The plans spread out on the table in front of Mathys Boeren look promising. The sketches show two modern, black-and-white buildings located at Pandan Loop – a long road in an industrial park. “With this project, we want to take our site to the next level. We aim to do this via a targeted expansion of our regional headquarters for Asia,” says the trained chemical engineer, who is responsible for strategy, innovation and marketing in the Flavor & Nutrition division as Senior Vice President at Symrise Singapore.
“We will be bringing our two divisions even closer together by improving the spatial conditions on site for that purpose,” adds Norbert Braun, who heads the fields of innovation and technology for the Scent & Care division as Vice President and is overseeing the € 30 million project together with Mathys Boeren. “As one of the market leaders in our industry, we want to continually improve. We also aim to constantly enhance our reputation as an attractive and environmentally conscious employer.”
Building on a Firm Foundation
Symrise employs more than 550 people in Singapore, where a center is being built that will lead the Asia Pacific region with significantly improved infrastructure. Many factors speak in favor of the site. Symrise has been at the site since 1979 and has received a great deal of support from the Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB), which assists companies with their investments. “There are many English-speaking individuals here with solid educations – they hail from various Asian countries and therefore have deep insight into the diverse cultures,” says Norbert Braun. This is also important because Symrise is always looking for fresh talent. Not that it is lacking in this area, with its very experienced and loyal employees in Singapore. “Some of our employees have been with us for 25 years. They are very ambitious, which is why we have to offer them a steady stream of exciting projects and excellent working conditions to stay ahead of the competition from other multinational companies in the city.”
This includes bringing more light and an improved sitting arrangement into offices and laboratories, explains Mathys Boeren while pointing to a section of the plans. “We want to create a welcoming and comfortable working atmosphere that inspires and motivates our employees.” The architects have to accomplish this while accounting for temperatures reaching up to 35 degrees Celsius daily as well as extreme tropical humidity. This represents a true challenge. “Cooling requires a great deal of energy, which is why we will be using double-glazed windows with special films to help reduce energy consumption and therefore our CO2 emissions.”
At the same time, Symrise is using modern lighting solutions to provide the desired amount of light. Air quality is also being optimized, avoiding cross contamination from the different laboratories. And thanks to the building expansions, there will be a lot more space. It’s a good thing, too: “Our staff has grown by 30 % over the past four years and will continue increasing over the coming years,” says Mathys Boeren.
The Middle Class is Growing
“We are making this major investment because the region represents one of our core markets,” explains Norbert Braun. About 60 % of the world’s population lives here – and the middle class is growing rapidly. This class is increasingly looking for semi-processed and ready-made meals, which contain Symrise flavors, or household and personal care products that use Symrise fragrances. “In the next four to five years, about 300 million more Chinese consumers will be earning enough to afford these kinds of products.”
A further reason that will lead to strong growth: “The multinational corporations, many of which are among our customers, are shifting their priorities to emerging markets. And there are also many regional and local companies we are serving as well with our products. We do business with all three groups and want to maintain an equal balance between them,” says Mathys Boeren. “When these companies develop new products, we have to be right there. To accomplish this, we have to know the market, understand consumers and brands and be able to directly meet the requirements of our customers.” This applies equally to both divisions.
31 Years of Experience: Symrise in China
The great variety within the markets, customers and products in Asia is seen with a visit 3,800 kilometers to the north. Symrise’s China Creative Center for the Scent & Care division is located in Shanghai. The company has been in China since 1982 and was the first international manufacturer of fragrances on the Chinese mainland. 250 individuals work in the two divisions spread across four sites.
Jeff Yao and his team work across three floors and 1,700 square meters in a converted steel factory in the Red Town district – a former commercial and industrial area. Today, the district is bustling with clubs, restaurants and extravagant shops. “It provides a very creative atmosphere, with a multicultural flair,” explains the Vice President of Scent & Care while describing the site in Shanghai. Jeff Yao is responsible for Northeast Asia and therefore the huge market containing the world’s most populous country.
Business has grown by 10 % every year for the past several years, though it seems almost wrong to refer to China as a single market. “The preferences of consumers in China are very diverse, so each region needs to be served individually,” says Jeff Yao. The middle class is growing from the north to the south and the east to the west, with cultures differing from each other as do fragrance preferences. “For example, people in northern China prefer very strong, natural fragrances while those in the south tend towards subtle fragrances that stimulate the imagination.”
Two Very Different Sales Channels
Even the companies that Symrise serves differ widely from one another. The trend towards globalization, however, is clear in this region as well. “The international companies are acquiring many local brands and replacing them with their own,” Jeff Yao explains. “And yet traditional sales, which are organized over multiple levels all the way to the millions of tiny village shops, will continue to exist.” To keep up its strong growth, the company continues to study consumer preferences very closely. “We combine numerous integrated consumer research tools at our Global Navigator Center in Shanghai, in order to constantly identify and explore developing trends.”
The knowledge is there and our technologies are constantly being improved. “For Scent & Care, we are expanding our production of perfume oils. Additionally, environmental aspects are becoming increasingly important in China,” explains Jeff Yao. “By the end of 2014, we will have installed a system for regenerative thermal oxidation at our production site in Shanghai, which will help reduce odor accumulation. This is good for our employees, the environment and the people living nearby. And it represents another example of how the sustainability dimension of our global strategy is brought to life at the regional and country level.”