“We do not offer any mixtures. For us it is all about 100% purity. Each essential oil is defined by a precisely identified botanical variety as well as its unique geographical origin. Generally speaking, the botanical variety of two plants might seem to be identical, but if these plants derive from two different countries, the products vary,” points out CEO Georges Ferrando, who has been working for his father-in-law’s company since 1984 and became CEO in 1991. “Jasmine from Egypt is different from Indian jasmine. Although both might be Jasminum grandiflorum, you actually get two different products in the end.”
Mr. Ferrando is aware of the effects of climate and location on the quality of the raw materials. Albert Vieille puts great emphasis on the natural habitat and the excellent growing conditions of the processed plants.
“Currently, we are working with 200 references. In the past, we had many more and distributed about 400 essential oils, but we have become more ambitious with regard to transparency and traceability, and decided to cut down the number of essential oils in favour of quality,” stresses Mr. Ferrando. “Even with 200 products, it is still hard work to document the origin and lifeline of every product.”
Traceability and authenticity are bare essentials of Albert Vieille’s activities. The company has been involved in the distillation and extraction of local plants and flowers since the days of the company’s foundation in 1920.
Initially, its essential oils, floral waters and natural essences from roses, jasmine, mimosa and orange blossoms were merely used in the perfume industry. Later, food production as well as aromatherapy developed as main customer groups.
“Historically, it was the perfume industry that relied on essential oils, but today the aromatherapy segment has turned into our biggest customer, as it asks for 100% pure and natural raw materials,” says Mr. Ferrando.
While the Grasse region was Albert Vieille’s key market in its early years, the company now supplies international customers in Paris, London, Barcelona, New York, Japan, China and India, establishing a global customer network.
At the same time, internationalization has also become an issue for the supply network. In the past, the majority of plants were sourced in and around Grasse, but now production has been delocalized around the entire Mediterranean region, including Spain, Italy and North Africa.
“In our business, sourcing is key. In the past, we relied on long-standing relationships with suppliers, but we have also come to the conclusion that we ourselves have to get involved in the complete value chain of agricultural production. This means that we gain control over the entire process from plant cultivation up to essential oil production. This is in line with our efforts to increase transparency and sustainability,” says Mr. Ferrando.
Most customers provide Albert Vieille with a list of specifications. “Jasmine flowers picked at the beginning of the harvest have a different quality than flowers from the end of the harvest period. This is only one example to demonstrate the various specifications we have to bear in mind,” states Mr. Ferrando. “We supply the customer with samples which he has to aprove. However, with the passage of time, we have come to know the preferences of most of our customers.”
The supply network that the company has set up guarantees continuity and reliability of supply. Even factors like coherence of the entire value chain with sufficient year-round storage facilities play a vital role.
Within the coming years, Albert Vieille, which now operates production sites in France and Spain and employs a workforce of 40 people, is determined to continue its strategy of developing cultivation zones as well as production sites.
A strong focus will be on local production and the integration of local suppliers in order to establish a long-standing sustainability concept that results in pure and natural aromatic raw materials. “We see ourselves more in a supporting role, offering technical expertise in terms of cultivation and harvesting,” says Mr. Ferrando.