Jacques Dikansky, founder and chairman of botanical ingredients manufacturer Naturex, died September 30, 2012, at the age of 52.1 Dikansky had resigned from his daily activities at the company in April 2012 due to his declining health. He died in Avignon, France, surrounded by his children and other family members.
In 1992, Dikansky founded Naturex as a producer of plant extracts to supply the food industry. With just two factories initially — one in Avignon and another in Kenitra, Morocco — Dikansky guided the company to its present standing as a global botanical supplier that employs about 1,300 people and operates 15 production units, including six in Europe, two in the United States, and others in Brazil, Australia, and India.2 The multimillion dollar company manufactures several hundred botanical products in varying stages of development, from raw materials to final ingredients, that are used by numerous businesses within the food, beverage, flavoring, dietary supplement, nutraceutical, pharmaceutical, and cosmetics industries.
“Jacques was an inspiring entrepreneur, intensely dedicated to developing a global company with an outstanding reputation,” said Antoine Dauby, group marketing director of Naturex (email, November 28, 2012). “He envisioned a world in which natural ingredients would someday be in high demand. By anticipating market trends and through sizable investments in research and development, Naturex became a pioneer in the use of natural specialty ingredients. Jacques was a genuine leader and an excellent manager, who had the respect of everyone within the company.”
After obtaining a chemistry degree from the University of Rennes in France, Dikansky soon took direction of his father’s apple concentrate and beetroot alcohol distillery in the Brittany region of northwestern France, when he was 20 years old. Because the business was experiencing decreasing profits, Dauby explained, Dikansky knew he needed to diversify production and consulted with a professor at the French National Institute for Agriculture Research, who suggested he produce onion essential oils and concentrates for flavoring purposes.
“He followed the advice successfully,” Dauby continued. “In light of this achievement, he predicted that industrial users and end consumers would be increasingly calling for natural ingredients.”
Eventually, in 1982, Dikansky created a fruit and vegetable concentrate and powder business named Arômes de Bretagne (now known as Diana Naturals), which he sold in 1988 to found food flavor and extract company Saveur (now known as Savena). Then, in 1992, he founded Naturex. During his distinguished career, Dikansky won several awards, including the 2003 French Entrepreneurship Award given by the French President Jacques Chirac, Ernst & Young’s 2006 Entrepreneur of The Year, and the 2007 French Ambition Award given by the French Minister for Trade Renaud Dutreil.
“When I met Jacques Dikansky in 2005, I realized quickly that he was a most unusual man,” said Chris Kilham, an author, medicinal plant researcher, and Naturex’s “Explorer in Residence” (email, December 6, 2012). “Jacques was driven to succeed in a way that few people are. He devoured opportunity, as though there was no limit to his insatiable capacity. A highly keen observer, he had the ability to assess situations quickly and most often with great accuracy, and to make decisions that typically produced very good results. He preferred to burn the candle for long hours, starting early, finishing late, moving from one continent to the next with tremendous rapidity, all the while checking no less than 300 emails per day, taking multiple dozens of calls, lining up deals, and making strategic acquisitions. For Jacques, the constant work seemed like nourishment.”
Though he was very proud of his company, Kilham noted that Dikansky “cared not at all for the spotlight.” And Dikansky was not only a businessman of great success and ambition, but also a person who had a concern for others, including his family, his employees, and the international communities from which Naturex sourced many of its ingredients. According to Kilham, Dikansky went out of his way to meet every new hire at Naturex; he also funded many years of Kilham’s field research and was highly supportive of his investigations in foreign countries. Dauby noted that Dikansky’s family, particularly his four children, was very important to him.
“Despite the pressures and commitment needed to run a successful global business, Jacques always found time for his children,” he said.
In 2008, Dikansky created the Naturex Foundation as an outlet to give back to rural farmers around the world. Following Dikansky’s death, the Naturex Foundation was renamed Naturex Foundation-Jacques Dikansky in his memory.
“Jacques was not interested in personal fame,” said Dauby, “and he wanted to recognize the significance of these associations by being actively involved in supporting the welfare and growth of farmers. He decided to launch our Foundation with the aim to improve the living conditions of the communities where we source our raw materials. Our Foundation, in conjunction with local non-profit organizations, is able to make a difference to the education, medicine, and basic necessities of local people in the [more] deprived areas of the world, where we source our raw materials.”
—Lindsay Stafford Mader
1. Announcement of the death of Mr. Jacques Dikansky, founder of NATUREX [press release]. Avignon, France: Naturex. October 1, 2012. Available at: www.naturex.com/investors/press-releases.html?ID=ACTUS-0-29501&CLIENT=ACTUS-0-202. Accessed December 20, 2012.
2. Company profile. Naturex website. Available at: www.naturex.com/company/profile.html. Accessed December 19, 2012.