Back in 1996 during my first trek through Europe I visited Roche,
the Basel-based pharmaceutical firm. I received a great reception
and even recall the name of one of the fellows from corporate
communications who showed me around, Peter Wullschleger. Flash
forward to 2002 and I'm visiting Givaudan, spun off from Roche
in 2000. Who ends up showing me around? None other than Peter
Wullschleger, who's now in charge of Investor Relations at Givaudan.
The company's address; 5, Chemin de la Perfumerie, might give
you a clue as to what Givaudan does. With revenues of $1.5 billion,
it's the world's second largest fragrance and flavor manufacturer
(IFF in NYC is the largest). There's a pretty good chance Givaudan
was responsible for the fragrance or flavor of your favorite
perfume, cologne, soft drink, ice cream, hair & skin care,
soup, fruit juices or household cleaners.
Headquarters lies about a half-dozen miles from downtown Geneva
at one of their factories. Actually, considering 750 employees
work on the site, it's a rather low-key affair. Why? It's sort
of tucked away in a small valley next to a river with heavy forest
growth on the other side of the river. Directly across the street
from the plant entrance a vineyard covers the hillside.
Can't get on the property unless you past muster with the people
at the guard gate. After receiving my visitor's badge I walk
back to my bike and almost trip over a cat. It turns out the
cat has the run of the place and is an unofficial mascot.
The head office is a six-story concrete slab building built in
the 1960's. Scattered around the reception area are eight large
glass display cases filled with a mind boggling array of consumer
products-whose fragrance or flavor is a result of you know who.
Off to one side is a whole separate room filled with a zillion
kinds of perfumes. Okay, maybe not a zillion.
Wullschleger says he's been through this before and knows what
I want so he immediately whisks me down the hall to see CEO Juerg
Witmer's office and the boardroom. The white carpeting in Witmer's
third floor corner office creates quite a contrast because the
furniture is black. He has a desktop computer as well as two
real plants. The smell in his office definitely ranks as one
of the most unusual. Why? He's a pipe smoker and there's a collection
of perfume bottles on a shelf. The combination of the two seems
to have created a pretty good smell. His view? Not much to see
from the third floor. There's also white carpet in the boardroom.
The elongated-shaped table seats 14 and there's one real plant.
The company has been on this site since it's founding back in
1896. There was a Mr. Givaudan. Roche bought the company in 1963.
Given a tour of the grounds I count at least a half dozen distinct
smells coming from various parts of the plant. There're no fitness
facilities, smoking is optional, there's plenty of parking for
cars and bicycles and, no formal dress code. There's no corporate
art collection but, there's an antique perfume bottle collection.
Any employee perks? Yes. At the company store employees get famous
name perfumes at a greatly reduced price-though it's not in its