Sweet Smell in the House

November 7, 2005

As aromatherapy and antibacterial agents seep into the household fragrance market, perfumers are looking all around for new ideas on how to keep a house smelling clean.

As aromatherapy and antibacterial agents seep into the household fragrance market, perfumers are looking all around for new ideas on how to keep a house smelling clean.

Something old and something new may be the best way to describe fragrances trends in the household market. While companies are trying new blends and finding influences varying from rainforests to the morning juice you have in your hand, the reality is that consumers associate certain aromas with cleanliness and manufacturers are not abandoning these proven winners anytime soon.

With the rise of antibacterial claims, there is a mixed view on whether there has been an impact on the household product perfumery. For Azzi Pickthall, creative commercial director at CPL Aromas plc, disinfecting household products have traditionally been pine fragranced due to the germicidal activity of pine oil. "The continued use of antibacterial claims with milder ingredients has led to a wider range of fragrance choice where no particular fragrance type has previously been associated," said Mr. Pickthall. "There is a current trend within the cosmetics market of using natural tea tree oil as an antibacterial agent. This will undoubtedly trickle down into household products and will therefore create its own distinctive fragrance note." Not only is a scent associated with cleanliness but so is color. In the case of the household cleaner market, this tends to be blue or clear, said Mr. Pickthall.

It is important for scents to be appropriate for each product category, said Leslie Mazer of International Flavors and Fragrances. "For instance, in household cleaners, citrus notes such as lemon, lime, citrus bouquets, and mandarin orange accords connote germ killing. In antibacterial bar soaps, fragrances go in many directions, such as florals or citrus," she remarked.

Milton Hull, vice president of perfumery division, Firmenich, commented that his company falls into the same thought process. Particular scents note germ-killing action. In the dishwater sector, for example, citrus notes supply the scent imagery. "However, the equity of the product gives companies the flexibility to try different scents. A strong equity gives a company more flexibility in regards to fragrances that can be used. But brands cannot stray too far away if they are to be believable," Mr. Hull said.

Aromatic or fougére fragrances can also be associated with germ killing. "Pine and lavender are notes most often found in the area for traditional products," noted Donna Hubert, fragrance development manager, Firmenich.

For the H&R Florasynth fragrance division, household products with antibacterial claims are still using the traditional fragrances associated with household cleaning products. Some fragrance materials have antibacterial properties in and of themselves, but they do not perform as well as typical antibacterial chemicals, such as quaternary ammonium halides, simple alcohol and triclosan (the most commonly used antibacterial chemicals). In the U.S., these fragrance materials can also be costly to use because the government requires regulatory approval before any antibacterial claims can be made.

But pine and citrus as well as floral notes continue to be the most commonly used notes in household products for H&R Florasynth. These scents connote "fresh" and "clean" and because of their legacy in household products, while also suggesting germ killing to some degree.

The trend toward antibacterial products, particularly in the kitchen, is now so common that it has become a price of entry rather than a point of differentiation, according to Givaudan-Roure Fragrances global category director Lisa Lewis. "There is every kind of fragrance represented, from sunripened raspberry in the Bath & Body Works antibacterial line to the functional and traditional Original Scent Lysol," said Ms. Lewis. "Our global customers research program shows that there are distinct clusters of consumers with different odor preferences and expectations for antibacterial action."

But even so, Ms. Lewis said there is a special place for citrus in the kitchen and the spicy floral fougére of antibacterial dish liquids. "Products offering multiple benefits such as surface and air care products that combine treatment and antibacterial protection with malodor coverage are a growing trend," said Ms. Lewis

The products have to be acceptable to consumers, especially ones that are environmentally conscious, said Mark Perilla, vice president, perfumer, Berje Chemical Products. "While household cleaners have been making antibacterial claims, makers have been trying to use essential oils more. People in R&D are looking for organic oils, natural phenol oils, that can replicate what they do."

Are Cleaners Going to Therapy?
Aromatherapy is still knocking at the door when it comes to household products. Its influence so far has been mainly confined to the language, according to Mr. Hull. "The biggest impact is that the terminology is now beginning to enter the language of everyday Americans," said Mr. Hull. "It has not had a direct impact yet in the U.S. but it is important in Europe. It's a strong influence in candle and bath preparatory sectors there. Therefore, the influence of notes used in aromatherapy products is not far away for tomorrow's products."

Mr. Pickthall argued that aromatherapy has already had an impact on household cleaning products "In the UK, the concept and fragrance have been sold to leading retailer J. Sainsbury for a range of fabric conditioners. There is also an increasing intersection within the air care market. I think one should ask oneself the question, 'Do I want a natural smelling environment or a chemical one?' It may of course be a slower process in this market sector due to cost parameters."

