The Birthplace of the Flavor and Fragrance Industry
The origins of the company now known as Bell Flavors & Fragrances Europe were in Leipzig Germany in the early 19th century. Founded in 1829 as Schimmel & Co., the firm soon became the leading flavor and fragrance company in the world, a position which it occupied for over 100 years.
In the 19th century, Leipzig was the center of the Essential Oil industry, and hence of expertise in the processing of plants and other natural products. Extracts and distillates were produced from roots such as angelica and ginger, from aromatic barks such as patchouli and sandalwood, and from fragrant flowers such as rose and jasmine.
In 1870 Schimmel created the first scientific library dedicated to collecting all the known books, information, and literature pertaining to essential oils, perfumes, flavors, aroma chemicals, and botanicals. It is today, with over 40,000 volumes, the largest collection of information pertaining to this branch in the world.
In 1879 the first ever research laboratory in the Essential Oil industry was established by Schimmel, and from the first day pioneering discoveries and inventions were made. For example, the isolation of citral from lemongrass for the production of ionone and the first distillation of Iris Oil were produced here. By 1929, the Schimmel laboratory had discovered and identified 231 new ingredients naturally occurring in essential oils.
The scientific accomplishments developed at Schimmel formed the basis for the technology still used in the industry today. Works such as The Encyclopedia of Essential Oils, published by Doctors Gildemeister and Hoffmann
in 1899; and The Theory of the Extraction and Separation of Essential Oils by way of Distillation published by Dr. Carl V. Rechenberg in 1908, became the standards for the production and use of these products. Outstanding achievement in the field of terpene chemistry was recognized when Prof. Dr. Otto Wallach received the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1910.
After WWII on July 1, 1948 the Schimmel facilities in East Germany were expropriated, and it became a State-owned firm, with the sales of its products restricted to only Soviet Bloc countries. Over the next four decades expansion continued, as the perfume and flavor specialties produced by Schimmel were in constant demand.
In 1964, perfume manufacturing had an extensive expansion to its production capacity.
In 1970, the synthesis production for aroma chemicals underwent a very major expansion.
In 1980, a larger flavor production facility was constructed. By 1985 production volume at the Leipzig facilities had increased 41% from the volume produced in 1948.
Bell had been acquainted with the Schimmel facilities after a visit to the Treuhandanstalt in Berlin post reunification in 1990 and expressed interest. Their reply came at the beginning of 1993. Raymond “Buz” Heinz then returned to Germany and finalized a purchase agreement to privatize Schimmel & Co. He established Bell Flavors & Fragrances Duft und Aroma GmbH which took over the Schimmel facilities on June 1, 1993 employing 65 people. Michael Heinz, son of Raymond Heinz, joined the group 4 years later.
To achieve such improbable success, numerous obstacle’s had to be overcome. Not the least of which was the almost total collapse of the East German economy with 80% unemployment after reunification. Of the almost 20,000 different companies privatized by the German Government Treuhandanstalt Privatization Agency, by the 20 year anniversary of German Reunification in 2010, only 200 still existed, over a 99% failure rate!
Topping the long list of very difficult problems, like having no customers, was the complete absence of any financing and working capital. With the total East German economy in shambles, banks were unwilling to make loans under any conditions period.
Finding new customers became top priority for the company. It established a cash-flow which allowed it to pay the employees and purchase raw materials. It would be two very long years before normal banking relations could be started, and loans secured using Raymond and Michael Heinz’s personal guarantee.