The New Smell of Clean

January 7, 2009

Fragrance in household products is a key component in closing the sale. No wonder why more marketers are opting for sophisticated fragrance notes for their laundry care formulas and hard surface cleaners.

The New Smell of Clean

Fragrance in household products is a key component in closing the sale. No wonder why more marketers are opting for sophisticated fragrance notes for their laundry care formulas and hard surface cleaners.

Lindsay Elkins
Contributing Editor

Scent is one of the most powerful of senses. Smelling a certain fragrance can signal a season or make mundane activities, such as cleaning the toilet, just a little more enjoyable. Sales of household cleaners totaled just over $1.5 billion for the 52 weeks ended Nov. 30, 2008, according to Information Resources, Inc., a Chicago-based market research firm. With laundry detergent sales thrown into the mix, sales jump to about $5.1 billion. What is it exactly that draws a consumer to one household product over another? Many marketers agree it’s the fragrance of the product that completes the sale.

According to Rhonda Jackson, senior perfumer, P&G flavors and fragrances R&D, the right fragrance can be a real advantage in whether or not a consumer purchases one household product over another.

“Through consumer research over the years, we’ve learned that fragrance is a competitive advantage in driving performance,” said Ms. Jackson who cites fruity fragrances as the scent of the moment in household product applications.

Seventh Generation offers an array of scents to meet consumers' diverse preferences.
Tropical fruit variations is a trend that extends beyond fragrances for household products and can be seen in both food and cosmetic applications.

“We see this in beverages, such as orange juice blends of mango and berry and also in fine fragrances,” said Ms. Jackson.

P&G recently launched Gain Apple Mango Tango and Mandarin Lime Fusion, both part of the Joyful Expressions line of laundry detergents aimed to lift the mood with fruity essences. Apple Mango Tango is available in liquid and powdered detergent, fabric softener and dryer sheets, and Mandarin Lime Fusion is formulated as a powder and liquid detergent. P&G also rode the citrus wave with the August launch of Dawn Plus Hand Renewal dish detergent, which features an invigorating Pomegranate Splash scent, which helps to rejuvenate the senses and the skin. The dish detergent is also available in Lavender and Silk and Aloe Vera varieties.

Seventh Generation, Inc., Burlington, VT, markets a wide range of household care products including laundry detergents, household cleaners and dishwashing liquid. According to Garry Embelton, the company’s vice president of global strategic sourcing, citrus is the predominant scent of the moment for hard surface cleaners and dish products. The company recently introduced eight new scent blends that are designed to be used in conjunction with one another. Combinations include White Flower & Bergamot Citrus, Wild Orange & Cedar Spice and Ruby Grapefruit & Herb, among others.

Method's fragrance specialists focus on developing authentic scents.
According to Mr. Embelton, scent quality plays as great a role as the actual fragrance itself when consumers are making purchasing decisions.

“We strongly believe that the quality of scents play a big role in the overall success of a household product,” said Mr. Embelton. “We rely on our scent development partners and consumer research to help guide us on scent trends by category.” Mr. Embelton also noted that florals continue to grow strongly in the laundry detergent and fabric softener category, while the company’s scent free line, Free and Clear, is seeing continued growth among consumers.

Fragrance Gets Fresh

According to Michelle Harper, director of fragrance evaluation, Arylessence, Marietta, GA, there are two primary fragrance trends in the market. Firstly, lavender, in combination with other florals such as jasmine or herbals such as chamomile and clean, fresh fragrances.

“We also see tremendous focus on complex ozonic types,” explained Ms. Harper. “These are positioned to provide the implication of efficacy through the use of a ‘clean’ name variant—Rainwater Fresh, Pure Cotton and Linen Breeze. Complex ozones allow the perfumer to build a fragrance formulation that has strong initial impact and long term substantivity that is highly desired by consumers.”

According to Joseph Lattarulo, senior vice president sales and marketing, Robertet Fragrances, Oakland, NJ, natural scents with lush botanicals and herb nuances add a refreshing twist to household cleaning products.

Both Le Scrub and Lil' Bowl Blu feature a eucalyptus mint fragrance.
“It’s an evolution from the natural/green movement with a true focus on the wellness trend, calming, nurturing ingredients that add value is a scent of the moment,” he said.

