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Gattefossé soon engaged in international trade: Louis, the founder, sourced its raw materials from overseas. Throughout the 1920s, René-Maurice’s perfumery formulae were translated into lots of different languages! Exports then increased steadily. However, from the 1980s onwards, the company began to open subsidiaries: that is what lead to a dramatic increase in the development of Gattefossé across the world.
Louis Gattefossé may not have spoken English, but from the start, he pictured his business as an international trading company. From 1895, he imported citrus fruit essential oils from Sicily, terpene-free essences from Germany and Switzerland, and raw materials for cosmetics (petroleum jelly, ceresin and mineral oils) manufactured by German and Belgian organizations. He then became a sales representative for these same organizations in France.
Postcards from suppliers received by Louis Gattefossé during the 1890s from Bulgaria, Russia, Greece, Egypt, Belgium…
However, the company’s international dimension existed before the trade of aromatic products, as witnessed by numerous postcards to Louis from his professional “correspondents”, now stored in the company archives. Some came from Greece (1891), others from Egypt (1892), the Netherlands and Bulgaria (1894).
The fact that Gattefossé was then able to conduct foreign trade showed a level of boldness that was quite remarkable for the time
Louis Gattefossé managed to overcome financial risks, exchange rate issues, language barriers, supply problems and customs duties to develop commercial relationships with businesses in distant countries. In 1895, his letterhead read: “agent de fabriques françaises et étrangères pour la France et l’exportation” (“agent for French and overseas factories with products for import and export”).
Exports were a significant part of the business throughout the 1920s, but then they weakened substantially, and international trade stagnated, all at a time when the company’s reputation in France was going from strength to strength. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, Gattefossé established a network of agents, mainly in Europe. Then in the 1970s, it adopted a new commercial development policy by setting up its first subsidiaries outside France. From this point on, subsidiaries would be created in countries where there was enough activity, and elsewhere, Gattefossé would continue to rely on distributors.
In 1982, the business founded Gattefossé USA at the request of two clients: L’Oréal and Janssen (Johnson & Johnson Group).
Initially set up in New York, this subsidiary was originally only used for logistics: L’Oréal and Janssen wanted to ensure Gattefossé had storage space in the United States. Soon, however, under the leadership of Éric Brun, Gattefossé USA started to gain traction.
In 2017, Gattefossé USA became the largest subsidiary in the group in terms of headcount. It also opened an onsite “technical center of excellence” so the company would have extensive application facilities for both cosmetics and pharmacy. Then in 2018, the business decided to set up a manufacturing unit in the US to round off the country’s production facilities. For Gattefossé, having a second production site outside France (after Singapore in 2009) underlined the company’s desire to focus on international development, not only from a commercial perspective but from an industrial viewpoint too.