Marc Jourdan-Gassin (SK 1984): “I felt the need to challenge myself”

24 January 2020

In charge of development in Latin America at Firmenich, a company ranked number two worldwide in the fragrance and flavour creation sector, Marc Jourdan-Gassin talks to us about his international experience and his ability to rise to professional challenges on a continent weakened by crises.

You have lived in several countries ─ Switzerland, the United States, and now Brazil. Why did you choose expatriation?
I joined Firmenich in 1995 on condition that I would have the possibility of being sent overseas once I had proven myself, and that is what happened. After three years in sales at L’Oréal, where I enjoyed working, I felt the need to challenge myself. That’s when I decided to make a move towards development and perfume creation by becoming an evaluator and working directly with perfumers. Today, a total of 17 of my 27 years at Firmenich have been spent working abroad.


It wasn’t too difficult to reconcile this decision and your family life?
At the time, my children were still young and I really wanted them to be able to make the most of this opportunity to live overseas and experience diversity. For an expatriation to be successful, it is crucial for the entire family to agree to it and to be curious about the opportunity. It’s a family building exercise; it’s not easy to uproot a family and to ask your spouse to leave their job. But if everyone is on the same wavelength, you don’t regret it!


Today, you are vice president of fine fragrance for Latin America at Firmenich. What does your job involve on a day-to-day basis?
I’ve been in Brazil for nearly seven years now; it’s a way for our company to show that we want to pay special attention to this region. Within the company, I am in charge of developing the fine fragrance segment for all of Latin America and I manage the sales, creation, marketing and consumer insight teams. 


How is the perfume market doing in Brazil and Latin America, given that the region has been shaken by different crises? 
I arrived in Brazil in 2013, the year that marked the beginning of one of the worst economic and political crises of the past 70 years, in Brazil first, but it then reached the rest of Latin America and unfortunately it’s not over yet. Besides having to compensate for horrendous market erosion in all countries, the total closure of the Venezuelan market, the collapse of the Argentinian market or certain clients declaring bankruptcy, my actions have been mainly focused on local players. They have managed to take advantage of local brands that are well-trusted among consumers coming back into favour but with a more favourable economic equation than that of international brands. Today, the perfume market is sluggish. Yet Latin America has one of the highest consumption potentials with 600 million consumers that don’t yet have access to perfume but who, culturally speaking, are very receptive. Today, Brazil is even the second-largest market in the world. 


You graduated from SKEMA in 1984. Do you maintain ties with the school?
Not as much as I’d like... I’ve seen Jean-Philippe Courtois again, the chairman of SKEMA’s Board of Directors. He is very active. There has been some talk of rousing the Brazilian network and I’m really looking forward to it. One thing is certain, I want to get involved to talk about my experience, my international career and to contribute to growing the network.


Contact: Marc Jourdan-Gassin (SK 1984), Vice President Perfumery Latin America

Interview by for SKEMA Alumni