Fragrance and R&D Innovation: What’s new and noteworthy

2020 . 08 . 07 | written by Karen Marin

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The world may have been confined for weeks and months, but that hasn’t stopped the fragrance industry from innovating and moving forward. In fact, there are a lot of new concepts and trends hitting the market that touch sectors ranging from product to certification to sampling to technology. Here is a quick roundup of the latest developments.

How brands will launch a fragrance in the new normal is a huge topic for discussion. Gone are the spray girls and the investments in visual weeks. It goes without saying that engaging first with a digital strategy is imperative. Most likely consumers will begin the discovery process online and if sufficiently intrigued, they will venture into stores to continue the journey. This is why it is so important for brands to concentrate their efforts online first, both for launches and for support of the core catalog, especially going into the all-so-important 4th quarter.
Getting the scent into the hands of the consumer is more challenging today than ever before. Beauty solutions provider Meiyume is working on a touchless sampling tester to offer a safe and hygienic in-store experience. Manufacturer RPG is set to launch low-touch dispensers that can be affixed to beauty counters or gondolas that will allow the consumer to take a sample without assistance. The company is also working on single-use samples. Likewise sampling giant Arcade has partnered with Vengo to create sample dispensing kiosks that the consumer can activate via their own smartphone, while Orlandi has collaborated with V-Shapes on flat sampling solutions suitable for use in print media for a broad spectrum of different viscosities and textures.

Living in uncertain times with stressors coming from the demands of an urban lifestyle, anxiety about the economy and global issues, worries about COVID-19 and other health concerns, have created a need for comfort. Consumers are seeking out products that give them a sense of well-being, that de-stress, calm and soothe. This finding is supported by a poll Givaudan conducted in France and the US in which women aged 18-65 reported they are now shopping for fragrances that are “comforting” and “relaxing” versus “sexy” or “seductive” as was the case before the pandemic. The sense of smell plays a significant role in our well-being since emotions and memory are processed in the part of the brain adjacent to smell processing. Scents that are linked to happy memories, or scents that just smell good help us feel good.
What is now being called functional fragrance is also in the spotlight. By incorporating the benefits of aromatherapy with fine fragrance, it’s possible to create a scent that can have an effect which triggers mind, body and emotional reactions to activate a sense of well-being and reduce stress. Quoting Amy Galper, co-founder of the New York Institute of Aromatic Studies, however, “Aromatherapy is a practice of using scent to support and promote well-being. Perfume is really about art. So although both are using scents and similar palettes, their intention is very different.” UK based online wellness site The Nue Company, stocks a product entitled Functional Fragrance, described as “an anti-stress supplement delivered in the form of a unisex fragrance.” Feeling good, as opposed to smelling good, is the end-goal, although the two are not mutually exclusive. Certainly, consumers are enamored of multi-tasking products, so why not expect more from a fragrance?

And while personal care and fine fragrance are definitely trending towards calming and soothing scents, there is more on the horizon. According to AI data specialist Revuze, sustainable ingredients are a trending topic in online product reviews where people are expressing interest in natural and organic ingredients. Consumers are also looking for transparency meaning they want to see a list of all of the ingredients used to create the products they purchase. This demand is rooted in the ever-important pursuit of eco-conscious living. The fragrance brand JUS has taken the unprecedented step of making their formulas available on their website while fragrance creation firm Sozio has developed their own CLEAN FRAGRANCE label while blacklisting over 1000 ingredients and implementing a policy of transparency.
And with transparent communication in mind, some brands are even seeking out certification to prove compliance. Cradle to Cradle has created a product guide that manufacturers can reference to ensure their products are compliant with standards in terms of material health, material reutilization, renewable energy and carbon management, water stewardship and social fairness. A Material Health Certificate is globally recognized and is an indicator of a safer more sustainable product.
In the meantime, IFRA (International Fragrance Association) and IOFI (International Organization of the Flavor Industry), the two industry bodies regulating fragrance and flavor, have collaborated together on a Sustainability Charter to which 100 companies have already made a voluntary commitment. The charter, whose goal is to set the standard and raise the bar, focuses on five key topics: ethical sourcing, product safety, reducing environmental footprint, transparency & partnerships and employee well-being. The charter, which has been in development since 2016, seeks to help the industry as a whole to advance on sustainability issues by sharing best practices, providing a forum to exchange viewpoints, offering tools and benchmarking progress through the collection of qualitative data.

Technological developments are also flourishing in 2020. Givaudan has just launched Vivascentz, a new and exclusive technology which will assist creative teams to develop fragrances with well-being benefits which can be used in fine fragrance, personal care, home use products and even fabric care. This tool measures overall well-being in psychological and physiological contexts. The project was tested on over 2000 consumers to confirm that scents created using this technology do indeed have a positive effect on the overall well-being of the user. This comes on the heels of last year’s launch, Carto, an artificial-intelligence powered tool that takes some of the grunt work to free up the perfumer to concentrate on creating beautiful fragrances.
Aryballe is a digital olfaction company that, according to their website, “combines biochemistry, advanced optics and machine learning to mimic humans’ sense of smell”. The company is able to collect, display and analyze scent data to facilitate decision making. In a practical context, this data can help with approving or rejecting a raw material supply, to reduce analysis time and accelerate R&D projects, and may even spell the end of human smell panels.
Hopefully, these advances and innovations will contribute to positive growth trends as we approach the second half of the year.