Today’s demand for natural and sustainable fragrances, and a return to Nature in general, is easy to understand if we consider that humans have consistently sought comfort and protection from Nature in times of trouble.
It began with survival instinct – evolution resulted from human efforts to provide for basic needs. Early on, animals were hunted for food and fur. Between 4000 and 3000 BC came the earliest, involuntary acts of sustainability: spinning and weaving from cotton, silk and wool to make warm and ultimately beautiful apparel.
The year 2020 brought a renewed appreciation of Nature and the joy of getting outside. We are rediscovering with intensity wellness rituals and the healing nature of plants. India brought us Ayurveda, turmeric cleansing and yoga. Japan taught us the yuzu bath, “forest bathing,” and ikebana. The Maya showed us sweat-purification and sense-awakening ceremonies.
The world population is now growing at a rate of 1.1%; that’s another 8 million people per year. Mother Nature is also feeling the stresses of hundreds of years of industrialization. AI-specialist Revuze reported that, based on >630,000 online product reviews, “the volume of discussion around sustainable perfumery was up 60% year over year [in H1 2020].” A 2019 study from MarketsandMarkets predicts a 2019-2024 CAGR for natural fragrance at 9.6%, whereas their prediction for the overall category is 6.2%.
Recent innovation in natural fragrance has been mainly in fine fragrance where ingredients are primarily based on natural extracts from fragrant, often rare or endangered, flowers, barks and leaves. One could speculate that the continued interest in these traditional plants will lead to even greater shortages and destruction of the very materials we want most to have in our products. Finally, do we really want to restrict the availability of natural fragrances only to the most luxury goods?
The Way Forward
Around 100 years ago, Ernest Beaux, who created Chanel No. 5, said, "In perfumery, the future lies primarily in the hands of chemists to find aroma chemicals creating new, original notes." This notion has fueled perfumery innovation to date.
Moving forward, the future of natural and sustainable fragrance lies with biotechnology whose robustness in plant-based design opens, or re-opens, many avenues of innovation. Senior perfumer Noemi Montoya from Blue California believes that “biotechnology is the breakthrough to the new era of developing fragrance experiences. Producing increasingly larger amounts of natural ingredients without depleting fields, taking species to the limit of extinction, or simply leaving them at the mercy of the elements creates truly new opportunities and makes the impossible possible.” Consider the example, the ubiquity of methyl dihydrojasmonate in the perfumery world. What few know is that its non-hydrolyzed analog, methyl jasmonate, was overwhelmingly preferred and is much more prominent in its natural occurrence. Yet, commercial considerations prevented its further development.
That is no longer true with today’s advances in biotechnology-enabled discovery and production. Blue California senior perfumer Angélique Nadau Burke adds, “Natural alone is not necessarily preferable. In isolation, ‘natural’ could mean rare, therefore elitist, pricey, dangerous and not sustainable at all. There is an alternative which is to work in harmony with Nature. And it’s not using chemical synthesis.”
Blue California’s technology makes possible clean, natural and sustainable fragrances that can work both in fine fragrance and in the more cost sensitive home, fabric and personal care categories. Our fragrance team of classically trained perfumers has access to a steady, growing supply of captive ingredients. They drive us on The Way Forward: making fragrances with Nature’s jewels of perfumery, formulated into high performance fragrances, priced so that all of the people can enjoy them every day.
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