Switzerland - cradle of the modern F&F industry. Based on a strong chemical industry, Innovation competencies and combined with Quality and Efficiency.

Switzerland – a country of breath-taking mountain landscapes, beautiful bovines feeding on pristine alpine pastures, producing the finest milk for the most savourous dairy products – great cheeses, irresistible creams and omniscient chocolates.

Switzerland is, however, less well known as the cradle of modern perfumery nor for its status as the world’s main driver in food and flavour innovation. Combine the elements of independent thinking and the strong recognition as a hallmark of quality and clearly Switzerland is a fertile platform for a thriving Flavour and Fragrance (F&F) industry.

Not surprisingly, two out of three of the world’s top companies servicing the F&F industry were founded in Switzerland in the latter half of the 19th century and have maintained their headquarters, production facilities and innovation centres firmly anchored within the Helvetic confederation. Both Firmenich and Givaudan were founded in 1895 in Geneva and Zürich, respectively.

Both companies have been instrumental in revolutionising the F&F landscape over the last 120 years and heavy investment in state-of-the-art Research and Development facilities in Switzerland ensure the continuity of their innovative talents. Today, both companies control about 40% of the entire F&F service industry producing speciality ingredients as well as creating and manufacturing perfume and flavour compounds. Innovations linked to these major players include : raspberry ketones, strawberry flavourings, hedione, synthetic rose ketones and synthetic amber notes.

Switzerland is also home to the food processing and water giant Nestlé, which was founded in 1905 from the fusion of the Anglo-Swiss Condensed Milk Company and Farine Lactée Henri Nestlé as a dairy products and baby food. Through diversification and acquisition Nestlé is now the No 1 (à verifier) food company in the world and employs 340,000 people globally. Nestlé was also at the origins of instant coffee through the introduction of Nescafé, which became an instant success with US troops during World War II. From modest beginnings, success was borne through the finest Swiss raw materials and strong Swiss innovation.

Henri Nestlé was also fundamental in the perfecting of the manufacture of milk chocolate. Daniel Peter collaborated with Henri Nestlé using Nestlé’s experience to resolve the issue of removal of water from milk to be added to the chocolate, a primordial step in the conservation of milk chocolate.

A large number of Swiss SMEs (Small and Medium Sized Enterprises) are also flourishing and enjoying great global success in the F&F industry. Sophisticated technical infrastructure, strong R&D, efficient systems, skilled personnel and consistently high quality products are recurring themes which are at the heart of this blossoming industry.

Some Facts and Figures :
In Switzerland today, the F&F supply industry, as represented by the member companies of the SFFIA represents, in the region of :

  • Employment : 5000 full time equivalent jobs;
  • Economics : CHF 3.5 billion in annual turnover;
  • Growth : 4 % per annum;
  • Research and Development : Reinvestment of 10 % of net annual profits;

This performance indicates a stable and healthy basis of our industry, even in today’s challenging business environment. It also demonstrates the acknowledgement of this industry the requirement to continue to spend in research and development, when other industrial sectors have witnessed a strong curtailing in innovation spending over the last decade.
About the author

Gordon Sanders
Gordon Sanders Ph.D. has a university degree in Agricultural Chemistry and a doctoral thesis in Environmental Chemistry. He is currently Environmental Toxicology Manager and Outsourcing Director in the Regulatory Affairs and Product Safety department for Givaudan-Fragrances in Geneva.