The sweet smell of success: Innovation and internationalisation in France

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Jean Mane, President - Mane Group, Perfumers, France

The Mane Group is a fascinating business. Founded in 1871, it’s now a billion-dollar company, operating in 32 countries, with 92% of that revenue generated outside France.  

And it has built its success by applying the power of technology to the time-honoured skills of using aromatic raw materials to create scents for perfume, and flavours for food. The result? Market leading positions not just in fragrances and flavourings, but state-of-the-art pharmaceutical compounds too.

Jean Mane is the great-grandson of the founder, and has a deep respect for the values and sense of social responsibility which have been passed down through the generations of his family firm, and sees his mission as “reaching (at least!) the 150th anniversary of the company still independent.” But he combines this with a passion for innovation and an extremely forward-looking approach to manufacturing.  In fact, it’s rather like combining two different but complementary scents: tradition on the one hand, innovation on the other.

Jean Mane, The Mane Group

Jean Mane, Mane Group

Mane invests heavily in R&D, seeing it as essential to competitive advantage: with 15% of its range becoming obsolete each year, finding new and better products is absolutely key. One way Mane does this is by having 40 different R&D centres all across the world from Singapore to Mexico, which can spot new and emerging trends, and tap into the changing tastes of local consumers. And once you’ve created a new truly innovative product, you need to protect it: Mane has been extremely effective at developing its own proprietary production processes to defend its vital Intellectual Property. It’s also organized in highly diverse project teams involving people from departments as different as R&D, manufacturing, procurement, and legal. All the research we’ve done at PwC suggests that this sort of cross-functional working creates a flexible and agile culture which is much more likely to be good at new ideas. 

Culture is crucial to Mane in other ways too. The company puts a high priority on happiness and well-being at work, and backs that up with significant investment in development. Though Jean Mane acknowledges that the risk is that his company ends up training people so well that his competitors poach them: “a family business doesn’t just have the challenge of attracting the best talent, but retaining them too. That’s why our culture is so important – the relationships we build with our employees. In our latest employee survey 50% of our people said that family governance was one of the best things about working here.”

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Peter Bartels

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Peter Englisch

Global Family Business and EMEA Entrepreneurial and Private Business Leader, PwC Germany

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Tel: +65 6236 3818

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