Symrise organized a “Hemp Day” in August 2019 for the American cosmetics brand Kiehl’s (which belongs to the L´Oréal group). The event, which was mostly intended for lifestyle and cosmetics bloggers, served to not only strengthen Kiehl’s brand, but also to demonstrate how the ever more important raw material can be sustainably cultivated and processed.

The setting alone was special: A group of young social media influencers from the USA and the United Kingdom jumped onto a retro bus and headed to a hemp field in Dassel-Deitersen in South Lower Saxony. There the cosmetics and lifestyle bloggers talked to organic farmer Kilian Henne, Symrise research and marketing experts and Dr. Heinz-Jürgen Bertram (Chief Executive Officer 2019 to March 2024). Also on the field were employees of American cosmetics brand Kiehl’s. The Hemp Day event celebrates the launch of Kiehl’s hemp oil-based products. The influencers took videos and photos and were deeply impressed by the variety growing here – Finola. This variety is designed for industrial use and does not contain the substance Tetrahydrocannabinol, whose presence is strictly limited by cosmetic regulations in most of the countries.

Hemp as a raw material is a trend

Hemp Day was also special for Irina Deloire: “For me the highlight of “Hemp journey “was working together across divisions.” Irina, from France, works in Paris as Global Account Director in the Cosmetic Ingredients division and has helped write the hemp success story for the past few years. It all started in 2016 with colleagues from market research. They identified this raw material as a robust trend. Then, colleagues from a variety of Departments analyzed where the material could be used in the Cosmetic Ingredients Portfolio. “We also explored regions where we could obtain the raw material and looked into water consumption, effects on the soil and other environmental parameters,” says Irina, who is also a member of the Sustainability Board in the Scent & Care segment.

Hemp is an exciting raw material for Symrise.

At Hemp Day, visitors were able to test the products in a tent.

The hemp ­variety Finola is very suitable for cosmetic products.

A Symrise product: 100 % organic hemp oil.

Kiehl’s was keen to initiate a close working relationship with Symrise. The New York company approached Symrise because they wanted to use more traditional and authentic ingredients in their product lines. “Hemp oil has been used for centuries because of its positive effects on the skin. For us, it was a perfect match,” says Marek Münstermann, Director Global Product Management Botanicals & Colors in the Cosmetic Ingredients division. “So we were happy to support Kiehl’s brand message, which is also about sustainability and traceability of the raw material.”

For the Symrise manager, hemp is an exciting material. Farmers can cultivate the plant in many different kinds of soil because it is relatively hardy and requires no fertilizer – which in turn makes organic certification easier. Ideal conditions can be found in Germany, for example, which is where Symrise gets the majority of its raw material.

Increasing biodiversity

Hemp is also very bee-friendly, promoting biodiversity. And because the whole plant can be used, its culti­vation is very sustainable. Symrise sells the oil cold-pressed from the seeds, mainly to the cosmetics industry. It is rich in fatty acids and has an antioxidant effect, protecting sensitive skin. “We are working on also utilizing the oilseed cake that results from the oil extraction process,” explains Marek. This is often still used as animal feed, “but it contains a lot of proteins that could be used for vegetarian “meat” products or in cosmetics.”Symrise also produces an aqueous hemp extract for cosmetic applications.

The product range is expected to be expanded to other brands. “We want to offer our hemp oil for use in many exciting cosmetics,” says Irina. “In addition, we are setting up additional studies and trials to better understand the way hemp works.” Marek sees the growing importance just as his colleague does: “The versatile raw material will open up a lot of possibilities for us.”