Fragrance Notes Issue 3, 2018 - Page 9

Top and bottom: The family at UCLA; middle: Kickboxing in Pearl River, NY Today, Karen Manheimer, MBA, is Vice President Natural Products at Kerry and serves on Fragrance Creators Association’s Board of Directors. But her ties to the fragrance industry trace back to her days as a young girl, tagging along with her father, Stephen Manheimer, on his business trips to essential oil distilleries. A long-time leader in the fragrance industry, Steve is currently Executive Vice President at Kerry. Formerly, he was President of J. Manheimer Inc., a family-owned business started by Karen’s great uncle Jake in the 1860s and family- run until 2004, when the family sold the company to Kerry. It’s clear Karen loved growing up in the industry and learned a lot from her dad. “When I was really little, my dad would go in and work on the weekends and I would roller-skate through the plant,” she said, noting with a laugh that you likely couldn’t get away with that these days. “From an early age, my dad would take us on some of his sourcing trips. I remember going to France when I was little and traveling around visiting vendors… we would kind of make it into a family vacation. The essential oil industry was, and still is, a very family- oriented world, full of family businesses. So, it was totally normal to bring your family with you and go look at distillation or go look at the fields.” Working at Manheimer in the summers during high school and college, Karen gained valuable insight into the industry, but still wasn’t sure she’d end up in fragrance. She earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Anthropology from the University of Pennsylvania and says she pictured herself with some kind of international career. “What I really loved about anthropology was learning about other cultures, and I pictured myself traveling the globe, getting to know people who were different from me. And then, at some point during my senior year of college, it dawned on me that the family business offered just that.” After her a-ha moment, Karen realized that she wanted to join Manheimer. As the first of her generation to do so, she also knew she needed to gain some real-world experience first. She took a job at Francosteel, the U.S. subsidiary of French steel company Usinor Sacilor, and went on to earn her Master’s of Business Administration from the University of Michigan. “Then, I finally I got my interview with my uncle Arnold and joined FEATURE the family business in 1993 as the Oleoresin and Spice Essential Oil Product Manager,” she said. Oleoresins are a naturally occurring combination of oil and resin that can be extracted from plants and are typically used to flavor food and beverages. A NATURAL FIT “You have to read The New York Times every day and see what’s going on around the world. You have to listen to the weather man, you know?” Working in this segment, Karen has a unique perspective on the importance of naturals as well as the challenges involved with natural sourcing. “First of all, natural is trendy right now,” she said. “Everybody wants things that are natural. And aromatherapy is really trendy, too. People are starting to appreciate naturals, both in essential oils and fragrance ingredients— even natural fragrances are big.” Plus, the vast majority of essential oils are made as a cottage industry, “so you have thousands of small producers, who are making the essential oil at the source. It’s very much done on small-scale, by-hand kind of thing,” and that’s attractive to many people. From her point of view, it’s very hard to duplicate the whole olfactive experience of a natural essential oil, although we’re seeing great advancements in synthetic ingredients through innovative technology and approaches. “It’s also encouraging to see the sustainability surrounding many natural ingredients– how communities are been supported and sustained by the industry.” “Naturals are really cool, but they also present a variety of challenges,” she said. “Of course, natural ingredients are vulnerable to weather, they’re vulnerable to sociopolitical events, so being in the naturals business really keeps you on your toes. You have to read The New York Times every day and see what’s going on around the world. You have to listen to the weather man, you know?” Karen acknowledges the need to think globally in order to stay on top of the naturals business. “For example, the floods in Kerala, India, in August of 2018 affected some of the naturals that come from there. When there are volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, or tsunamis in Sulawesi, Indonesia, or when Russia annexes Crimea, that all affects availability the of some of the important naturals in our industry.” Issue 3, 2018 | FRAGRANCENOTES.ORG | 9