Among the major ingredients that Symrise grows in Madagascar are spices such as the emblematic vanilla and cinnamon, as well as geranium, red lemongrass, pink pepper leaf and ylang-ylang. More recently, newer raw materials have been added to the portfolio of ingredients the group produces there, including ginger, vetiver, black pepper and mandarin.
"There is a great diversity of climates on the island with very rich soils, lots of spices and fragrant plants. To diversify our palette of natural ingredients, we proposed to our network of farmers to diversify their production when the vanilla season is over,” explains Suzy Le Helley, perfumer at Symrise.
Indeed, the German company has forged special links with several hundred farmers, mainly from the Sava region, Diego-Suarez around the city of Sambava, in the province of Antsiranana (formerly known as Diego-Suarez), the heart of the vanilla culture, in the Northeast of the island. Symrise provides them with a regular income and a health insurance. The program also provides them with training on tropical forest certification, reforestation and good agricultural practices. Farmers therefore enjoy short and long-term sources of income and can also sustainably improve land productivity.
Four new Malagasy natural materials have recently joined Symrise’s palette:
Ginger Oil. Cultivated under the most suitable climate conditions in the Sava region, Malagasy ginger is recognized for its exceptional quality. Symrise actually offers two varieties, a fresh ginger, distilled locally, and a dried ginger undergoing a CO2 extraction in Germany, as part of a zero-waste program where the by-products are upcycled for skincare purposes. “Ginger CO2 is a warmer, deeper version of ginger. Its earthy and woody facets make it more complex and richer,” highlights Suzy Le Helley.
Mandarin Oil. Symrise has taken advantage of the large number of mandarin trees in Madagascar and the possibility to work manually in the country to reproduce there the ancestral Sicilian manual method known as "sponge" and produce a very high quality of mandarin oil. The fresh mandarin is cut in half and hollowed out of its fruit and pulp in a basin of water. The peel is then pressed several times with a rotating movement against a funnel to bring out the essence drop by drop. After the pressing, a very fine essence is recovered in a glass bottle that serves as the container. There is therefore no alteration of the mandarin’s natural scent, as can be the case with mechanical harvesting.
Vetiver Heart. In the wake of the launch of a vetiver essential oil in 2019, Symrise now proposes a more complex product A vetiver essence is extracted in Madagascar using ethanol then sent to Symrise’s plant in Holzminden, Germany, to purify and preserve only the "heart", the noblest part of the ingredient.
Fresh Black Pepper Oil. Instead of using the usual dried berries, this fresh black pepper oil is obtained by direct distillation of the fruit from a three-year-old vine. Still green, the ripe berries are freshly crushed and distilled on the spot. The result is a new note: greener and crispier than traditional black pepper, which is usually close to that of pepper used in cooking.
For Suzy Le Helley, these new materials illustrate both the richness of the Malagasy terroir and the long-standing cooperation between Symrise and local farmers. “These new crops are a way to diversify sources of income, beyond vanilla. We have set up nurseries to provide perfume plants and spices, when asked we provide advice for cultivation, some farmers will test certain plants, some will prefer another, extolling the merits to those around them, and testing new ones. culture associations. It’s a dynamic process, we are very happy with the results," she concludes.