The sad truth of our times is that fragrances are regarded with a suspicion bordering on distrust. Only a minute portion of this attitude is justifiable. All the scrutiny and diligent care that fragrance companies exercise in creating safe fragrances is often not enough to satisfy the most vocal proponents of banning all fragrances or limiting their use.
It is therefore remarkable how essential fragrances are to most categories of consumer products. Fragrance quite often is the point of difference that attracts consumers to one product over another, while frequently masking unpleasant-smelling bases. In some products, such as fabric softeners or deodorants, fragrance is the active. In the category of environmental and home-scented products, fragrance is the raison d’etre for the product.
The critical role of fragrance is well understood by most major finished goods manufacturers. This is why they are willing to put great effort and allocate substantial resources in order to bring truly well-made and innovative fragrances to the market.
The Value of Fragrance
Procter & Gamble is one of the companies that has always profoundly understood the value of fragrance. Many of their products, such as Downy April Fresh fabric softener, Secret Antiperspirant and Gain detergent have become the fragrance staples of their respective categories.
Today, P&G continues to support brands with innovative fragrance ideas and excellent executions. Tide's Simple Pleasures line—which includes the variants Vanilla & Lavender, Water Lily & Jasmine, Magnolia & Orange Blossom and Rose & Violet—is bright and soft-smelling and simultaneously supports a number of product platforms. The Olay Ribbons Body Wash fragrance is a fruity, pomegranate fantasy, grapelike and floral with a sweet background, which perfectly supports the concept of body butter. Exotic fruit themes such as pomegranate are gaining popularity, earning a new description in the media (along with blueberry) as a “super fruit.”
Unilever’s All Small & Mighty super-concentrated detergents are very well-made. The attractive packaging begs to be picked up off of the shelf and the Fresh Rain and Wild & Fresh fragrances are excellent. The first is very fresh and ozonic, with apple and melon notes on a musky woody background, while the latter is an excellent green apple scent.
Colgate’s Ultra Palmolive Dishwashing Liquid with a Crisp Cucumber Melon variant has a scent that is a real juicy-green cantaloupe melon with excellent diffusion.
Meanwhile, Victoria’s Secret is all about fragrance. Most of their scents are fruity with sweet vanillic undertones, capitalizing on notes of raspberry, strawberry, passion fruit and grapefruit. Shampoo brands like Garnier and John Frieda are also using fruity notes such as melon, apple, peach and apricot to connote clean freshness and naturalness.
Fragrance Forward: Where Scent is Going
The overall market, with its wide variety, shows a surprisingly consistent trend of fragrance themes based on natural ingredients. There are almost no esoteric variant names. These scents smell like specific fruits or flowers, preferably exotic, or sweets. Products with esoteric names like Unilever’s All Small & Mighty Fresh Rain and Wild & Fresh detergents are conforming to this trend by using fragrances that have identifiably fruity notes such as apple and melon. Apple remains a very popular theme, but the crisp green Granny Smith apple has been transformed into a sweeter, fruitier Gala apple.
Another long-standing theme favored by consumers is cucumber melon. Even though it has been almost 10 years since Bath & Body Works put a variant with this name on the market, the fragrance idea remains fresh and continuously appreciated by consumers. The execution has transformed slightly, with the melon theme now more defined. Current executions are for the most part either honeydew- or cantaloupelike.
A newer theme used in many recent launches leans toward the passion fruit and cassis (black currant) direction. This theme is often combined with orange or tangerine to create an exotic mangolike impression, for example in Zest’s Tangerine-Mango Twist bar soap. When combined with floralcy, this theme’s impact is contemporary and caring, as in Caress Exotic Oil Infusions’ Moroccan-scented beauty bar.
This quick review of market products should also mention sweet-powdery-vanillic and ambery fragrances. Good examples are Ultra Downy fabric softener—such as Cashmere & Silk Fresh fabric softener, a fragrance that is fresh, powdery-sweet-vanillic and ambery—and St. Ives’ Oatmeal & Shea Butter Ultra Moisturizing Body Wash with a fragrance that is slightly fruity, soft and ambery.
The gourmand or edible trend is very much alive and will continue to delight consumers with ever-new favorites such as pomegranate and fig (ex: Bath & Body Works’ Brown Sugar & Fig body wash), coffee and chocolate, and mango and papaya, all softened with a touch of vanilla.
Fragrances will continue to be an intrinsic part of consumer products, appreciated for their aesthetic value and emotional connection, which are critical in selling the product.
About Helen Feygin
Helen Feygin began her career as a chemical engineer, specializing in synthesis of fine organics. Her entry into the world of fragrance began at the Brooklyn, New York, boutique fragrance house Elias Fragrances. Doing synthesis of novel aroma chemicals for in-house use piqued her interest in perfumery. She joined Colgate Palmolive Co. in 1983 and worked as global fragrance leader responsible for the company’s personal care products. In 1998, Feygin joined IFF to direct the consumer products perfumery team, later moving on to Symrise where she lead perfumery, evaluation, marketing and consumer research teams as vice president of consumer products development. Today, Feygin is the founder and president of Intuiscent LLC, a company that specializes in development of fragrances for products worldwide.