Interview with Peter Roël: ”I Am A Food Lover”

06 July 2018


In part one of the interview with Peter Roël, Technical Director at Firmenich, we discuss his career and his current employer.

Peter Roël is currently the Technical Director Flavours Europe at Firmenich, the biggest privately-owned flavour and fragrances company worldwide. He studied Food Science and Technology at the University of Wageningen, and started his career working for a pectin producing company in Switzerland. After that he joined Cargill, which were active in fruit juice concentrate and fruit juice blends at that time. In 1988, he started working at a consumer food producing company called Hero, based in the Netherlands, and in 1993 he continued his career working in the flavour and fragrances industry at IFF. Since 2011 he works at Firmenich, firstly in Belgium in the Center of Expertise for Beverages, and since April 2018 in Köln, where Peter is responsible for all the technical developments in all sweet flavoured food categories in Europe.

Peter: “If I could do one thing differently from my past, I would put a bit more emphasis on another subject during my studies. Next to Food Chemistry and Food Processing, I studied Food Microbiology as a major. However, I would probably choose a different major now, such as Dairy Selection. Next to that, I would probably work more and longer abroad, because working with different cultures and different taste habits is an added value to a food lover.”

“My passion for food started when I was born, as food as such, is an energy for living. Family members were already working in the food industry, either with consumer goods or ingredients. That was my key driver to join the food industry. One of my slogans is: ‘I am a food lover.

“Even though I am very passionate about the food industry, there are downsides that I do not love about it. I think the food industry has an obligation to inform the consumers on how the products are made and also explain to them which ingredients are used in these processes. With explaining, I mean the benefits of using these ingredients. Why are these ingredients used, and why is it needed to use these ingredients? An example I often use: When you want to eat a strawberry fruit yoghurt, you can use all the land in the Netherlands to grow strawberries and this crop will probably supply strawberry yoghurt for one month in Europe. Strawberries will grow from the end of May until mid-July. However, people are used to have strawberry yoghurt available all year. This example could apply to any other food. Tools and solutions need to be developed to be able to make these great tasting products available all year round.”

Firmenich is, as mentioned, a privately-owned company, still actively led by the Firmenich family and related family members. “The ethics in our company are an example in the industry: very transparent towards legal obligations and transparency in our documentation with our customers, which are food producers. During my career at Firmenich, I have been working on countless projects and products. However, there are certain achievements that I could say I am proudest of. First of all, I have built strong internal technical teams within Firmenich as well as in previous jobs. I am also proud of certain projects I worked on together with these teams, which involve developments for our customers and are now successful products on the market. A good example of such a project is a product that I have worked on in the past, which was a big ice tea drink project. This product has grown over the years to a flavour use of approximately $3.5 million.”

At last, we asked Peter about the scandals in the food industry. Lately, we see an increase in scandals in this industry. For example the egg scandal in the Netherlands, where fipronil was involved. But how is it possible that this happens on such a large scale? “I think that in this case you are speaking about fraud, the supplier is the main cause of this contamination. They used a product, fipronil, that is not allowed to be used in these chicken farms. I think in general, it should be explained to consumers what ingredients you use and how certain processes are done, in this case eggs. In addition, the appropriate checking mechanism should be in place, either from an authority point of view or from an industry point of view. I am of the opinion that this is the way it should be.”

Stay tuned for part two of the interview with Peter, in which we will talk about the trends and developments in the food industry!