BASF’s Approach to Aroma Ingredient Innovation

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With 15 years of experience in organic chemistry, Florian Garlichs leads BASF´s development program for new aroma ingredients, the Virtual Innovation Ecosystem.

In this exclusive Perfumer & Flavorist interview, Florian Garlichs, who leads BASF’s Virtual Innovation Ecosystem, discusses the program’s latest approach to driving aroma ingredient development.

By the end of 2024, the global aroma chemicals market is expected to reach $6.57 billion with a CAGR of 6.2%a (to compare, the market was valued at $3.​85 billion in 2015). With this high demand comes challenges in regulatory compliance and R&D investment risks, among others, while balancing a cost and accessibility that is available to a limited number of global players that have these capabilities.

BASF's Virtual Innovation Ecosystem addresses these challenges through a partnership-based approach using BASF´s large inventory of molecules to screen substances for critical molecular parameters. Read on for Garlichs' interview below.

Perfumer & Flavorist: Can you describe the innovation process within aroma ingredients at BASF? What’s an example?

Florian Garlichs: BASF´s new innovation approach combines our strengths in chemistry with the know-how of flavor and fragrance houses and other strategically relevant partners. Consolidating the capabilities of all partners in one innovation ecosystem speeds up the development of new-to-the-world fragrance ingredients for the whole industry.

Related: Natural Aroma Chemicals E-Book

This approach is different from the classical innovation model in the F&F industry where every party used to provide the necessary resources by itself. We are convinced that collaboration is key in this age and that it is time to create tools for differentiation in the market. We have the necessary capabilities to fulfill our part in these partnerships: In addition to our large chemical inventory, BASF has more than 10,000 people working in R&D, an asset we are trying to benefit from for the development of new aroma ingredients by repurposing technologies, molecules and ideas from other disciplines and industries for use in the F&F industry.


P&F: What are the major challenges in developing new aroma ingredients?

The fragrance industry has a growing need for new aroma ingredients that offer a more benign regulatory profile, improved price performance ratios and unique olfactive profiles. This creates room for new ingredients, but innovation in new ingredients is increasingly expensive, challenging and complex.

"BASF has a large inventory of molecules, for example raw materials, intermediates, products and side streams, which can be used as starting materials for cost-effective scalable aroma ingredients."


R&D efforts and global registration need time, personnel resources, a global presence and are cost-intensive. The requirements and hurdles for regulatory and sustainability profiles are significantly higher than for existing benchmark materials; new materials also have to compete with the prices of established materials. New ingredients often require capital investment in new production facilities or the adaption of existing facilities. Because of this complexity, only a few companies have the capabilities required and the financial strength to develop and launch new aroma ingredients.


P&F: How do you find promising candidates for new aroma ingredients?

BASF has a large inventory of molecules, for example raw materials, intermediates, products and side streams, which can be used as starting materials for cost-effective scalable aroma ingredients. We are screening the whole palette of BASF’s chemicals to find new substances or building blocks for new substances, that meet the requirements for new aroma ingredients. This approach generates a huge number of candidate molecules. Success requires prioritization and a focus on the most promising before even a single gram of the material has to be synthesized by a chemist or smelled by a perfumer. Together with our partners we then further assess and develop the most promising candidates within the innovation ecosystem.

New technologies and digitalization are playing an increasingly important role. Our vision is to use these technologies to further change the development process of aroma ingredients.


P&F: How do you integrate customers?

We listen to the needs and requirements of the industry. We understand that there is a conflict between economical and regulatory needs and creative freedom. Regulatory pressure reduces the palette of perfumers and cost pressures increase the need for a better price/performance ratio. At the same time, new, unique ingredients are required to ensure the freedom of perfumers and to guarantee differentiation in the market.

One key to success is the constant and consistent input of all stakeholders involved in our innovation process. We are deeply convinced that their feedback is needed to ensure a focused approach with a strategic fit for our customers.



Transparency Market Research: Aroma Chemicals Market