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The Science and Opportunities of Modern Fragrance

By: Stephen Weller, IFRA
Posted: May 12, 2009
IFRA Seminar

IFRA Seminar Audience

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“The problem of a loss of smell in old people is just as important and as problematic as in the reduction of quality of life caused by the loss of hearing or sight,” said van Toller. He also reported that he was horrified that many in the health profession ignore the condition even within ear, nose and throat departments of hospitals. “In one case I came across an ENT specialist who reported that the patient had not lost his sense of smell because he could smell ammonia. I was appalled as ammonia is not a smell, but a touch,” he said. Despite this, van Toller reported that patients can be taught to enjoy a sense of taste again by actively noticing the difference between sensations such as hot and cold or sweet and sour.

Decline of Allergic Reactions

During an overview of perfume history dating back 4,500 years, Olivia Bordalo of the Centro Dematologia, based in Lisbon, Portugal said that the good news for the industry was that, thanks to the changing of compositions of formulas, sensitivity to fragrances and perfumes and rates of allergic reactions were falling. This is despite allergy rates increasing overall due to the public’s increasing exposure to other sensitizers.

“The number of cases of contact dermatitis we see caused by allergies to fragrances and perfumes are decreasing,” she said. “This is because the composition of fragrances is changing and causing less of an allergic reaction while other household items seem to be causing more.”

Ubiquitous Scents

Allan McRitchie, a perfumer who was formerly head of Procter & Gamble’s technical center based in Newcastle, said that consumers have been demanding more sophisticated perfumes in items they frequently use. Household goods manufacturers over the past three decades have responded to this need. McRitchie also revealed that a third of consumers will often smell a product in the supermarket before purchase.

“Perfumes can be of such great importance, because its effects transcend just simple appreciation of the smell,” he said. “It is one of the most multifunctional components in a product, as it operates both at the conscious and subconscious level.”

Consumers also associate a certain smell with a product. For instance, Fairy Liquid used the same formula for 40 years because the makers found that the product without a perfume or with a different smell was rejected.

“Without the use of perfumes it is increasingly difficult to deliver a product that the consumer wants,” he said. “For instance, with laundry detergents the smell is regarded by between 70–90% of users as the key determiner as to whether clothes are clean and fresh.”