Rather than a specific scent, Suzanne McCormick, director of fragrance development with Method, explained that consumers are looking for authenticity in fragrance. Method recently debuted its winter seasonal collection of household products, including dish soap in Spiced Pear and Winter Berry. Method also aims to evoke a zen, spa-like setting while attacking bathroom grime with Le Scrub gently abrasive cleaner and Lil’ Bowl Blue toilet bowl cleaner, both of which have a soothing Eucalyptus Mint fragrance.

Next Generation

Superfruits have been a buzz term in everything from nutritional care to cosmetics and toiletries, and now the household product category is getting a piece of the pie. “Superfruits are the hot topic,” noted Arylessence’s Ms. Harper. “More and more products continue to tout pomegranate, and acai and goji berry variants are also on the rise in households as a result of wide consumer appeal shown in the personal care category.”

Ms. Harper stressed the importance of building a connection to the healthy benefits of these superfruits by selecting fragrance types that have beneficial fruit qualities in addition to a base that promotes clean and healthy positioning through the use of ozone, white floral or herbal accents.

Emerging superfruits, including mangosteen, jujube, baobab and camu camu, are fragrances of interest for future product launches in the household product category, added Ms. Harper.

Tide and Febreze have teamed up to create a new olfactory experience.
Robertet’s Mr. Lattarulo cited gourmand essences, such as ginger, layered with exotic and tropical fruits including plum, mixed berries and mango to create a more complex aroma, as the next wave in household fragrance.

According to P&G’s Ms. Jackson, destination scents will be big business in the years to come. “Some of these elements will be captured in our upcoming launch of Febreze ‘destination’ scents found in Air Effects, Fabric Refresher and Noticeables.”

New accords will include spicy notes found in Moroccan Bazaar, floral and fruity with Hawaiian Aloha and Brazilian Carnival, which capitalizes on the superfruit craze with acai berry.

Seventh Generation’s Mr. Embelton didn’t identify a specific scent as the fragrance of the future. Rather, he explained that quality of ingredients and relevance of scent are the real trends to watch.

“We are doing more consumer research and insight work than ever before,” he said. “We feel one of the real secrets is in the quality of the ingredients and the continued focus on relevance of the scent to the Seventh Generation brand.”

Mr. Embelton also noted that scent sustainability is something that will be relevant for all brands, not just those with green positioning.

“In the past two years we’ve see a number of crop failures and shortages of key ingredients and that is something that we are likely to continue to see as global climates change. This needs to be taken into account when developing new scents as using ingredients that are already in very limited supply can leave us very vulnerable to shortages,” he said.

The Smell of Value

The current economy is forcing companies in every category—from household products to personal care—to trim costs and get more bang for their buck. Value is more important than ever to consumers, and while fragrance tends to be the most expensive ingredient in a household cleaning product, it is a differentiator and can build loyalty into a brand.

“We encourage our customers to utilize fragrances that are optimized for the product base,” explained Aryles- sence’s Ms. Harper. “Fragrances developed in this manner provide more ‘bang for the buck’ and in water-based formulations, less surfactant is required to solubilize the fragrance and environmental impact is reduced.”

Seventh Generation also takes the approach of focusing on value versus price. “If the scent resonates with consumers and continues to build loyalty and bring consumers into the brand, then the absolute price is arbitrary,” noted Mr. Embelton. “Scent is one of the most powerful differentiators and so we have continued to focus on delivering the best overall value proposition that we feel will meet the demands of our growing consumer base.”

P&G takes its inspiration from fine fragrance when developing scents for household products in order to create a profile that is high quality, according to Ms. Jackson.

“The perfumery approach of incorporating top, middle and base notes to achieve these objectives will always remain,” she said.

Robertet’s Mr. Lattarulo maintained that the goal is to create value, which can be done through panel testing and consumer research to give customers the best scent possible, which will result in the initial and future purchase.

“Creating points of difference for our customers’ products that resonate with the consumer at the initial purchase just isn’t enough,” said Mr. Lattarulo. “We need them to take the product home and have the scent resonate as the product is in use. They have bought a product they trust, it does the job well and has created an experience through the scent; this will ensure a repeat purchase.”

