The delicate process of separating perfume essence

A family owned company in Italy uses Alfa Laval innovative separation technology to produce essences for perfume, cosmetics and other areas. The result: less energy use and higher end-product quality.

DATE 2023-11-28 AUTHOR Claudia B. Flisi PHOTO Maurizio Camagna

Bergamot, a citrus grown almost exclusively in Reggio Calabria, on the "toe" of Italy, has been a favoured essence of the fragrance industry for centuries because of its quality and versatility. Reggio Calabria is also the location of the family-owned company Capua 1880, a company that has been extracting bergamot oil for perfumes and other areas of use, since 1880.

Need for innovation

When Giandomenico Capua took over responsibility for citrus processing at Capua 1880 in 2013, he faced the problems of business growth and ageing equipment. He looked to new technologies in citrus oil separation equipment for solutions.

The challenge: How to improve the processing and extracting techniques for bergamot and other citrus fruits, to get as much high-quality end-products as possible?

Over the next five years, he evaluated separation equipment by Alfa Laval and other supplier.

The solution: The Alfa Laval CR 250 ranked at the top of his list for its performance, quality results, and yield increase.

On-site testing began in May 2017 and the results confirmed Capua's expectations.

  • The Alfa Laval CR 250 can handle 4,000- 5,000 litres of emulsion an hour – more than double the old capacity of 1,200-1,600 litres an hour.
  • The separator uses 30 percent less energy than competitors' equipment for the same results.
  • The bottom-fed, fully hermetic design is gentler on shear-sensitive particles and eliminates oxygen pickup, leading to better quality aromas in the final product.
  • The design meets the EU's highest regulatory standards for health and safety.
  • The operator can optimize the process during production which means reduced need for downtime for mechanical changes.

The company is always studying new techniques for extracting, filtering, and treating essential oils. "R&D is continuous to help us develop new product processing," explains Gianfranco Capua.

Capua 1880 is now expanding their capacity to meet the growing demands in new markets. One of the drivers is the "return to nature" trend which has resonance not only in developed markets like Europe and North America but also in newer markets such as India and China. The growth is prompting the company to consider a new purpose-built plant in the next few years, and Alfa Laval technology will be a factor in the layout of that facility.


as much as 90 percent of the world supply of bergamot comes from Reggio Calabria: it is found in both traditional and modern perfumes because of its freshness, multi-faceted aroma, and its ability to blend well with other scents. It is also used in many other aromatized products such as cosmetics and detergents – but also as an essential ingredient in Earl Grey tea.

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FACTS - Bergamot

An Italian named Johann Maria Farina, who had settled in the German city of Cologne, created the first scent under the name of his adopted city in 1709. Homesick for the smells of his native land, he had written to his brother the previous year: "I have discovered a scent that reminds me of a spring morning in Italy, of mountain narcissus, orange blossom just after the rain. It gives me great refreshment, strengthens my senses and imagination."

Freshly separated bergamot oil is an enigmatic emulsion. Its colour is iridescent green streaked with sunshine, reflecting its origins as a small greenish citrus hybrid between oranges and lemons. The heady fragrance encompasses both these fruits and adds a subtle suggestion of exotic spices like cinnamon and cloves. No wonder it was used in the original eau de cologne.

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CR 250 - separator for concentrating of citrus oil

  • Unique Hermetic design
  • Gentle product handling: preservation of aroma due to no oxygen pick-up
  • Low power consumption, environmentally friendly

CR 250 - separator for concentrating of citrus oil

"R&D is continuous to help us develop new product processing"


gianfranco capua

Capua 1880 – a sustainable company

Sustainable practices are ingrained in Capua 1880's corporate culture. Since the company's raw materials are 100 percent citrus fruits from local farmers, and all its finished products (essential oils) are sold abroad to environmentally aware multinational corporations, it is totally committed to sustainable goals. And it has been officially recognized: in January 2018, Capua 1880 was certified by the Union for Ethical Bio-Trade (UEBT) as a sustainable organisation.

In the first phase of this certification, Capua documented the sustainable practices of 450 of its citrus suppliers. The information gathered from this research was passed on to the UEBT for a subsequent phase of certification. According to company head Gianfranco Capua, his agricultural suppliers should be motivated to follow sustainability guidelines – otherwise it is up to Capua to motivate them. By doing so, he says, "the quality of their produce improves, their yield increases, their efficiency improves, their savings increase, and they make more money".

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