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The Natural Phenomenon

Posted: September 5, 2007

“There’s a disenchantment with science [among consumers],” says Intuiscent president Helen Feygin, explaining one of the main drivers of the naturals trend. Wariness of chemistry and technology—coupled with notions of social justice (fair trade), sustainability, and health and wellness—have energized a major consumer movement that’s pumped a lot of energy into the fragrance industry.

On September 19, Feygin will present a talk, “Natural Phenomenon,” during HBA Global Expo/GCI magazine’s “Fragrance Business 2007” in New York. She describes the average consumer’s understanding of natural as “vague.” Most consumers respond to familiar elements on the labels of natural products (i.e., lemon, aloe, etc.) and tend to define “natural” broadly as anything that is not synthesized.

The demand for these products is booming. Feygin says that the green movement involves 35 million Americans. In addition, she cites a Mintel study showing that 77% of consumers will change their purchasing habits due to a company’s green image. These consumers are willing to pay more for the added value of naturalness and boosted sense of well-being.

Succeeding in the future: While the rewards are great, the challenges of natural fragrances are immense. Economic pressures often deteriorate supply quality. In addition, supply chains are vulnerable to meteorological, geo-political and environmental instability—for example, sandalwood, grapefruit and rosewood. In addition, consistency of material quality and stability upon application remain an issue. But, Feygin says, price is the largest hurdle for this category. The key to success is offering newer and better raw materials. “Some companies are getting heavily invested in making new distillates and isolates,” Feygin says, noting organic cinnamon oleoresins, banana distillates and cocoa extracts.