Symrise purchased the two companies Groupe Néroli and SFA Romani in southern France. The 200 employees now work in many complementary areas, from purchasing and development to contact with customers. This is a story of how former competitors have joined forces to create enormous synergies.


Estelle Barbot works in a beautiful location in the French Provence, just ten kilometers from Grasse, the French capital of perfume. From her window, she can see forested hills and, in the distance, snow-capped mountains. The perfumer works where others usually vacation, and, as if that were not enough, her job takes her to far-off places every day. She develops fragrances that are later used in Algeria and Saudi Arabia, in Ghana and Dubai, in South Africa and Bahrain – and for that, she needs to be very well informed of customer tastes in the Middle East and Africa. “People in African countries have a clear preference for strong, less sweet fragrances with fougère notes such as lavender, bergamot and geranium, floral notes like orange blossom and notes of musk,” says Estelle Barbot, who is printing out a few fragrance recipes at her desk. “In contrast, the Middle East favors notes such as agarwood and oud, which is extracted from the resin of agarwood. They’re supposed to bring out your personality.”

The chemist, who studied at the renowned ISIPCA perfumery school in Paris before going on to earn her degree, works at Groupe Néroli, which was established when the perfume manufacturers Créations &  Parfums and Floressence merged.

“Now we can work closely together and share our knowledge.”

Estelle Barbot
Chemist at Groupe Néroli

The company is located in a small industrial area surrounded by nature in the Provence region, which over the decades has become a hub of fragrance production, with multiple competitors operating side by side. One of them is fragrance manufacturer SFA Romani that Symrise acquired along with Groupe Néroli in 2022. Once competitors, the approximately 200 employees now work closely together under the name SFA Néroli – and can thus create enormous synergies. Together they develop fragrance compositions for the finest perfumes. The two companies bring more than 70,000 recipes to the merger that are mixed from more than 1,200 raw materials.

Over time, employees will have the opportunity to learn how the other side works. Estelle Barbot is looking forward to working with her SFA Romani colleagues. “They’re just a few minutes away, and now we can work closely together, share our knowledge and compare our approaches to customer projects,” she says.

The walk from Groupe Néroli to SFA Romani is indeed short. You simply have to cross two streets to get to the office of Yann Mabille, the former Managing Director of SFA Romani who now manages the new company’s sales for the regions of Africa, North and South America as well as parts of Europe. He has had many meetings with his old and new colleagues and knows how and where the former competitors complement each other especially well.

One example is their markets. Though both companies served the whole world, they each had their areas of focus. While Groupe Néroli was very active in the Middle East and Africa, SFA Romani had many customers in Central America and especially strong roots in Italy, home to the company founders who ultimately made the brand the strongest in the country. There are also big differences in the number of customers. “At SFA Romani, we worked with 400 to 500 companies, while our Groupe Néroli colleagues had a more selective list of customers,” Yann says.

“Being a part of Symrise comes with prestige. Customers are very happy about that.”

Yann Mabille
Sales Manager at SFA Romani

“Now we can supply customers of all sizes, from small customers to the world’s largest groups.”

Gabriel Ramos
Sales Manager at SFA Romani

The two companies will work closely together in the future when it comes to raw materials. “We’ve had perfumers from both companies analyze the portfolio,” Gabriel Ramos informs. Like Yann Mabille, he is respon­sible for sales, but in Asia and the Middle East, which are the areas his colleague does not cover. They and other staff form the team that should bring the former competitors closer together. “When it comes to purchasing, we’ll rely on the same raw material suppliers wherever possible. At the same time, we’ll allow the employees to use the specialties they need for their compositions,” Gabriel Ramos says.

SFA Romani primarily served niche markets that prioritize quality and creativity, with fine fragrances accounting for 80 % of its sales. “We were never willing to compromise,” says Yann Mabille, describing their approach. To reach customers, the company developed a sales network in 80 countries around the world. So even though it was a comparably small company, it began appearing at international trade shows early on. Groupe Néroli, on the other hand, specialized in larger volumes. What set the company apart were its very short reaction times to customer requests. “We can also learn a lot in terms of the work done in the labs,” Yann Mabille says.

In the future, those involved plan to take advantage of these differences in their collaboration. “Now we can supply customers of all sizes, from small customers to the world’s largest groups, with quantities ranging from few kilograms of a perfume to several tons,” Gabriel Ramos explains. It goes without saying that it is primarily the larger projects that are responsible for profitable growth, but even smaller, innovative ideas can achieve great things, as both managers are quick to point out.

Like the new partners, Symrise will also benefit from the acquisition. The connection to the cradle of perfumery in Grasse with the corresponding expertise, the many raw materials and access to fragrance compositions and customers worldwide all fit in well with the Group’s strategy, which is a diverse port­folio of local, regional and global customers around the world. “At the same time, Symrise is also reinforcing the trust that we’ve developed here in France,” Yann Mabille says. As members of the large Group, the two former competitors now have new opportunities, he comments. “For example, we benefit from the size of Symrise which provides us with better access to suppliers.”

In addition to the raw materials produced by Symrise, SFA Néroli employees can also directly access captives which are the patented components that make perfume compositions unique. “This also means we have an increased level of diversity and it secures our supply, because our close connection to Symrise means we will always have access to raw materials,” Yann Mabille says. The efficiency of the new parent company will also have a positive impact. “Being a part of Symrise comes with prestige,” he explains. “Customers are very happy about that. At the same time, we all work together to increase diversity and plurality in the Group. That can only nurture our creativity.”