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Europe: Firmenich to have more visually impaired people as sensory panelists

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Firmenich is expanding its collaboration with blind and visually impaired people as sensory panelists to assess flavors and fragrances.

Following successful pilots in Mexico and the UK, involving 20 visually impaired panelists, the group is expanding to inclusive panels across Geneva, Mumbai and Singapore in 2017.

“I am proud of our inclusive panels, as they harness visually impaired peoples’ acute sensory capabilities, while offering these talented individuals a path to financial independence and social recognition within their communities,” said CEO Gilbert Ghostine.

Firmenich currently employs 100 sensory panelists around the world, including 20% of blind or visually impaired professionals.

“Blind and visually impaired panelists are a step ahead of those who can see,” said David Lyon, global sensory director for perfumery and flavors.

“They often demonstrate an acute memory for flavors and odors, and their motivation to train as panelists, often results in them becoming highly proficient sensory professionals in a short time frame.”

Blind and visually impaired panelists undergo the same rigorous training as other panelists to learn how to identify and describe highly complex smell and taste profiles.

To recruit panelists, Firmenich works closely with organizations such as Comité Internacional ProCiegos in Mexico, Middlesex Association for the Blind in the UK, the College of Fragrance for the Visually Impaired (COFVI) in India, the Singapore Association of the Visually Handicapped, and the Association pour le Bien des Aveugles et Malvoyants in Geneva.

Today, 21 people with physical or mental disabilities are successfully employed in various support functions at Firmenich headquarters, from on-site maintenance and deliveries to canteen logistics and recycling.

Similarly, Firmenich Brazil is working with a local non-profit organization to recruit and train 10 employees with mental disabilities.