On Location: RIFM Addresses Fragrance Challenges

During the Research Institute for Fragrance Materials' annual meeting Harvey Gedeon of Estee Lauder took the podium and stressed that he does not apologize for his company's products. In the face of growing chemophobia, such as with phthalates, Gedeon noted that the industry's job is not to apologize for its products but rather to reassure and educate the public. Engaging consumers with sound science will net the best results. Meanwhile, the parallel emergence of natural, organic and "green chemistry" trends is further complicating the landscape. Gedeon loosely defined green chemistry by such terms as sustainability, fair trade and safety. 

Gedeon also warned the industry that REACH costs are going to be staggering in some cases and that some companies may use the program as an excuse to pare down portfolios. "REACH is our problem," Gedeon said, indicating its effects will span the globe. There are potential scenarios, he explained, in which companies could leave materials out of REACH because they are worried about defending negative results, which could in turn reflect negatively on the remainder of their portfolios. At one point, Gedeon said that up to 1/3 of some chemical classes could be discontinued under REACH. 

Gedeon decried the prevalence of pseudo-science in today's conversation on fragrance and voiced concern about the effects of lost materials and reformulations. Will consumers want the revised fragrances? In addition, he expressed concern that the current global mood is: chemistry is no good for you. Consumers are mistrustful of "chemicals" and have taken refuge in natural and organic categories.

The industry, he concluded, must demonstrate fragrance's benefits and back it up with solid science. Because no matter how many materials fragrance houses cut from their lists, activists will always demand further cuts.

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