Firmenich sure is getting a lot of the fragrances and tastes right. Image Credit: Firmenich

Dubai: Do you want to know whether a new fragrance has a chance to be a hit with consumers in the UAE and elsewhere? Are you a business in the F&B space thinking of introducing a new taste that might go down well with users?

Then, a Swiss company in Dubai might be able to help. Firmenich has just set up a $10 million R&D facility at Dubai Science Park to help businesses know their chances with a new smell or taste.

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With a new R&D centre in Dubai Science Park, Firmenich wants to get a better handle on the Middle East consumer preferences when it comes to fragrances and flavours.

This is no small business either. Firmenich has been around for more than 127 years and locked up $5 billion in its latest revenues. In other words, it sure is getting a lot of the fragrances and tastes right.

“The UAE and Middle East markets represent an opportunity to take the business to a new level,” said Gilbert Ghostine, CEO, who was in Dubai last week to launch the R&D facility, which joins a network of such facilities in Europe as well as in India and China. “The Dubai centre has the latest in A.I. and robotics technology to help clients speed up their new introductions to the market.”

Get the mix right

In most cases, clients will approach Firmenich with their new formulations and then have the company test it out. Based on those tests, the formulation is put up as a fragrance or a new F&B brand. These days, the company is putting plant-based protein options to the test to see whether wider consumer acceptance will develop.

“Sugar is ‘enemy No. 1’ and that’s why there is such a determined push behind plant-based options,” said Ghostine. “But any such product should not lose out on taste and put off consumers. This is where we help brands. This is quite a sizeable part of our business these days.”

Big and private

Firmenich rates itself as the largest privately held business in the fragrance and flavours space. In the UAE and Gulf, consumers are no longer hooked to one preferred taste or fragrance, for that matter. Age and demographics also come into the picture in determining what works, and all of this makes what Firmenich has to offer quite a decisive influence.

On whether the Dubai lab is more about deciding what works best for consumers in the region, the CEO said: “We have in the past taken Oudh to Europe and the US, and we will be helping regional clients decide what new formulas can prove to be a success. It can work both ways.”

Hotbed of new sciences

For Dubai Science Park, the new investments by the Swiss firm adds to its credentials as a hub for innovations in new sciences.

“Developing fragrance and flavors is highly creative but the process is strongly founded on science and technology,” said Marwan Abdulaziz Janahi, Managing Director of Dubai Science Park. “The insights and expertise that Firmenich brings are valuable and I am confident that the new Creation and Development Centre will amplify their impact significantly.

“For over a decade, Dubai Science Park has been working to foster an environment where bright minds across sciences can experiment, inspire and innovate, and Firmenich has been an integral part of that journey from the very beginning.”

As for UAE and Middle East consumers, they can expect the next big taste and smell moment to emerge from the new lab. And those than can make plat-based protein options taste just as good as the real thing...