"Not every strawberry yogurt can be made from strawberries"

Interview with Holger Wetzler, Managing Director of Bell Flavors & Fragrances GmbH

Holger Wetzler, Managing Director of Bell Flavors & Fragrances GmbH
Holger Wetzler, Managing Director of Bell Flavors & Fragrances GmbH

To hit the right taste and smell, individual solutions are required: Bell Flavors & Fragrances GmbH, based in Leipzig, develops fragrance and flavor substances for medium-sized companies from a wide range of sectors. Their products are found in cosmetics and food, but also in pharmaceutical products and detergents, and even in tobacco products. Among other things, they ensure that vegan products smell and taste like their conventional counterparts.

The roots of the company stretch far back - to the year 1829, when the original firm later renamed Schimmel & Co. was founded in Leipzig. Schimmel & Co. is thus one of the oldest and most prestigious manufacturers of fragrances and flavors. "The company has laid the foundation for the industrialization of our products with the processes it developed. One of the employees even received a Nobel Prize," reports Managing Director Holger Wetzler.

Research has a long tradition at the site. With the Schimmel Library, which comprises over 30,000 works, Bell today houses one of the most extensive specialist libraries of its kind. "It is unique in the industry," emphasizes the Managing Director. After reunification, the company was taken over by the American company Bell Flavors & Fragrances Inc. This family-owned company also has a long history, it was founded in 1912 by William M. Bell in Chicago. Together, the two family-owned sister companies employ a total of approximately 1,000 employees in over 20 countries worldwide.

Bell Flavors & Fragrances Raw Material Testing
Raw materials are carefully tested
Bell Flavors Product Test
Before products go to the customer, they undergo extensive tests

One of the most modern production facilities for scents and flavors

Bell Flavors & Fragrances in Leipzig is responsible for all of Europe and operates branches in India, Vietnam, Dubai, Russia, Ukraine, Great Britain, Poland, and France. Development and production are located in Leipzig, where a new logistics center was also put into operation in 2017. The company headquarters has a production facility with an area of 200,000 m², which is continuously modernized and expanded.

"We are now also starting to produce in India, to flexibly serve the fast-growing markets there with the right products," says Holger Wetzler. The economist with many years of industry experience has been the managing director of the company since May 2023. 300 employees are employed at the Leipzig company headquarters, with another 100 at other Bell Europe locations.

Custom solutions for small and medium-sized enterprises

The range of services extends from flavors (aromas) and fragrances to plant extracts and chemical raw materials. Bell offers custom solutions and thus sees itself as a strong partner for small and medium-sized enterprises, emphasizes Holger Wetzler: "Unlike the big players in the market, we do not have a catalog, but support our customers with their respective requirements and challenges. Long-term customer relationships characterized by trust and close cooperation distinguish us."

Bell Flavors and Quality Assurance Center
Investment in the future: The logistics and quality assurance center of Bell in Leipzig, spanning over 4,000 m2

The range of applications for Bell's products is enormous. Flavors are used in beverages, baked goods, confectioneries, dairy products, tobacco products, and animal feed. Fragrances are found not only in perfumes and body and hair care products but also in household and pet care products as well as air fresheners. As people become increasingly health-conscious, plant extracts are becoming more important. They are used in beverages and food, in body and household care, and in animal feed. The focus is not only on gentle extraction but also on responsible sourcing of raw materials.

"Our products are in powder or liquid form," explains Holger Wetzler, adding: "Our expertise also lies in aroma technologies. For example, our masking flavors are used in vegan alternatives and protein-enriched product variants."

No scent lasts forever: A fast-moving market

The company's development into a broadly positioned provider of fragrance and flavor solutions is a source of pride in Leipzig. "Our know-how and focus on individual solutions set us apart as a preferred partner for medium-sized companies," emphasizes Holger Wetzler, explaining how this relates to the current market situation: "We experience rapid changes; there are no more long-lasting products. Even in the perfume industry, new series are being released more frequently."

Bell Flavors Extraction
The extraction of plant extracts completes the portfolio of the ingredient manufacturer
Bell Flavors - Visual Inspection of Flavors
Visual Inspection of Flavors

The times of crisis due to Corona and war have led to market shifts. Holger Wetzler reports: "Today's time is not like before Corona. Companies are holding back on investments and prices have risen." At Bell Europe, layoffs could be avoided, also thanks to close cooperation with customers.

Flexibility and Innovative Capacity

One of the success factors, according to Holger Wetzler, is the company's flexibility. In a market characterized by its rapid pace, straightforward solutions and direct contacts are essential. And not only should that continue in the future: "We remain a family-owned company that is constantly growing and developing new products." Topics such as energy and the environment will be of particular importance in the future, and digitalization will also play a significant role.

Bell Flavors Documentation
Bell Flavors Firmentor

"Today, we start to work with artificial intelligence," he says. In Germany, however, there are many obstacles, Holger Wetzler explains: "SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) face many challenges, also due to the ever-increasing bureaucracy." Nonetheless, Holger Wetzler sees the company as well-positioned with good prospects for further development: "We know and leverage our strengths. The big players have different interests, and that's good for us," he says.

Flavors are indispensable

Consumers generally wish for food and personal care products with natural ingredients. According to Holger Wetzler, most people are not fully aware of how essential the use of flavor and fragrance ingredients is in many areas. Thus, he wants to raise awareness and gives a vivid example: "If every strawberry yogurt had to be made from natural strawberries, you might have to turn the entire area of the USA into a strawberry field. We need a realistic perception of the situation," he says.