He predicted the natural category will definitely continue to grow. "I myself will continue to promote this within our company, as well as with our international clients. Marketing for the inclusion of naturals is also an area which will rapidly increase, as can be seen within the fine fragrances sector, e.g. Shiseido's Relaxing perfume," said Mr. Pickthall.

From H&R's perspective, aromatherapy has had an impact on the air care and candle segments of the household market, where products are often positioned as 'soothing' or 'relaxing.' "In the other household segments, however, the psychology of the fragrance is more important. The psychology is manifested through images of freshness or hygiene, rather than the claims of health benefits as with aromatherapy," said Allan Rickenbach, executive vice president and general manager of H&R's fragrance division's consumer products group. "We see a growing role for fragrances as driving these psychological effects, which are the product attributes, rather than physiological effects, which are in the realm of aromatherapy."

At Noville, aromatherapy has had a distinct impact on the household and personal care sector. Fragrances must reflect the product claims and therefore have to follow the theme of the claims. "Candles, being a part of the household perception of cleanliness and environmental appearance, are leading the household sphere of aromatherapy claims," said Carole Gerdin, Noville director-marketing department.

Ms. Mazer of IFF agreed with Ms. Gerdin, stating that, "We have seen aromatherapy gain popularity in air care, especially with the growing popularity of candles. In air freshening, the company has seen vanilla, simple florals and citrus (tangerine, mandarin orange, subtler lemon blends) increase in significance."

As aromatherapy's use spreads in air care, so it will appear in surface care to satisfy air-freshening needs, said Givaudan-Roure's Ms. Lewis. "There are no directly positioned aromatherapy products in hard surface household cleansing to our knowledge, but the influence of this growing trend is felt nevertheless." But there are skeptics. Mr. Perilla says that aromatherapy is "a packaging strategy; it used to be 'fresh and clean,' now it is 'aromatherapy.'"

For Givaudan-Roure, the most widely accepted form of aromatherapy uses the traditional "do-good" and healthy associations of herbs and citrus essential oils like eucalyptus, lavender, lemon and bergamot, which promote relaxation and refreshment, as a means to regain a sense of balance and well-being. "Although these oils are usually too pungent and therapeutic to be hedonically well-liked in personal care products, the same features are useful in hard surface and hygiene fragrances if harnessed properly. In other words, traditional aromatherapy is finding expression indirectly in products designed for the 'healthy home,'" said Ms. Lewis.

Keeping it Natural
A major intersection with aromatherapy and household fragrances is that they connote a feeling within the consumer. A few years ago, household cleaners featured complex, fine fragrance notes. Last year, the trend was toward more natural, outdoor scents. Annette Green, president of The Fragrance Foundation and Olafactory Research Fund, said the natural trend will continue as "the public is increasingly interested in subtle, fresh fragrances that mimic the outdoors." IFF's Ms. Mazer echoed Ms. Green's sentiments, stating "the naturals trend will continue because it is appealing to consumers and natural/outdoor scents connote freshness."

Executives at H&R expect the natural trend to continue down the same road. Traditionally, the notes most commonly used in the household cleaning category are characterized as "fresh, clean and outdoorsy." The fragrance notes involved are classical pine; classical citrus, such as lemon, and classical floral notes, such as lavandacious and herbaceous.

In addition to being classified into these three broad areas of development by H&R, notes also range from simple to complex. Some varieties, for example, may be characterized as "garden fresh," others as "fresh rain." This trend toward natural has also found its way into fine fragrances, where clean and natural has become popular with fine fragrance introductions. So in a sense, the trend back to naturals is intertwined with a return to fine fragrance notes.

Mr. Perrilla of Berje has witnessed the trickle-down effect coming to household cleaning products from fine fragrances. "You find partial fragrances that smell much like CK One. The industry will try to duplicate fragrance notes used in less expensive product lines like candles and then adopt it into the mass market section."

Outdoor fragrances are always appealing, according to Firmenich's Mr. Hull. "In Europe, fruit extracts are important in dish detergent notes, especially fruit extracts like raspberry, apple and citrus. Other fresh and natural odors, whether they are green, fruit or marine, are used to support the outdoor imagery of many household products. Traditional notes never go away; however, experiential and pleasing fragrances are on the rise in the U.S."

But Ms. Lewis argued that the industry is at the peak of ozonic florals, which are shifting now toward greener, more natural and watery designs. She remarked, "Rain and water concepts prevalent in soaps and fabric care products have great appeal, but only work in household products if they are blended with stronger notes, to acquire lasting qualities and malodor coverage."

