Fragrance chemists, or “perfumers,” help formulate products ranging from eau de toilette to furniture polish. Fragrances are developed in what is known in the industry as “flavour and fragrance houses.” Ken Lesenko, founder of KWL Research Associates and a fragrance industry veteran, describes the skills of the fragrance chemist as “50 per cent art and creativity and 50 per cent science.” It is the developed artist and the accomplished chemist who will command the highest salary.
The field of fragrance chemists is relatively small. There are only about 1,000 official perfumers worldwide. This helps to keep salaries high for top talent.
Fragrance houses generally require a lengthy apprenticeship and could also require additional training at specialised facilities. Entry-level positions can begin as low as £22,750. A junior perfumer usually starts out with an annual salary of about £39,000. However, top talent perfumers who develop formulas for popular fragrances can command six-figure salaries.
According to Leffingwell and Associates, a leading provider of services to the perfume, flavour, food and beverage industries, the top 5 flavour and fragrance houses based on sales volume are (in order of rank) Givaudan, Firmenich, International Flavors and Fragrances (IFF), Symrise and Takasago. All have locations worldwide and pay top salaries for qualified chemists. The top 12 flavour and fragrance houses account for almost 70 per cent of the world market.
In 2011, a perfumer’s starting annual salary at Givaudan was £91,000 to £97,500. Fragrance chemists at Firmenich were offered an annual salary of between £54,600 and £57,200 while senior fragrance development manager positions went for between £92,950 and £115,050 annually. At IFF, the position of trainee perfumer was offered at £44,850 while the salaries of perfumers ranged from $105,000 to $165,000 dollars annually to start. Symrise paid perfumers a starting salary of £130,000 while senior perfumers were paid £144,300 to start. Takasago was the lowest paying of the top 5 flavour and fragrance houses, paying perfumery chemists a starting salary of £25,350.