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Scents of the Amazon: Replacing Rosewood in Perfumery? Part I*

Posted: March 20, 2007
Part I: New essential oils from Brazilian biodiversity*

Brazil’s landmass totals 8,525,000 km2, of which the Amazon region covers 5,000,000 km2. This biodiverse region is home to 400-plus species of mammals, 3,000 species of fish and 2,000 species of birds. Plant species reach into the tens of thousands. The array of natural products that can be derived from this wildly varied environment includes pigments, gums, fatty oils, medicinal and toxic plants, and of course aromatic plants from which essential oils are derived. This latter category is comprised of ~1,000 plants.

Yet there are challenges in harvesting the promise of these naturals. The annual rate of destruction in the Amazon has reached 26,000 km2. Between May 2000 and August 2005, Brazil lost more than 132,000 km2 of forest (an area larger than Greece) to pastures (60%), soy fields and subsistence agriculture. In addition, commercially important materials such as rosewood are becoming endangered.

Cosmetics and Perfumery Market in Brazil: Mapping Brazilian Aromatic Plants

Brazil is home to the seventh largest personal care, perfumery and cosmetics market in the world (see T-1 and T-2 for world market sizes by category and market sizes by retail value, respectively). About 1,400 companies in the country operate in this sector, with the top 16 companies responsible for 72.4% of total sales. (For details on top 10 companies, see T-3.) Brazilian personal care, perfumery and cosmetics sales totaled $6.4 billion in 2005. The last five years have witnessed an average growth of 10.7% (source: ABIHPEC, the Brazilian cosmetic society), despite a dearth of local technological efforts.