Firmenich is expanding its collaboration with the blind and visually impaired people as “sensory panelists” to assess flavors and fragrances.
Following its successful pilot programs in Mexico and the UK, involving 20 visually impaired panelists, the Group is expanding its commitment to inclusive panels across Geneva, Mumbai and Singapore in 2017.
“As a family company, we are committed to fostering a culture of diversity and inclusion, to positively contribute to our customers, colleagues and communities,” said Gilbert Ghostine, CEO of Firmenich. “I am proud of our inclusive panels, as they harness visually impaired peoples’ acute sensory capabilities, while offering these talented individuals a path to financial independence and social recognition within their communities.”
Firmenich currently employs 100 sensory panelists around the world, including 20% of blind or visually impaired professionals. Mieke Van de Capelle, Chief Human Resources Officer at Firmenich said, “Building on the success of our pilot programs in Mexico and London, we look forward to expanding the diversity of our sensory teams worldwide.”
"Blind and visually impaired panelists are a step ahead of those who can see," said David Lyon, Global Sensory Director for Perfumery and Flavors at Firmenich. “They often demonstrate an acute memory for flavors and odors, and their motivation to train as panelists, often results in them becoming highly proficient sensory professionals in a short timeframe.”
Blind and visually impaired panelists undergo the same rigorous training as other panelists to learn how to identify and describe highly complex smell and taste profiles.
To recruit panelists, Firmenich works closely with organisations such as the College of Fragrance for the Visually Impaired (COFVI) in India and the Singapore Association of the Visually Handicapped amongst others.
Swiss-based Firmenich is the world’s largest privately-owned company in the fragrance and flavor business with a sales turnover of CHF 3.2 billion (US$3.32 billion) in 2016.