Nick is a world-class raw materials buyer and is respected throughout the industry for his knowledge and tough yet fair negotiating. Nick embodies all our values so well, and he continues to develop within CPL Aromas – now as the youngest member of our Global Operating Board. Nick celebrates his 20th Anniversary at CPL Aromas and we asked him to share with us some insights into his profession.
• Tell us about your role at CPL and what a typical day might be like.
As Global Purchasing Director at CPL I have overall responsibility for the sourcing and procurement of the essential oils and aroma chemicals that we use in the production of fragrances across our manufacturing divisions. We have almost 1600 raw materials which we purchase from across the globe, and we endeavour to buy the same quality of raw materials for all our global manufacturing sites. In a normal supply market this is a challenge. In today’s raw material market, it is even more difficult! The current raw material crisis is unprecedented in the history of our industry, and there seems little hope for a return to normality in the short to medium term.
My role is challenging but extremely varied. I never have a dull day. In some respects, I have no idea on a day-to-day basis what the day ahead will hold. My role literally follows the sun. In the morning my attention is with CPL Hong Kong, then my attention moves to CPL Dubai, and then to CPL UK before I finish my day with CPL Colombia. As you can expect, at this time we are faced with solving many problems with raw material availability and pricing. My priority is to ensure we have our raw materials covered across the group.
• Can you tell us more about what the purchasing department does in a fragrance house like CPL?
In essence, the purchasing department is split in two ways. Firstly, we have our buyers who are located at each of the manufacturing sites. This team of people are responsible for the day to day ordering of raw materials to ensure on-time production at the relevant site. The second is our sourcing and procurement teams who are responsible for the sourcing and negotiation of the materials we buy. This team of people spread across the globe will source new and existing raw materials from new and existing suppliers. This team set the quality of material we buy in conjunction with our perfumery and analytical colleagues and agree pricing and contracts with the chosen suppliers.
Both these teams of people plus members of the CPL board and General Managers are part of the Global Purchasing Team. All members of the Global Purchasing Team are actively encouraged to share market information from the markets they operate in, from the many miles they travel and from the many exhibitions and conferences they attend. A buying department lives and dies on market knowledge and we have a passion for being the very best in the industry.
• You travel frequently for your work. How important is it to have close relationships with your suppliers?
I would say supplier relationship is the most critically important part of our role in purchasing. In times like these, we rely on the relationships we have built up over many years. Materials are in such short supply now that many suppliers are having to choose who gets a material and who doesn’t. The relationships need to be developed on a personal level as well as a business one. We take the time to know our suppliers, their families and where they live. We respect them and embrace their culture. We are tough buyers and challenge our suppliers, but we are fair and loyal.
• Are there any new and interesting developments on new raw materials at CPL?
We have started to source a high-quality sustainable Sri Lankan black pepper with our partner based in Sri Lanka and India. It’s really important for us to work with a supplier who builds long-term trade relationships and promotes sustainable farming practices. Our partner creates a sustainable supply chain by working closely with farmers, who are also provided with training modules and technical assistance. Fair prices for raw materials and the elimination of intermediaries in the supply chain means farmers are able to support their livelihoods.
CPL are also working on developing our range of in-house captive ingredients, AromaFusion. These ingredients are unique to us and are made using a complex molecular distillation process, which means that clients can create a fragrance that is completely unique. We are excited to be adding more captive ingredients to our palette to give CPL perfumers access to top-quality, exclusive materials that we don’t sell to anyone!
• All creative projects have their challenges. What has been your biggest challenge working with raw materials?
The current markets are exceptional. But they will improve. I think the essential oil markets are the most challenging and have been for some time. We are exposed to many influences on essential oils, from climatic changes to political unrest, to regulatory pressures and ever-increasing demands from the food and aromatherapy industries.
We must change and adapt how we purchase, what we purchase and from where we purchase. We have established a Specialist Naturals Team to combat the many issues we face on essential oil purchasing. This team comprising colleagues from purchasing, perfumery, analytical, QC, Regulatory and FM will be responsible for greater sourcing of naturals at source, to building and maintaining our desired quality of naturals within CPL for future generations.
• What are some of your strategies for dealing with commodities when you face a suppliers’ market?
My approach is quite simple: think quickly, think globally and think outside the box. Those that react the quickest will be the most successful in a deteriorating market. You must trust your instincts and your relationships with suppliers and remain focused on the job in hand.
We are incredibly fortunate that the Operating Board and Main Board at CPL have supported the purchase of significant volumes of raw material stocks across the group without question. Only with this support are we in the best possible position to recover from the raw material crisis.
• How would you characterise your main logistical challenges?
The main logistical challenge currently is getting the materials to the sites in time. As mentioned, I suggest almost 25% of our raw materials now are either not available or on strict allocation. We are a growing company and our demands are increasing at a time when we are under strict supply control. Right now, we cannot dictate how much material we want. The suppliers are dictating how much we can have and when. But at CPL we truly are one global team and we are working together and on a global basis to overcome the issues we are facing.
• You’re the youngest member of our Global Operating Board. What advice would you give to others working in the fragrance business?
I think you must have a passion for what you do. We are lucky to work in the industry we do and for the company we do. It is extremely niche, and we are all specialists in what we do. Each one of us has the potential in CPL to drive our business forwards. Don’t be afraid to give your opinion and speak up when something needs to be said. Challenge yourself to do something better every day.
My first 20 years at CPL have flown by. I remember my interview with Chris like it was only yesterday, and I haven’t looked back since that day. There is never a dull day at CPL and I wholeheartedly thank each one of my colleagues past and present for the experiences we have shared. Here’s to the next 20 years and the end to the current raw material crisis!