Olivier Monin was born with a family name that is synonymous with gourmet flavourings, yet he has no recollection of the man who started the family business, his grandfather Georges Monin.
Georges died during World War II, 15 years before Olivier was born in France.
Georges, a 19-year-old entrepreneur, started selling branded wines and spirits with a horse and cart and the slogan “A passion for quality”. He founded the company in 1912 in Bourges, central France, and by 1930 Monin was exporting private label spirit products to Europe and the Caribbean. In 1945, Paul Monin took the reins of the company and steered the product development towards syrups – a relatively untouched market in France – when it became clear the spirits industry was saturated with competition.
All the while, Olivier says he was “almost born in a syrup tank”, perhaps an early sign he was destined to run the family flavour business.
He went to business school and spent a year working in the United States before his father proposed a challenge Olivier couldn’t resist: the chance to run the family company.
“My father never pushed me to do it. But because the company was not going very well in 1986 when I was working in a bank in Chicago, I liked the challenge to come back to try to make [it] profitable again,” Olivier says.
He succeeded. Instead of selling the company, Olivier brought the company back to life with a clear vision and passion for delivering premium quality products. He looked at other directions to expand the company’s offerings and increase production. He started using natural ingredients when other companies were using cheaper, artificial ingredients, and that’s when sales started to accelerate.
By 1993, Olivier became President of Monin, and he’s remained at the helm of the company ever since.
With 106 years of experience, Monin has become the brand of choice for creative beverage makers in bars, hotels, and cafés. It carries 140 products including premium syrups, liqueurs, gourmet sauces, fruit smoothies, cocktail mixes, and frappe powders, and covers 120 flavours in 140 countries.
Each time Olivier sees a Monin product placed on the shelf of a café or hospitality venue, he can’t help but feel proud, especially when it’s outside France.
Olivier adds that flavour products have really “exploded” in the past 20 years, with coffee-flavoured items helping to fuel such growth. “Everything [has] a flavour now, from shampoo to dog food,” he says.
Constant research and product trials ensure each Monin product is delivered with purpose. At Monin’s state-of-the-art production facilities, every bottle is lasered with a lot number, a traceable reference for the ingredients, and the person responsible for blending them. The company continuously launches new products and flavours, and as a result, Olivier’s preferences change too. As of late, he says Yuzu, Blueberry, and Beetroot are his favourite.
The advance of technology and science has certainly aided Monin’s growth of production since 1912, but Olivier is modest about the company’s global contribution.
“Syrup and purees are not rocket science,” he says. “Quality comes from the quality of the juice or extract we buy. A good juice costs more than a bad one. It seems obvious but this is the key, and our positioning allows us to buy the best quality available. This is what we have always done since the beginning. Of course the equipment has changed – it is all monitored by computer and you need also to master the pasteurisation.”
As such, Monin has grown as an imaginative drinks solution provider that focuses on what its customers really need, how to deliver it, and maintain it. Olivier credits the company’s longevity to passion and tenacity.
“Many things can happen during 100 years. We went through two wars. We almost went bankrupt twice. I think we are proud to have survived, and now to be number one. I can tell you every employee is really proud, and we cannot deceive them now,” Olivier says.
Part of that success has been finding how to adapt Monin’s array of products to suit different marketplaces around the world.
“I have always loved to travel to discover new countries, new people, new ways of living. In every country we discover new ways of consumption and that pushes us to understand and propose new products that match the local needs,” Olivier says. “We love learning from each different market. [It] teaches us what to launch.”
In Australia, that includes the success of L’Artiste de Monin topping to create easy latte art; Orange Spritz, Popcorn, and Toasted Marshmallow syrups, and Monin’s puree range.
From a young age, Olivier was raised to appreciate the family business and its employees, and has raised his own children the same way.
“Although they are still studying, we have always shared the bad and the good [company] news at home. Since they were born, I have always taken them to visit our plant in Florida during their holidays, and even to participate to trade shows abroad,” he says.
Only time will tell if Olivier’s children continue the family legacy, but for now, he is excited to lead the family business into a new era of gourmet flavours.
“It is part of my job. It is my name,” Olivier says. “I put a lot of attention to every single employee worldwide. It is very important that everyone feels good and is proud to work at Monin.”
Olivier adds that employing the right people at every level to carry the Monin name worldwide has been one of his biggest challenges during his time as President. “If you don’t have the best, you just do OK. [There’s] a very big difference at the end,” he says.
Most rewarding, however, is the establishment of the first Monin production plant outside France, in Florida.
“In 1992, when I saw that the American market was opening for flavours, I felt we needed to become American, and we did in 1996. Only then do you understand much faster what is needed and what works. We did the same in 2009 in Malaysia to cover all Asia, and last year we opened a plant in Shanghai for the Chinese market,” Olivier says.
The company now has four production facilities to help service a broader international market.
In 2012, Monin celebrated 100 years of production. One can only speculate that Georges would have been proud of his grandson’s efforts. Despite never meeting the early visionary, Olivier is confident he can continue to uphold his grandfather’s legacy with his own unique flavour.
“[We still apply passion to the business] every day in every part of the company, starting with our people. Everything has to share this value for quality including equipment, offices, cars, and of course our ingredients,” Olivier says. “[The next step is to] continue to lead the market, bringing new and healthy products to address the different worldwide trends.”
Monin is distributed in Australia by Stuart Alexander & Co.
For more information, visit www.stuartalexander.com.au