The Household Fragrance Market

November 9, 2005

Household fragrancese are changing the face of the cleaning industry by building on old favorites and creating new ones

Though many fragrance experts agree that traditional citrus fragrances continue to drive the household fragrance market, new scents that debuted in the fine fragrance market have found their way into cleaning products. According to the Spring/Summer 2001 Trends Report by the Fragrance Foundation, disinfecting smells are out, while pleasant, clean and inviting fragrances are in.

“The consumer is always looking for something different, as evidenced by recent requests for floral, fruit and fresh, breezy scents,” said Kathy Croker, inside sales representative, Intercontinental Fragrances, Houston, TX. “It is not only important that the product smells appealing, but for the fragrance to create an atmosphere which makes the consumer feel closer to the natural world, less stressed or more comfortable with his/her life such as theme fragrances from forest, jungle, ocean or mountain categories.”

For example, Procter & Gamble released Gain Fresh-scented Bounce, Botanical Breeze-scented Bounce and Country Morning-scented Bounce Fabric Refresher in 2000. According to P&G executives, there has been an increase in consumer demand for products that freshen fabrics outside of the dryer, such as under pillows and mattresses and in the closet, dresser drawer, hamper, wicker basket, vase, luggage, gym bag and locker. To extend “just-laundered freshness,” P&G also introduced Downy Wrinkle Releaser in Vibrant Freshness and Light Freshness in September to smooth out wrinkles without ironing.

The Fragrance Foundation predicts home fragrance attachments will soon be created for ventilation systems. Scented candles, laundry detergent and room deodorizers will also continue to be strong in the market. Potpourri wall containers and encapsulated fragrances for curtains and other upholsteries will also develop.

P&G’s Febreze is a new upholstery/fabric product that eliminates odors trapped in household fabrics and clothing such as smoke, pet smells, cooking odors and mildew. The formula dissolves odors, cleans them away and leaves fabric smelling clean as the water-based spray dries.

“The best selling fragrances tend to be of the well-known, fresh and clean variety,” added Ms. Croker. “These products need to promote the perception of cleanliness. When formulating new fragrances for this market, we target the fresh and clean category, whether we are using new raw materials or making a more sophisticated fragrance for the consumer.”

But this was not always the case.

“Before, notes were more subtle and worked with the middle and bottom notes of the fragrance,” said Roger Howell, senior perfumer, The Lebermuth Company, South Bend, IN. “Today’s notes are fresher with characteristic green top notes. They are also stronger and provide more of a lift.”

Another major trend in the household cleansing category is the use of aromatherapy and fragrance to create a particular ambiance.

“The combination of aromatherapy and fragrance is huge,” Mr. Howell continued. “It is not true aromatherapy, but has the same holistic approach.”

The push behind the recent aromatherapy craze was the consumer’s need to recreate past experiences, a time of peace or a slice of nature.

“These new scents not only reflect a home-specific lifestyle trend, but replace lifestyle trends that are fast-fading as fewer people have time to let nature take its course ‘on the clothesline’ or as consumers ever-increasingly deal with an apparent lack of fresh air, clean water and organic produce,” said Marc Parrilli, vice president, fragrance division, Berje Chemicals, Bloomfield, NJ.

Another lifestyle trend reflects the influence of fine fragrances on the cleaning category.

“Sophisticated florals recently appeared in the cleaning market,” said Guido Cianciolo, chief perfumer, Alpine Aromatics, Piscataway, NJ. “The new scents are the result of a trickle-down effect from lifestyle trends such as increased usage of room deodorizers and candles as well as fine fragrances.”

A Lemony Lift
As aforementioned, citrus is the cleaning categories’ best selling scent according to industry experts interviewed by Happi. The reasons may go back to the nostalgia of past cleaning products, which themselves originated from the true ability of lemons to cut grease.

