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FMA Ponders Green Fragrances: a Balancing Act

By: Jeb Gleason-Allured, Perfumer & Flavorist magazine
Posted: January 8, 2009, from the January 2009 issue of P&F magazine.

During the Fragrance Materials Association’s (FMA) fall workshop on green fragrances, there was a general agreement among the presenters that consumer demand for all things green—both strictly and loosely defined—is booming. It was in discussing the implications of this demand that dissonance among stakeholders—consumers, NGOs and industry—took shape.

The Boom

When it comes to natural, green and sustainability, consumers have been faced with vague and competing marketing claims. A Yakkelovich study cited by Daniel Fabricant, vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs for the Natural Products Association (NPA), reports that 78% of American women believe natural personal care is currently regulated or don’t know if it is. Ninety-seven percent think it should be. Meanwhile, two-thirds of American women believe a personal care product labeled natural should contain, at a minimum, 95% natural ingredients. In this context, Hee Jeong Son, corporate vice president of marketing, Belmay, outlined the rise of all things green in the fragrance and personal care industry.

Formulation, she noted, is a key hurdle. "It’s a big challenge for the fragrance industry because from a creativity point of view perfumers are limited as to the palette of ingredients they can use. Just because they’re organic doesn’t mitigate them from regular safety [requirements]. In terms of quality, because they’re unaltered, they change from batch to batch so [sometimes] we have to ask our clients to buy entire stocks of an ingredient to make sure it will remain the same within their products."

Claims

"About 10 years ago we saw a lot of products coming out of California claiming to have 70% or 72% organic [content]," said Son. The hurdles for these organic pioneers included the limited availability of organic raw materials, budget constraints and prohibitive price points for customers. "They wanted to be green, but they didn’t have the funds and resources to do that. If you look at today’s products, they’re pushing the boundaries [to] 96% organic."

Fragrance manufacturers and suppliers have responded to the overall green boom by providing clients with essential oils, organic materials and even nature-identical fragrances in the support of marketing strategies, Son explained. Companies are boosting their natural collections. They have also established organic certification for manufacturing sites, launched US Department of Agriculture (USDA)-accredited green fragrances and created partnerships to distribute all-plant essences certified by the USDA.