Dec 8, 2016 Krefeld / Germany
What’s that job?
Electronic Data Interchange Consultant, Computer Emergency Response Manager, Principal Architect for Business Intelligence – many job descriptions often raise more questions than they answer. In our series, “What kind of a job is that?”, we let you in on a few secrets and introduce you to some unusual professions at Henkel.
What does a perfumer at Henkel actually do?
She particularly likes floral and fruity notes like rose, jasmine, peach or pear. These are also the scents with which she loves to “compose”. Smells already fascinated her as a child. Today, she consciously smells and experiences fragrances for a living – but mainly out of passion. Manuela Materne is one of the five perfumers at the company’s in-house perfume center, the Henkel Fragrance Center in Krefeld. Scents and aromas for Henkel products around the world have been developed here for 60 years.
Materne has been working at the Fragrance Center since 1995. “After training as a laboratory assistant, I started out in quality control and analyzed things like incoming goods – including their olfactory qualities,” the 41-year-old recalls. “I quickly realized that I hugely enjoyed working with scents, and that I had the necessary talent for it.” Her abilities didn’t go unnoticed: In 2000, she began her training as a perfumer with one of the Henkel Fragrance Center’s “super-noses”. There is actually no standard training to be a perfumer, as such. Instead, experienced perfumers act as mentors and pass their knowledge on to the next generation. Materne learned approximately 2,000 raw materials by heart, studied the particularities of the producing regions and discovered the various techniques for composing perfume. After four years of hard work, she was appointed as a professional perfumer – one of just 1,000 or so perfumers worldwide.
Scents for the whole world
Inventing a new scent is a long and complex creative process. Henkel’s perfumers choose from over 1,000 natural and synthetic substances to compose fragrances for laundry detergents, cleaning agents, soaps and shampoos – for the entire world. This is no small feat: “Developing scents for markets whose habits and preferences you are not familiar with is especially challenging,” says Materne. “This is because each culture has its own smells. In France, consumers associate freshness and cleanliness with the scent of lavender. Southern Europeans prefer the smell of chlorine, while in Germany, the whiff of freshly cut meadows and lemons evokes purity.”
What goes into creating a new scent?
“Many people think that we tinker about in the lab, creating a scent droplet by droplet,” says the perfumer. “Actually, scents are a product of the mind.” Like a composer writing a symphony on a music sheet, Materne creates an initial formula on her computer, based on the raw materials she knows. This composition is then sent to an automatic mixing unit, blended into the product and prepared for use and smell tests. This is because a scent also has to pass the test of daily life: “For example, we check the smell of the product itself, that of the freshly washed, moist laundry and that of the clothing after it has spent two weeks in the closet. The scent is only ready once it has passed all of these tests,” Materne explains. Each year, the perfumers in Krefeld create 500 new fragrances. The laundry detergent Perwoll Sport is just one of the products that Materne created an individual note for.
Today, the Fragrance Center is one of the three largest perfume oil manufacturers in Germany, employing around 70 workers. “The passion for scents can be felt here every day,” says Materne. “That’s what makes the work so special to me.”