“The best selling categories still emphasize the tried-and-true citrus theme, especially lemon, lemon and more lemon,” said Mr. Parrilli of Berje Chemicals. “If there is one category consumers trust more than the workman-like pine cleaners, it is lemon which connotes the whole package—fresh, natural, germ-killing and grease-cutting.”

For example, a couple of all-natural products like Citra-Solve and Orange Glow are infiltrating mass market shelves. Meanwhile, other mass market leaders are slowly changing the scent of lemon. P&G’s Fit Fruit and Vegetable Wash was introduced last year to remove unwanted residue on fruit and vegetables. Fit is said to have a citrus smell which is rinsed away during use. The spray contains baking soda, citric acid, grapefruit oil and other naturally-derived ingredients.

“We are seeing are more complex variations of lemon,” said AromaTech executives, Somerville, NJ. “For example, notes such as grapefruit, orange and bergamot are being blended with predominantly lemon-based scents to produce a more interesting and sophisticated interpretation of lemon. Consumers want their cleaning products to both perform well and impart a great scent to the cleaning area. This is an extension of the trend in which consumers are looking for multiple-purpose products.”

A Bountiful Bouquet
Right up there with citrus is the floral category, which remains a fragrance leader.

“The category’s best sellers are the old standards, such as pines, citrus and light, nondescript florals,” said Phil Carrubba, Jr., vice president, Carrubba Inc., Milford, CT. “Past scents were simple, clean and recognizable—lemon, pine and spice smells that consumers recall from childhood. New scents are more complicated and perfumey.”

Perhaps the draw toward florals is again the function of a naturalistic lifestyle or maybe it is the fragrance industry itself.

“The desire for those ‘good, natural things’ in life is, after all, at the core of marketing these scents, but that isn’t the half of it,” said Mr. Parrilli. “If a Hugo Boss or Tommy Hillfiger scent is a runaway best seller, look for those types of scents to strongly influence all other categories in some manner, such as the classic case of Christian Dior’s Poison influence on Glade Country Gardens.”

AromaTech executives said these fragrances are being developed to help satisfy the consumer’s growing desire for more sophisticated fragrances in cleaning products that originated in personal care products.

Another new favorite is the combination of florals with other scents to create a relaxing atmosphere.

“Combinations of the newest fragrances in the market—florals, fruits and fresh, breezy creations—are very popular,” said Intercontinental Fragrances’ Ms. Croker. “The fragrances reflect the consumer’s desire to effect changes in hectic, everyday routines, to feel relaxed and closer to nature, driving the perfumer to design new, more exciting fragrances to help accomplish these goals.”

Color Combos
In addition to fragrance combinations, color combinations related to fragrances are also gaining popularity in the household cleaning category.

“This market follows what the personal care, particularly shampoo, deodorant and air care markets have done for years—introducing multiple fragrance variations of a product in which only the fragrance and color are different,” remarked an AromaTech executive. “Palmolive’s line of Spring Sensations, which comes in fantasy scents such as Botanical Blend and Ocean Breeze, is a good example of this.”

“Some of the more recent introductions, especially in the dishwashing liquid arena, are playing off the ‘orchard’ concept, led by Palmolive’s Orchard Fresh, with darker, fruit-like color connotations—grape and mixed berry colors,” said Berje Chemical’s Mr. Parrilli.

Mr. Parrilli also noted that the popularity of these color and fragrance combinations originated in home environmental categories such as Yankee Candle and Bath and Body Works.

“Candles, body splashes and room sprays ‘condition’ consumers to be attracted to similar-scent themes in the more functional side of the products bought for the home,” said Mr. Parrilli. “Palmolive’s Ocean Breeze hedges its bets by crossing over from the general bathroom clean scents like Lysol’s Pacific Fresh and Clorox’s Rain. Lysol especially covers a lot of ground with four scents in the disinfectant spray category: Country Fresh, Soft Powder, Crisp Linen and Spring Waterfall.”

