Premium Beauty News - How is the field of noble materials doing in perfumery?

Rémi Pulvérail - Agricultural activities are still going on in most countries, but the number of orders for fine perfumery natural extracts dropped all of a sudden, which will further weaken a number of producers: they will end up with their harvests on their hands… in countries already struggling, from a structural standpoint.

Producers have launched an operation to ask their historical customers, perfume houses, for help, as can be seen in Africa, where there is still no clear vision of the impact of the pandemic, and where sanitary equipment is sadly lacking.

According to Rémi Pulvérail, founder of L’Atelier Français des Matières, the current crisis reveals and intensifies the weakness of many supply chains of scented plants

Premium Beauty News - Can this put the different networks involved in danger?

Rémi Pulvérail - Of course, there are additional tensions, but they already existed before the pandemic, due to climate disruption, for example. Natural material producers expect at least some visibility and contractual commitments from buyers, but unfortunately, it hardly ever works that way. Buyers have two objectives: minimize their stock levels with orders placed only when they need the materials, and purchase the latter for the lowest price possible.

As a matter of fact, farming involves long, unchanging cycles with harvesting periods at the same fixed date every year. An initial investment is required to launch the culture, get the first harvest a few years later, transform the plant to obtain the extract, and eventually export the material. The payment comes later. And in periods like these, things get even more unbalanced. The unprecedented duration of the vanilla crisis in Madagascar just shows aroma and perfume houses cannot restore the balance, despite the many “ethical sourcing” projects launched.

Premium Beauty News - What do you recommend?

Rémi Pulvérail - For these producers, which still represent micro-sectors in the global agricultural landscape, the only solution would be to implement truly responsible purchase policies with contractual commitments over several years and a systematic pre-financing policy. Of course, it comes at a cost, but it is still significantly less important than the cost of a major crisis. Also, to me, producing countries should better control their local networks with more interventionist policies regarding both the volumes produced and the price levels. Today, the market on its own cannot regulate and guarantee the sustainability of all sectors.

Premium Beauty News - Should activities be relocated to guarantee the sourcing?

Rémi Pulvérail - Definitely not. In a number of countries, it would be a catastrophe without this plant perfume production. For example, Haiti has become the first global producer of vetiver essence – it is the second export resource in this country and a product with a high added value. This sector provides dozens of thousands of families with a decent life. The same goes for the production of Ylang Ylang essence in the Comoro Islands.

Premium Beauty News - Can green chemistry be a solution for the future?

Rémi Pulvérail - Of course, whether it be in the field of bioconversion, biosynthesis, or enzymatic catalyses, today, many synthetic molecules derived from ‘dirty’ chemistry - let’s face it - can be replaced with the same molecules in their natural version. It is a major challenge. In France, we have new players at the forefront of these future, environmentally friendly technologies, like AFYREN, who work on fermentation based on French sugar beet.