Firmenich, which merged with the Dutch company DSM in May 2023, is continuing to explore more environmentally friendly processes. After pioneering SFE extraction in 1995, a technique that uses CO2 compressed to a supercritical fluid state, the company has been developing a different approach since 2021, using the water contained in biomass as a medium to extract its odorous components. Firgood was born out of a simple idea.
A patented process
The technique consists of two phases. In the first stage, the biomass from the collection of flowers or other types of plants (vegetables, fruit or even spices) is moistened beforehand. It is then heated briefly by electromagnetic vibrations.
"Under the action of electromagnetic waves, water molecules come into friction and explode, releasing their aromatic notes," explains Fabrice Pellegrin, Senior Perfumer and Director of Innovation and Development, Natural Products at dsm-firmenich. "The time of exposure to the waves is reduced, avoiding prolonged thermal shock, which preserves the plants’ fragile components while respecting their naturalness," he adds. In a second stage, this extract undergoes another technological process to separate the water from the aromatic molecules.
An olfactory palette enriched with new extracts
"Today, dsm-firmenich can offer more than twenty fully developed Firgood extracts," says Fabrice Pellegrin. "These new products open up a whole new world of possibilities. This technique can be applied to fragile ingredients such as flowers, which until now were considered "silent", but also to fruits and vegetables, such as green peppers. It can also provide perfumers with new olfactory profiles coming from classic raw materials but with new facets."
So, compared to the traditional absolute, jasmine grandiflorum pays Firgood is given a new airy lightness free of animalic notes, as if it had just been placed in the basket at harvest time. Lavandin pays Firgood is reminiscent of the freshly-picked flower rubbed in the palm of your hands, and loses its camphorated note, while ginger Firgood reveals its fresh, lively facets. Fame by Paco Rabanne is the first fragrance to include jasmine grandiflorum pays Firgood in its composition. The brand describes it as "a jasmine of exceptional purity."
The extracts prepared at the plant are submitted to the perfumers for approval at "Masters’ meetings." Honorine Blanc, Olivier Cresp, Nathalie Lorson and Alberto Morillas then meet at the Villa Botanica in Grasse, recently inaugurated by dsm-firmenich. By expressing their expectations as they work to create a fragrance, the master perfumers are directly involved in the research and development process. "For instance, we decided to develop a green pepper Firgood. This extract is very interesting because it complements the palette of ingredients by developing a green, attractive and modern olfactory profile, which is not the case with all natural green ingredients, which can often be harsh," details Fabrice Pellegrin, who is at the origin of these regular meetings.
In keeping with nature
The Firgood innovation was born out of a desire to avoid the use of volatile solvents, which are used in conventional extraction techniques. "Electromagnetic extraction uses no petrochemical solvents, simply water. The residues from the extracted biomass are easier to reuse because they contain no solvents. They can be recycled or extracted again to produce extracts with a complementary olfactory profile, reinforcing the sustainability of this revolutionary technology," emphasises Fabrice Pellegrin.
What’s more, the use of electromagnetic waves reduces the amount of time perfume plants are exposed to heating, which saves energy. In the case of lavandin, its extraction takes just 15 minutes, instead of the 55 minutes needed for a traditional distillation process.