37, avenue Sidi-Brahim B.P. 100
06130 Grasse Cedex
Web site: http://www.robertet.fr/us
Sales: EUR 154.4 million ($140 million) (1999)
Stock Exchanges: Euronext Paris
Ticker Symbol: RBT
NAIC: 325199 All Other Basic Organic Chemical Manufacturing
Robertet SA is one of the world’s top ten developers of flavor and perfume additives and ingredients. Throughout its history the company has emphasized the natural ingredients sector, leaving synthetic products to its competitors. Based in Grasse, France, the self-proclaimed perfume capital of the world, Robertet realizes some 80 percent of its sales on the international market. The United States alone accounts for more than 40 percent of Robertet’s sales, which topped the symbolic FFr 1 billion mark (EUR 150 million) for the first time in 1999. The company’s operations are conducted through three divisions: Raw Materials, Perfumery, and Flavorings. Perfumery represents the company’s historical activity, and it continues to account for 38 percent of Robertet’s annual sales. The company supplies the ingredients that go into the perfume creations of many of the world’s great perfumes and scents. Food and beverage flavorings, a market the company entered in the 1970s, has become its chief revenue generator, accounting for 41 percent of its annual sales. This division is particularly active in the United States, where the company has made a number of major investments to support its operations. Since 1999, the company has opened facilities in Piscataway and Plainfield, New Jersey, as well as a production facility in Mexico. The company’s third division, Raw Materials, supplies ingredients to the cosmetics industry for products such as soaps, shampoos, and other beauty products, as well as air fresheners. Even though Europe and North America account for the majority of the company sales, Robertet has earmarked the Asian market for future growth and has begun a series of investments in that part of the world, with the opening of production facilities in India scheduled for mid-2001 and the opening of a manufacturing plant in China scheduled for 2002. Robertet, listed on the Euronext Paris stock exchange, remains nonetheless controlled by the founding Maubert family, who own more than half of the company’s shares, led by Philippe Maubert.
Scenting the 19th Century
France’s Grasse, in the Côte d’ Azur region not far from its more famous neighbor Cannes, captured the heart of the world’s perfume industry in the 18th century when the perfume-maker’s trade was officially recognized by the Parliament of Provence. Grasse originally had been a leather and tanning center, well known for its gloves, before more and more perfume-makers, attracted by the region’s climate, especially its flowers, settled in Grasse. By the mid-1900s, the village and surrounding areas had become the country’s foremost producer of perfumes and perfume ingredients; it became an important center of flower farming as well.
The development of the perfume industry brought a need for greater quantities of base ingredients. Among those setting up shop to provide these ingredients were François Chauvé and his nephew, Jean-Baptiste Maubert. Opening their factory in 1850, Chauve and Maubert concentrated on extracting scents from the region’s flowers and plants.
The company was acquired by Paul Robertet in 1875, who commissioned Gustave Eiffel to design a new factory on the Avenue Sidi Brahim, which was to become the company’s home for more than 125 years. Robertet gave his name to the company, which incorporated as Robertet in 1914; Jean-Baptiste Maubert, meanwhile, led the company’s fragrance operations. The company received national recognition in 1900, when Robertet’s natural fragrances were awarded the gold medal at the Universal Exposition in Paris. This achievement was to help the company find a new class of clients among the nation’s premier perfume-makers.
Jean-Baptiste Maubert’s son, Maurice Maubert, was quick to capitalize on the company’s growing name, bringing the company such important names as Guerlain and Chanel. Maurice Maubert took over the company’s operations in 1923 and led Robertet until 1961. Under Maurice Maubert, Robertet began positioning itself at the forefront of the perfume industry’s technical innovations, developing its own extraction processes, such as its “Incolore” process, which the company debuted in 1935.
Even as the perfume industry began adopting new, synthetic ingredients, Robertet remained dedicated to natural fragrance ingredients—which were much more difficult to obtain and, therefore, more expensive. The company’s research turned not only to developing new types of fragrances, but also to increasing the purity of its fragrances and the efficiency of its extraction process. Robertet was to achieve another breakthrough when it debuted its “Butaflors” extraction process in 1950.
The company, which now included Maurice Maubert’s sons Jean and Paul, began to look to diversifying its products. In 1953, the company began producing perfume bases. The company, which until then had focused on the French perfume market, also began expanding internationally, adding clients across Europe. After Maurice Maubert died in 1961, sons Jean and Paul took over its operations and stepped up both its international growth and its diversification into other product areas.
Entering the United States in the 1980s
Robertet took a new direction in 1964 when it began producing food flavoring ingredients. As Olivier Maubert, grandson of Maurice Maubert, explained to Les Echos: “At the beginning, the perfume and flavorings industries were cousins. Going from scent to taste did not present a major problem and the basic extraction techniques for floral essences (distillation, infusion, concentration) could be equally applied to compositions of fruits, vegetables and spices.” The company’s move into food ingredients was to prove a major source of its growth, especially as the consumer market turned from cooking with basic food ingredients to heating up a fast-growing array of prepared foods. Yet industrialized food preparation methods, while providing convenient and easily preserved and packaged meals, were responsible for eliminating much of the taste of the foods they contained. Companies like Robertet stepped in to provide flavoring ingredients to help restore some of that lost flavor.
After diversifying into flavorings, Robertet began a new era of expansion. In 1966, the company acquired fellow French company Cavallier. Robertet also stepped up its international growth, setting up subsidiary operations in the United States, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, and England. In addition to its commercial and manufacturing operations, Robertet, now led by Jean Maubert, began creating worldwide research and development operations, opening laboratories, as well as sales offices, in Japan, Switzerland, Italy, Germany, and Singapore. Leading the company’s research effort was its inauguration of a new state-of-the-art production facility in the company’s Grasse headquarters. Meanwhile, the company’s dedication to natural scents and flavorings gave it a strong lead as “natural” became a potent marketing force in the 1970s.
