Firmenich looks to new era for natural extracts with innovation centre

By Sarah Hills

- Last updated on GMT

Firmenich has brought all of its key technologies under one roof, upgrading equipment and capacities, with the opening of its new innovation centre for natural ingredients.

The Geneva-based company, which creates flavours and fragrances for some of the world’s most desirable brands, believes the new centre will help reinforce its R&D drive - which in the flavour arena aims to meet trends for authenticity, natural status, and taste improvement.

The Natural Ingredients Innovation Centre in Grasse, France, was two years in the making and boasts of “state-of-the-art innovation labs, modernized extraction workshops, new capacities in molecular distillation and rectification, and several CO2 extractors”.

Vincent Nayel, Firmenich Naturals, told “Firmenich has invested heavily on this site to improve the development equipment, but also the industrialization, some of the production capacities and last but not least the overall safety of the site.”

In flavours, Nayel said they are “100 per cent focused” ​on natural extracts, aimed at the main areas of beverages, sweet goods and savoury goods.

He added: “This translates for instance as new development in the fields of volatile recovery, supercritical fluid extraction (CO2), and also organic extracts.”

CO2 extraction allows for clean, low-temperature extraction, leaving no trace of solvent in the final extract.

Nayel claims Firmenich is now the only company to have CO2 extraction capacities that can be used in the same place in combination with every other technique: Naturomes (its brand name for volatile recovery based products) percolation, adsorption/desorption and traditional distillation or solvent extraction.

He added that, in line with current flavour trends for authenticity, natural status, and taste improvement, their focus will be on three areas.

They are organic and ethical sourcing and extractions of cocoa and vanilla, producing 100 per cent natural fruity tonalities, particularly exotic ones, in order to follow the latest European legislation and the extension of Firmenich’s savoury range to meet growing demand, which it puts down its “high-tech and differentiated methods of extraction”.

However, despite all of the company’s products for flavours being natural, Nayel said that there would be no hesitation in creating blends of naturals and synthetics if needed, as it has done already with some perfumery items.

There is also a focus on increasing sustainability of its extracts by working at the source.

Nayel said: “Implementing our high-tech specialty strategy in Grasse, and continuing to get closer to the source to process traditional raw materials helps us to maintain price competitiveness, and ensure that our clients get the best price for their products.”

Firmenich acquired the flavour division of Danisco in 2007, integrating a centre dedicated to the production of natural extracts.

Grasse, with a history and tradition in this field, was deemed an obvious choice to locate the new Centre of Innovation.

Firmenech also has R&D centres in Switzerland, China and the USA.

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