Ms. Lewis added that fruits such as apple and peach are spreading down into surface care, particularly in Europe, taking their cue from refreshing shower gels. Berry notes may do the same thing here in the U.S., but only for scent seekers.

Noville's Ms. Gerdin feels that customers are more sophisticated than they were 10 years ago when they bought whatever was offered. "Today's consumers demand choice. While there is a trend toward fresh, outdoor scents, extensions of a brand are launched to meet that need. Some customers prefer one, some the other. That's why the number of household cleaners has proliferated," she explained.

Ms. Gerdin commented that the natural trend will continue until something different comes along to replace it. "The greatest users of household cleaners are families with children living at home defined demographically by Generation X and late Boomers. They have driven the natural trend and will remain the major buyers for quite a while," she said.

Inspiration Is in Your Hand
Where are perfumers finding inspiration for new scents? What new notes will find their way into household cleaning products in the future? Inspiration is everywhere according to Firmenich's Mr. Hull, even in the drink that is in your hand right now. "The food and beverage industry has been an inspiration with the different mixes of fruit, e.g. different citrus, red fruit and green fruit blends. External factors are also major influences; from home fragrance to air care to hair care. Travel is also an influence, and we're capturing scents from destinations such as the Far East, Europe and Latin America."

New technology is certainly a driver in this category. Mr. Hull said that the synthesis of new chemicals and new combinations created from analytical and headspace techniques are leading to new notes for cleansers.

Ms. Gerdin said that household cleaning scents reflect the way that people enjoy themselves in their own environment. "Candles drive the environmental fragrance market; therefore, inspiration can be drawn from their successes," she states.

Perfumers derive inspiration from every aspect of their lives, said Ms. Mazer. "More unique fruity notes are penetrating the household product arena: mango, kiwi, passion fruit, fig, prickly pear, star fruit, cranberry-apple blends and new berry blends." She remarked that there will also be new ways of interpreting the essence of clean linen and that herbal accords, ozone accords, lush dewy green notes and fine fragrance trickle-down will also influence the market.

Mr. Pickthall agreed that the new notes to look out for are natural flowers, forests, fig and fresh air. "Perfumers are finding inspiration from the world outside, as well as from the world within us," he said. "New, successful perfumes will need to contain the maximum added benefits. This includes natural smelling single notes, natural concepts, odor consistency and extra longevity."

At H&R Florsynth, the company view is that inspiration for new scents continues to be derived from nature. Emulation and simulation of nature are effected by the sampling of natural products and more recently of environments using sophisticated analytical techniques in combination with creative perfumery.

Fine fragrances have also been inspirations in household products, according to Mr. Rickenbach. The trickle-down effect continues and is now trickling down from fragrances used in specialty store products, such as Bath & Body Works, The Gap and Victoria's Secret. Household products are now being positioned in a more upscale way. With the packaging and labels showing beautiful outdoor scenes, they play a more important role than simple fragrance rendition.

Many of the newest products are driven by cost constraints, which have forced fragrance suppliers to find inexpensive ways to produce new scents. One approach has been to return to the use of analytical and sensory methods to understand the basic performance of fragrance chemicals.

"One of the things H&R has done is to go back to the science of fragrance in order to take creative inspiration from scientific analysis," said Dr. Leslie Smith, corporate vice president, technology. "Returning to science gives H&R the ability to create new products in a cost-effective way," said Dr. Smith.

An added benefit of this strategy is the company's malodor management system, a problem-solving approach developed by H&R to help the perfumer deal with the malodors common in the household products area. This unique technology categorizes chemicals into three groups: neutralizers, harmonizers or finishers. The aroma chemicals are then combined into Neutrition accords, which both neutralize malodors and provide consumer-preferred fragrances.

Household perfumers take their inspiration from the same sources as perfumers in other product categories, said Ms. Lewis. Using Aromascapes Technology, Givaudan-Roure is introducing new notes that have unique "fresh and clean" profiles better suited to cleaning products. "Household perfumery is often about producing neutral fresh and clean scents that are nevertheless hedonically pleasing and not just 'perfumery.' Such scents are often 'cool' in feeling, a crisp type of clean which can be found in alpine Aromascapes such as the Rocky Mountains."

There is also endless nourishment for perfumers in the garden (especially the vegetable garden) and in new cuisines that fuse traditional herbs and spices in new ways. "In Europe, vanilla notes are appearing on the market," said Ms. Lewis. But Ms. Green has the final word on all things aromatic and she contends that perfumers must adopt a global mindset. "Expanding global accessibility is allowing suppliers to enter previously untouched areas in such countries as China and Brazil particularly in rainforests where rare flowers grow," she said.

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