“When Colgate launched the Spring Sensations line for Palmolive Dish-washing Liquid and P&G introduced a Tropical Bloom for Downy Fabric Softener, it opened the door to a very different approach in fragrancing household products,” added Helen Feygin, vice president global household center of excellence, Haarmann & Reimer, Teterboro, NJ

Et Tu Bruté?
Consumer loyalty is a funny thing, especially in the household cleaning market. And there are many differing opinions from industry fragrance suppliers, from brands to advertising, creating major influences.

“Consumers are more willing to try a new product with a well-known brand name than an unknown name,” said Mr. Carrubba. “On the flip side, if a well-known brand changes its fragrance and the consumer does not approve, bye-bye.”

But some experts insist that in order to have brand loyalty, scent loyalty must come first.

“Right now, consumers will use just about anything that is said to work and smell good due to ads and packaging,” said The Lebermuth Company’s Mr. Howell. “People who are new to cleaning products, such as college students, first choose a fragrance and then remain loyal to that product. They think, ‘This is how I want my apartment to smell.’ Scent loyalty turns into brand loyalty.”

Intercontinental Fragrances’ Ms. Croker agrees, “Even before a consumer is confident of how the product performs, the impulse is to buy based primarily on the fragrance. Price is also a driving factor in the impulse purchase. But the consumer is loyal for two reasons: does it work well for what it is intended and does it smell good? If both factors are present in the product, the consumer will be loyal for a longer time.”

But what happens when brand-loyal customers see a twist on a product they have used for years?

“Many consumers are brand-loyal, so if the brand launches a new-and-improved product, they will continue to go to that product first, rather than another brand,” said Mr. Howell.

Yet other experts said fragrances are changing so rapidly, loyalty may not always exist.

“I believe consumers are scent-loyal to a point, but with strong influences of BBW fragrances and marketing approaches, scent categories and descriptions are turning over much more frequently,” said Berje Chemicals’ Mr. Parrilli. “Cost-saving promotions are also very meaningful.”

The economy too plays a role in the impulses behind purchases.

“Because the economy is good, people are venturing into buying more of everything, more than just florals and citruses—vanilla, chocolate and coffee,” said Mr. Howell.

In addition, Haarmann & Reimer’s Ms. Feygin insists apple/melon scents are popular due to Herbal Essences, exotic foods have gained popularity and Eastern Feng Shui and symbolic elements (fire, earth, water, wood and metal) have infiltrated the market.

“The U.S. market for household cleaning products has been experiencing a Renaissance period,” said Haarmann & Reimer’s Ms. Feygin. “It has been influenced by a booming economy and several driving forces such as an increased disposable income—more time spent on entertainment and less time for household chores—and fierce competition in the market, creating new segments such as fabric refreshers and dry cleaning products.”

On the other hand, the economic boom may eventually lead to recession, causing consumers to search for different kinds of household cleaning items.

“Consumers still head to simple things, especially with the anticipated recession,” said Mr. Carrubba. “Figures show that fine fragrances sales are down. Suppliers are now building on simplicity, such as pine. They stick with that concept and make it a bit more sophisticated.”

The Future
According to The Lebermuth Company’s Mr. Howell, the sense of smell changes over a lifetime. Children prefer bubble gum and strawberry fragrances, while adults enjoy clean floral and herbal scents that last a long time. As consumers continue to age, the way a product smells doesn’t matter as much as how well it works, he said.

“Consumers, especially younger consumers entering this market, are looking for the fragrances in their cleaning products to be an extension of their personal care and home environmental preferences, creating a ‘fragrance experience,’” said AromaTech executives.

But the main target of the category is still adults, who prefer fresher scents.

“Trends for new fragrances will branch into more exotic combinations of florals, fruits, naturals and fresh varieties aimed at simulating nature,” said Intercontinental Fragraces’ Ms. Croker.

And as the internet becomes entwined into everyday life, research and activity, some experts insist household fragrances also have a future on the internet.

“The internet will provide the consumer with the means to compare products in a global market in pricing, product diversity and availability worldwide,” said Ms. Croker. “Future products will tend to reflect this international variation.”

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