WPC Sneak Peak—Dominique Coutière

In anticipation of the upcoming 8th World Perfumery Congress in Cannes, France (June 6–9), P&Fnow is talking to industry experts presenting at the event. Here, P&Fnow chats with Dominique Coutière, founder and president of Biolandes, who will speak at the WPC about the future of natural and organic essential oils.

P&Fnow: In your opinion, where does the fragrance industry stand in 2007?

Coutière: The trend toward concentration among the key players in flavors and fragrances is still going on, with the acquisition of Danisco's flavors division by Firmenich, coming after Givaudan's acquisition of Quest. I believe things will probably continue to move in that direction. This consolidation is made necessary by the concentration on the luxury and food markets, as well as the big companies’ desire to limit their core lists to three suppliers.

In luxury perfumery the past few years have been marked by an increase in fragrance launches, which has led to shorter life cycles for the products and reduced market shares for the ones that do survive. Today, the major brands are launching fragrances at the rate of nearly one per year, while in the 80s they launched a new fragrance every five years. In parallel, niche brands offering natural, and in many cases organic products, are becoming firmly established in the market—in both fragrance and cosmetics.

P&Fnow: What are the biggest challenges and opportunities facing the fragrance industry today?

Coutière: I think we will see a return to original, distinctive fragrances formulated using natural and luxurious ingredients. If we look at the best-selling fragrances that withstand the test of time, we can see that most of them were innovative compositions for their time, whether it's Chanel N°5, Thierry Mugler’s Angel or Yves Saint Laurent’s Opium. Natural products will have an important role to play in this new and necessary direction for perfumery.

P&Fnow: What will keep your company moving forward?

Coutière: Biolandes was founded 25 years ago and has specialized in the production of a wide range of natural products. The company has developed in two major directions, which remain the foundation of our policy. The first is the authenticity of the natural products we sell, in a market where adulterated products are only too common. In order to ensure our capacity to pursue this strategy, we have established our own operations at the source of the most prestigious botanical products used in perfumery, such as cistus in Spain or rose in Bulgaria. This allows us to produce most of the products we market ourselves and to maintain control over their origin.

The second direction has been the development of new botanical extraction technologies that have enabled us to improve productivity and to improve the environmental impact. Our extraction technologies make it possible to sharply reduce the volumes of solvents used and we process most of our own botanical wastes by composting. Our two biggest factories—in France and Spain—use distillation residues as their primary energy source. For our Provence factory in France we also are investing this year in a new clean water treatment technology based on purification using bamboo.

In an economic world dominated by short-term profitability goals, our company’s family structure, in which my three children occupy key posts, enables us to continue investing over the long term, and all of the profits are reinvested in production or planting. For example, between 2000 and 2004 we invested in a 40-hectare orange grove in Morocco whose trees won’t be fully productive until they are at least 10 years old. We can also afford to invest in converting our growing operations to organic farming. We have already done so in Morocco and Madagascar, and we just started a new project for rose growing in Bulgaria. We have plans in the works for new operations in other countries and we continue to invest in new technologies.

P&Fnow: What do you like most about working in the fragrance industry?

Coutière: The best part is going to the fields and factories, the excitement of being there when the flowers are picked at daybreak and seeing all the hours of work in the field transformed into a few kilos of products with magical odors. It’s discovering the systems that have developed for gathering aromatic plants in different places around the world, and it’s also the satisfaction of continually surmounting new technical challenges. At Biolandes we love to share this excitement with our clients and work with them to create lasting partnerships.

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