Essential oils are pretty popular right now. Families are using them in their homes and businesses are using them in their products. It is not really a trend. They’ve been around for years, but the global market for essential oils, and products made with them, is booming.
A local company has been selling essential oils for more than 100 years.
Inside Lebermuth in South bend, it smells. But, that is a compliment. Lebermuth uses essential oils to create custom flavors and fragrances for commercial products.
“We are in the aromatic plant business. Everything that smells and tastes comes from a plant. We extract that all over the world,” says Rob Brown, the president and CEO.
Those oils are brought back here to South Bend where they are sold, processed or used to make flavors and fragrances.
Brandon Olson is a Senior Flavorist. He creates the flavors that go into different food products. When we met him, he was working on an orange hibiscus lip balm.
“It is really a half science, half art thing going on here,” says Olson.
Jill Costa is a perfumer at the company. She is working on creating floral fragrances right now.
“The strangest thing I have ever had to work on,” says Costa, “is someone wanted the exact smell of NASCAR exhaust. And they actually sent me a bottle -- like one of those 5 gallon water bottles full of NASCAR exhaust. It smelled terrible but I made something and they put it in a can and sold it as air freshener.”
Every successful formula created in the lab, is later recreated in larger quantities and will eventually end up in products like soap, candles, liquor, and candy.
It is what the company has been doing since about 1908 when Brown’s great grandfather started the business.
“Around 1908 he was coming from Chicago through Bremen and Nappanee and ran into a farmer who had some peppermint oil for sale. That farmer asked my great grandfather to take the oil and try and sell it somewhere. He ended up taking it back to Chicago and at that time sold it to a small chewing gum company calling William Wrigley and company and that’s kind of how we got into the business,” says Brown.
Brown says the company still supports small start-up businesses.
According to a recent analysis, the global essential oils market is expected to grow by 8 percent by 2025.