presence with $13m facility'. Print Edition | Subscribe