At last, something that smells sweet from Quest

Not everything emanating from Quest International has smelled as good to ICI as the J’Adore scent it helps make for Dior.

Although it has been doing better lately, Quest has been an enormous headache to ICI since it bought it in 1997.

The company, which used to be owned by Unilever and still has its headquarters in the Netherlands, ranks fifth in the world’s flavours and fragrances business, with sales of £560m last year and 3,400 employees. Production is concentrated at headquarters at Naarden and at a big production facility at Ashford in Kent, along with smaller units in many parts of the world. The company’s activities embrace the industry’s three pillars of flavours, fragrances and fine fragrances – with the latter relatively large for the company’s size and the fastest growing part of the market.

“Quest is a strong player in fine fragrances, that demonstrate its cutting edge creativity”, Gilles Andrier, Givaudan’s chief executive, told the Financial Times.

The company’s biggest recent success came with Angel, for Mugler, while past big sellers have included J’Adore for Dior and Le Male for Gaultier.

Activities outside the perfumery sector remain confidential. But Mr Andrier says Quest has relative strengths in air fresheners, as well as a respected oral care side, particularly mint. The company has also developed strongly in culinary areas and has a big flavours operation in Chicago.

Profitability has been well below average industry levels. Mr Andrier said the two companies were largely complementary, in products and geography, with Quest being relatively well represented in the fast growing regions of Latin America and Asia, considering its size.

He brushed off fears that consolidation would inevitably trigger defections, as big clients sought to diversify suppliers.

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