Vanilla, black pepper, pink berry, ylang-ylang, cinnamon, lemongrass, mandarin…. Symrise, the German group present in more than 100 countries, set up a subsidiary in Madagascar in 2014 to exploit these plants for international outlets: fine foods, perfume bases sold to luxury groups.

Photo (DR) Suzy Le Helley, perfumer at Symrise

Symrise reported sales of up to 917.1 million euros across its 100-plus subsidiaries in 2019. The Frankfurt-listed group grew its business by 8%. Madagascar is one of its most important bases thanks to rare products such as vanilla and ylang-ylang, but also to exotic products from the Big Island such as black pepper, pink berry, geranium, lemongrass, vetiver, or mandarin, which Symrise plants in the 90 villages of the Sava (Sambava, Andapa) and Diana (Antsiranana).

Diversifying production

Symrise works with more than 10,000 planters in these regions, who have been trained since 2014 for each product exploited through local cooperatives. Natural vanilla, of which Madagascar is the world’s largest producer, is shipped and processed in Symrise’s German factories for resale to major food and luxury goods companies in Europe and the United States. The same goes for ylang-ylang, geranium and lemongrass extracts. Suzy Le Helley, Symrise’s perfumery expert, explained: “There is a great diversity of climates on the island with very rich soils, many spices and perfume plants. To diversify our palette of naturals, we proposed to our network of farmers to diversify their production outside the vanilla season.

From our correspondents in Madagascar: Tsirisoa Rakotondravoavy and Liva Rakotondrasata