Symrise processes hundreds of natural raw materials for food and beverage ingredients and more specifically flavors, fragrance ingredients and cosmetics. In order to generate synergies between the segments, the experts have been in close contact for years. A three-way dialogue about ginger and its diverse areas of application shows where the exchange of new ideas and know-how transfer can lead. 


The three experts sit down together and jump right into it. They each take a handful of pieces from the huge pile of ginger in the middle of the table and break it, smell it and taste small pieces. To them, every raw material is always exciting – for all senses. Now Maria Reichenbach, Rüdiger Hupe and Benoît Join get talking. Even though they each work in a different department, their work overlaps in many areas – namely research, the evalu­ation of trends and raw materials.

Ginger is a good example of this. For thousands of years, the aromatic, savory root has been used as a spice and also as a remedy, for example in traditional Chinese medicine or in Medieval ­Europe. Reichenbach uses the natural properties of ginger in cosmetic applications. The manager of the lab for cell and mole­cular biology has brought along a couple of creams that contain the spicy substance extracted from ginger. “This spice is gener­ated by the gingerol and shogaol substance classes, which have an anti-aging effect here,” says Reichenbach, handing samples to both of her colleagues. “Both molecule classes demonstrably have an antioxidant effect and trap the free radicals created through external agents, which can damage human cells. Furthermore, they can greatly reduce redness, thus making the cosmetic ingredient a truly multifunctional substance.”

For the production, Symrise relies on an extraction method that uses CO2 to generate an odorless liquid. “We need the positive properties of ginger, but we don’t want cosmetic products to smell like it,” explains the doctor in biochemistry. In contrast, Hupe likes the opposite effect. The flavorist has worked at Symrise for 15 years and is now active in the Research and Technology team. “We use the spice extract and ginger oils for the flavoring of sweets such as hard candy. Here we refer to the sense of taste through the mouth and nose,” says Hupe. For this, he has tested different kinds of ginger, which eventually led him to the raw materials from Madagascar. “There, our local teams established the connection to the farmers through our vanilla production. This is important because it allows for the roots to be processed fresh right after harvest in order to obtain the largest possible amount of important oils and other elements.”

Backward integration

For Symrise, the procurement of ginger in Madagascar works in the same way it does for many other raw materials grown there: The company integrated it backward into the value chain, which means that Symrise has been delivering pregerminated ginger roots to local farmers since 2014. At the end of the season, one ­kilogram of this produces six to seven kilograms, which the company then buys at a fixed price. This functions so well because, as Join points out, ginger plays a big role in the cuisine of Madagascar. “It really helped that everyone grows ginger in their garden anyway. And just like everywhere else in the world, farmers first look at what their neighbor is doing before they try out something new,” declares the Director Naturals in the Perfumery and Oral Care division, who works intensively with the natural raw materials from Madagascar.

“This spice is generated by the gingerol and shogaol substance classes, which have an anti-aging effect here.”

Maria Reichenbach,
Lab manager for cell biology and microbiology  

Maria Reichenbach uses the spice extract from ginger, which has an anti-aging effect.

We use the spice extract and ginger oils for the flavoring of sweets such as hard candy. Here we refer to the sense of taste through the mouth and nose.Rüdiger Hupe, Flavorist at Research and Technology team

Ginger is but one of several raw materials that vanilla farmers in the island country off the southeastern coast of Africa can grow while their main product is out of season. Their income grows as a result. Symrise has promoted this diversification of different raw materials for many years now. By now, the different business units obtain products such as the roots of the fragrant vetiver grass, the seeds of the tamanu fruit from which a plant oil is obtained, green pepper, pink pepper leaves, cinnamon bark and red lemongrass. In addition to securing income for around 3,000 farmers and their families with whom Symrise works, the model also offers great advantages for the company: The availability of the certified organic products is secured while maintaining their quality.

Join adds that Symrise tries to increasingly carry out their processing close to the farmers to obtain the freshest possible raw materials while simultaneously avoiding the cost- and CO2-­intensive transportation of the roots. “The ginger oil is produced in part by the farmers through steam distillation or at the production site of Symrise on the island,” says the doctor of chemistry.

Rüdiger Hupe uses spice extracts and ginger oils in a variety of products, including beverages. 

Fragrant synergies

Another method is CO2 extraction, for which ginger is chopped up and dried. That also helps minimize transport because the weight and volume are reduced. “However, this method also involves the risk of losing volatile substances. Therefore, we must always analyze how we produce,” says Reichenbach. Another oily liquid is also produced during CO2 extraction, which Symrise then uses in perfumery under the name Symvital® Ginfuse.

The Symrise experts then move from raw material extraction to the technologies that each department uses. Reichenbach tells them about the experiments that she and her team carry out. For this, they use samples obtained from plastic surgery that involve the removal of excess skin and which are donated after the procedures. This way, they can produce an ex-vivo skin model and test the effectiveness of cosmetic ingredients. “We subject the skin model to an irritant trigger – which induces skin irri­tation. We then measure the signals of how the skin reacts to irritation-reducing ointments with ginger extracts,” explains ­Reichenbach. Join listens more closely because he still can’t carry out tests like this in the area of oral care. Both agree to discuss an “oral care model” at a later stage for inducing and treating mucomembranous irritation in gums.

The intensive exchange often generates new ideas, also for Hupe. He brought a soft drink that contains ginger. The three of them try the beverage and talk about its flavor, which is slightly spicy but mostly very aromatic and natural. They also discuss what will be possible in the future. Hupe wonders out loud whether the essential oils from CO2 extraction could be further processed for premium quality flavorings. “Maybe it could also be used as a top note and component of a gin recipe or in other ­alcoholic beverages, maybe even for desserts in fine restaurants that are looking for something extra special.”

As Director Naturals in Perfumery and Oral Care, Benoît Join has a good overview of natural raw materials.