The next generation of the Maubert family was represented by Philippe, Christophe, and Olivier, who took over the company’s operations at the beginning of the 1980s. The family-owned company prepared to step up its activity. In 1984, Robertet went public with a listing on the Paris Stock Exchange’s Secondary Market. Yet the Maubert family carefully maintained a majority of the shares and direction of the company. The listing enabled the company to look to expansion in the U.S. market. In 1986, Robertet acquired the United States’ Jay Flavors, giving it a manufacturing base in the United States and a number of that country’s major food producers as its clients. In 1990, the company changed its U.S. subsidiary’s name to Robertet Flavors.
Food and beverage flavorings helped to drive the company’s sales into the new decade. This operation was boosted by the creation of a joint venture operation, Champarome, with beverage makers Marie Brizard, Joker, and Idianova. The company, which had remained focused primarily on the U.S. and European markets, stepped up its presence in Japan when it launched a team to develop flavors specifically for that and other Asian markets in 1990.
Even though flavorings had grown to represent a significant portion of the company’s sales, Robertet continued to boost its historic fragrance activities. In 1992, the company created a new subsidiary in Italy, Robertet Fragrances. The following year, Philippe Maubert was named the company’s president. At the same time, Robertet expanded its U.S. operations with the acquisition of Novarome Inc., a perfume ingredients specialist based in New Jersey, which was then renamed and placed under the company’s Robertet Fragrances subsidiary operations. The company also continued to invest in its Grasse location, expanding its research facilities in 1994.
Robertet is an international company with more than 80% of sales in exports, thanks to their location and agents present all over the world. In spite of stiff competition worldwide, Robertet owe their success to their ability to anticipate their customers’ needs through innovation and creativity, in keeping with the newest market conditions. Desirous of maintaining their worldwide presence, Robertet are quite naturally engaged on the path towards Quality Management (ISO 9002 standard) and Environmental Management (ISO 14001 standard) to satisfy their economic partners and respect the environment.
Robertet’s revenues rose quickly in the 1990s as both the perfume and flavorings industries proved recession proof. From revenues of FFr 550 million in 1992, the company saw its sales grow steadily, reaching FFr 780 million in 1995 and nearly FFr 900 million by 1998. As the company was preparing to celebrate its 150th anniversary in 2000, it forecasted that it would break the FFr 1 billion mark for the first time. Yet the company bested its own provisions, topping the FFr 1 billion mark a full year earlier than expected in 1999.
Robertet continued to invest heavily as it turned to the new century. The company opened a new $25 million plant in Piscataway, New Jersey, to support its growing U.S. flavorings activities; a year later the company also opened a new factory in Plainfield for its fragrances operations. By then Robertet also had launched a new production facility in Mexico. Meanwhile, Robertet began making plans to increase its presence in the Asian markets, announcing its intention to open a production facility in India in mid-2000 and a production facility in China in 2002 or 2003. Despite its international growth—with foreign sales representing nearly 84 percent of the company’s total sales—Robertet remained true to its Grasse origins. In 2000, the company began a FFr 30 million expansion of its Grasse production base.
Robertet Inc.; Robertet Flavors; Robertet Fragrances Inc.; Robertet Uk Ltd; Robertet Gmbh; Robertet Deutschland; Robertet Sa (Switzerland); Robertet Espana; Robertet Italia Sri; Robertet Sa (Poland); Robertet De Mexico; Robertet Do Brasil; Robertet Argentina; Robertet Japon; Robertet Sea S.E.A. (Singapore); Robertet Vietnam; Claman (Pty) Ltd (South Africa); Robertet Turquie.
Adams Extract; Bayer AG; Bush Boake; Calchauvet SA; Laboratoire Monique Remy SA; Human Pheromone Sciences; IFF; Kerry Group; L’ Oréal SA; Mane SA; McCormick Inc.; Millennium Chemicals; Sensient; Unilever; Wrigley Inc.
- François Chauvé and Jean-Baptiste Maubert found perfume ingredients factory.
- Paul Robertet buys company and opens a new factory on Avenue Sidi-Brahim.
- Robertet receives gold medal at the Universal Exhibition in Paris.
- Maurice Maubert takes over as company director.
- Company develops “Incolores” extraction process.
- Company introduces new “Butaflors” extraction process.
- Company begins perfume base products operations.
- Jean and Paul Maubert become company leaders.
- Company enters flavor additives business.
- Robertet goes public.
- Company acquires Jay Flavors (United States).
- Company creates Champarome joint venture with Marie Brizard, Joker, and Idianova.
- Jay Flavors becomes Robertet Flavors.
- Philippe Maubert becomes president; company acquires Novarome (United States).
- Company opens Perfumery plant in the United States.
- Manufacturing plant begins operations in India.
Basset, Françoise, “Robertet dépasse le milliard de francs,” Parfums Cosmétiques Actualités, February/March 2000, p. 39.
Bovas, Michel, “Des arômes Robertet pour les Etats-Unis,” La Tribune, June 21, 1999.
“Case Study: Robertet Flavors,” Food Logistics, November/December 1999.
Goddard, Peter, “The Science Behind the Scent,” Toronto Star, January 11, 2001.
“L’ aromaticien Robertet met 1e cap sur l’ Asie,” La Tribune, October 17, 2000.
“Robertet SA fête ses 150 ans avec un chiffre d’ affaires de 1 milliard de francs,” La Tribune, June 27, 2000.
Robinson, Alan, “Avec le développement de la cuisine rapide, Robertet joue la carte de 1’; agroalimentaire,” Les Echos, April 21, 1993, p. 2.