Perfumes and aromas are ever-present in our daily lives: From gently aromatic face creams or minty toothpaste, in tropical fruit tea or spicy chips, in floral perfumes or fresh citrusy detergents. A company from Henstedt-Ulzburg is behind many of these aroma and taste experiences: FREY & LAU is one of the leading medium-sized manufacturers of essential oils, aromas and perfume oils. With the claim "Explore your senses," more than 250 employees develop, produce and market products for industrial customers in the sectors of drinks, food, animal feed, cosmetics, cleaning agents and pharmaceutics. The company was founded back in 1836 by Hamburg-based pharmacist Heinrich Zeise as a "steam factory" for oils, essences and pharmaceutical tinctures. With customers worldwide – from France to Bangladesh – FREY & LAU most recently achieved annual revenues of 152 million euros. "Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, we stayed in the black; our revenue grows by around 20 percent annually," reports Managing Director Dr Maja Zippel.
The distillation and refinement of essential oils is still an important cornerstone of the company’s business; the raw materials are procured from Italy (bergamot) or India (mint), for example. With teams for perfume, flavour, market research and application technology, FREY & LAU also takes care of the entire process from the initial idea all the way to the finished product on the shelf. After the development of aromas and perfume oils, they are integrated into products like baked goods, creams or washing agents and tested for their stability and effectiveness. After the technically demanding production process, the fluids, granulates or powder are thoroughly examined during quality control. FREY & LAU manufactures pharmaceutical ingredients in a special clean room.
In 1994, FREY & LAU moved from Norderstedt to its current headquarters in Henstedt-Ulzburg. "We were looking for new premises with long-term growth potential," explains Dr Maja Zippel. "What tipped the scales in favour of Henstedt-Ulzburg was the personal effort made by the municipality." The company premises has already been expanded multiple times on the property now extending 55,000 square metres. Two warehouses were added to the production building in 2004 and 2010, the area for laboratories and offices were expanded in 2012, and an annex for production was constructed in 2017. A new large logistics centre was built in 2020. "During all these steps, the local business development office was always there by our side to advise and assist us," highlights Dr Maja Zippel. The number of employees has also grown since the relocation, from 50 to 258 people.
The excellent logistical location right near the A7 motorway plays a significant role in the company’s success. “We can ship our goods quickly and flexibly at any time; we are a short distance away from Hamburg Harbour. Thanks to this good connection, our employees also have the option of living in many different places, from rural areas to the big city. They can commute to work either with their personal cars or by AKN trains," explains the managing director. The network of service providers in the surrounding area is also an asset for the company: "Whether electronics or air-conditioning technology – we have been working with many providers for years now. It saves time and effort to resolve matters without the red tape," says Dr Maja Zippel.
After work, employees are fond of using the neighbouring fitness centre. Community involvement also plays an important role for FREY & LAU, for instance the company supports the yearly donation marathon and community run "HU-LÄUFT" as a sponsor. The ground has already been broken for the next expansion: A new production building will soon be established exclusively for aroma production. Liquid, solid and encapsulated aromas will be manufactured on three levels. "We will streamline our processes to be more efficient and also gain around one third more space in our production facilities for essential oils and perfume oils," explains Dr Maja Zippel. In selecting its location, FREY & LAU certainly proved they have a good nose for business.