Content - Luncheon: “You experience Givaudan ten times a day”

  • April 28, 2017

Luncheon: “You experience Givaudan ten times a day”

Tokyo (SCCIJ) – The April Luncheon introduced more than 50 members and guests of the SCCIJ to the world of flavors and aromas. The topic of the speech was “How Switzerland’s Givaudan combines science and nature to develop flavors and aromas that delight Japanese consumers”. The two speakers were Fabrizio Raho, President and Representative Director of Givaudan Japan K.K., and Alain Ouellet, Technical Head of Givaudan’s Flavor Innovation Center Japan in Osaki, Tokyo. Beyond their presentations, the luncheon visitors experienced vividly firsthand how their own olfactory and gustatory sensors are working thanks to Givaudan’s proprietary “Virtual Aroma Synthesizer“ technologies.

SCCJI April Luncheon 2017

Delighting with taste and aroma

With over 250 years of history, Swiss-based Givaudan is the global leader in the creation of flavors and fragrances. In close collaboration with food, beverage, consumer products and fragrance partners, Givaudan develops tastes and scents that delight consumers worldwide and in Japan’s highly sophisticated market.  

Raho first provided background on Givaudan as a company. It was spun off Roche Holdings and became a public company in the year 2000. Today, it has a market capitalization of about CHF 17 billion and invests about CHF 400 million annually in research and development. Its sales are fairly evenly split between flavors, 52 percent of sales, and fragrances, roughly 48 percent. “Direct operations in Japan were launched in 1970, but our Japanese business dates back to the 1920s”, Mr. Raho said.

Luncheon speaker Fabrizio Raho, President & Representative Director of Givaudan Japan K.K

Luncheon speaker Fabrizio Raho, President & Representative Director of Givaudan Japan K.K

Givaudan’s taste and aroma experiment for luncheon participants

Then it was the turn of Givaudan Japan Flavor Innovation Center Technical Head Alain Ouellet to demonstrate Givaudan’s invitation to “engage your senses”. He asked the luncheon guests to pinch their nostrils shut and next sip the wine or other beverage in front of them. “Without swallowing, please remember your initial experience of the beverage’s taste, and then again after you open your nostrils”, he asked an engaged audience.  

The sensation gap before and after is dramatic because, while you have about 10,000 taste buds on your tongue, plus more on your palate, pharynx, and upper esophagus, you have anywhere from 6 million or more olfactory cells, demonstrating how aroma indeed accounts for roughly 80 percent of what you taste. “If you think that is amazing, a family dog has over 200 million similar receptors”, Ouellet added with a smile. “The combination of taste, aroma, and feel of food in your mouth makes up our full sensation of taste”, he said, adding, “We gain inspiration from nature and then start from there”.  

Each aroma and flavor traces back to molecules found in nature. Complex flavors such as wine, coffee, or black tea are composed of hundreds of aroma molecules. At the same time, there are signature molecules and flavor notes that are consistently present in different beverages. “By varying these, we obtain different taste results”, said Ouellet, explaining the technology behind flavor creation. Leveraging proprietary Givaudan “SmartTools” technology, SCCIJ Luncheon guests were also able to experience several distinctively blended aromas such as fermented beer, floral bergamot, and the smoky aroma of a barbecue from Givaudan “CardSniff” devices passed around their tables.

Luncheon speaker Alain Ouellet, Technical Head of Givaudan’s Flavour Innovation Center Japan

Luncheon speaker Alain Ouellet, Technical Head of Givaudan’s Flavour Innovation Center Japan

Holistic approach to sustainability

Ouellet further emphasized Givaudan’s holistic approach to sustainability. One example is sourcing: “Vanilla is difficult to grow and is traded in a volatile market, so we work with reliable vendors and farmers in Madagascar to support their livelihoods and improve sustainability”, he said. Givaudan is also a leader in the megatrend shifting from meat-based to plant-based proteins. Additionally, Givaudan focuses on the EHS (Environment, Health, and Sustainability) footprints of its production centers. Finally, the company is fully committed to working with its stakeholders to assure that its supply chains are robustly sustainable.  

During a lively question and answer session, Raho and Ouellet offered more insights into the world of flavors and fragrances. One question was aimed at the globalization of taste. Raho’s opinion was clear: ““Besides the two of us, everybody at our company is Japanese, indicating we are highly attuned to Japanese tastes. We in fact closely track both local and global taste trends”, he said. Another question was about the safety and regulatory aspects of its business. “We fully comply with all regulatory requirements ensuring that our products are safe”, was the answer. In fact, Japan does not even allow some ingredients that are permitted in Europe, he told the audience.

Members and advisors of the SCCIJ Executive Committee with the two April Luncheon speakers

Members and advisors of the SCCIJ Executive Committee with the two April Luncheon speakers

About Fabrizio Raho

Fabrizio Raho is President & Representative Director of Givaudan Japan K.K. After studying chemistry in college, and following stints as a music VDJ, Fabrizio Raho’s professional experience has spanned both the private and public sectors, including senior leadership positions in the medical, trade representation, and flavors fields. While having worked in a number of countries, Raho has spent the bulk of his career in Asia, focusing on strategy, superior customer experience, turnaround, market opening, and other mission critical areas. Fabrizio Raho was named CEO of Givaudan Japan in mid-2015 and is responsible for implementing the global company’s 2020 Strategy in Japan.  

About Alain Ouellet

Alain Ouellet also studied chemistry while at university. He has over a decade of experience in the flavors and food sciences field. As Technical Director of Givaudan Japan, he is responsible for managing the company’s scientific methodologies and technological advances, including Givaudan’s “SmartTools”, which are proprietary hardware and software technologies enabling real-time interaction with Givaudan experts, thereby enabling Givaudan Japan to translate customer and consumer feedback information into the most desirable flavors and aromas.    


Text and photos: Martin Fritz for SCCIJ  

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