A Nose for Naturals

Natural and clean scents were a driving force in 2008 and that trend still has legs. P&G introduced two new fresh and natural scent combinations to its Tide and Gain franchises. Tide Pure Essentials detergent incorporates baking soda and aloe essences for a crisp, clean scent and the Gain Fresh and Clean Collection includes scents such as Simply Fresh, with lavender notes and lemon twist, Cotton Fresh, which is clean and natural, and Gain with Baking Soda, a water fresh scent.

“As the going green trend continues to grow, it will remain one of our key focus areas,” explained Ms. Jackson. “We will continue to work with consumers to identify opportunities where we can bring this to life even more.”

Founded on the basis of growing natural materials, Robertet Fragrances still continues its heritage by being a leading manufacturer of natural raw materials. “Scent still plays a key role household products, so why not offer scents that fit the green movement appropriately, and give back to the environment by using sustainability growing programs?” asked Mr. Lattarulo.

Seventh Generation takes an all-encompassing approach to going green by not only using natural fragrances, but also helping to support sustainable practices.

“It’s important to note that some of the essential oils we use actually are an important part of supporting farmers we have built relationships with,” said Mr. Embelton. “We see scent use as being a way to help support sustainable growing practices, as well as allow these farmers to earn a fair income.”

In light of the demand for all things natural and organic, Trilogy Fragrances introduced its new GreenScents line of organic and natural fragrances free of phthalates, parabens, sulfates, chemical sunscreens, petrochemicals, glycols, formaldehyde donors, PEGs or PPGs, DEA/TEA and 1,4 dioxanes. Scents include Lemon Peel, Ginger Lavender, Georgia Peach, Vanilla Bean and Powdered Sugar and Tangerine and Sweet Basil.

Method has been designing fragrances with the environment and personal health in mind since the company was founded in 2001, according to Ms. McCormick. “Current marketing trends are providing a forum for us to increase our communication on sustainability, which is part of our brand’s DNA,” she explained. “We review the past, present and future of our fragrance materials.”

Fragrance is not the enemy of sustainability, according to Arylessence’s Ms. Harper. The company tries to incorporate environmentally-friendly practices into all stages of development, such as creating scents with high biodegradability and utilizing ingredients sourced from renewable resources, such as those created from pulp and paper manufacturing by-products. “These ingredients allow the fragrance industry to use materials that were formerly industrial waste and produce beautiful scents with high appeal,” she said.

Arylessence recently worked with Sunshine Makers to develop the fragrances in Simple Green Naturals, a line of liquid hand soap, dishwashing liquid and hard surface cleaners made from 100% naturally-derived materials. Scents include Fresh Squeezed Citrus, Herb Garden, Rosemary Mint and Sparkling Spruce, among others.

Despite the price tag fragrance holds when formulating household products, it remains not only a key differentiator, but a way to build brand loyalty and stand out from the pack. Tropical and superfruit essences of mango and acai berry, in addition to naturally-derived crisp and clean scents, lead the way.

Sidebar: Sustainable Fragrances for Cleaning Products

If it’s green, it’s growing. According to IntertechPira, truly green cleaners account for only 2-5% of the products sold in the $17.5 billion U.S. cleaning products market for household, janitorial, food service, and laundry chemicals. However, due to increased consumer misperceptions regarding the terms “green,” “sustainable,” and “natural,” government regulatory agencies and NGOs have developed programs to certify consumer products that meet stringent standards for sustainable formulations. When a product is approved, the company is allowed to include the seal of the certifying body on the product’s label—with the aim of improving consumer confidence and, ultimately, boosting sales.

A new conference, Sustainable Fragrances for Cleaning Products, will address the most salient issues facing this market. The conference will be held June 3-5 at the Marriott Washington, Washington DC. Key issues to be discussed include: creating a definition of “green” or “sustainable” that is meaningful for all constituent industries, the creation of a list of criteria for green fragrances developed by EPA’s DfE program and RIFM, review of current available technology, and the science behind determining allergic response and sensitization to fragrance.

Conference chairpersons include: Lauren Heine, senior science advisor, Clean Production Action; Marian Marshall, director of government relations, The Roberts Group and Ladd Smith, president, Research Institute for Fragrance Materials (RIFM).

More info: www.sustainablefragrances2009.com