Room to Breathe

September 2, 2009

Marketers are looking to revitalize the home fragrance category for 2010.

Room to Breathe

Marketers are looking to revitalize the home fragrance category for 2010.

Melissa Meisel
Associate Editor

Greeting house guests with a spray of fragrance is said to be a Mediterranean tradition. And why shouldn’t it be commonplace in every home? Domestic scenting products are classically known as affordable, easy ways to provide a put-together and pleasant environment in a jiffy. A quick spritz of a lemon spray or lighting a lavender candle can work wonders in eliminating unsavory odors—even providing an aromatherapy boost to boot.

Despite the benefits and in correlation with the recession of 2009, there has been a significant downshift in the home fragrance market. Total sales of the category, which includes home air fresheners and candles, fell 11% to $1.5 billion for the year ended July 12, 2009 in supermarkets, drugstores and mass-market retailers excluding Wal-Mart, according to Information Resources, Inc. (IRI), a Chicago-based market research firm. Super brands like Glade and Febreze still lead in both the air freshener and candle sectors, proving that shoppers are still trudging to mass-market stores for their home fragrance staples such as plug-ins, sprays and luminaries—but at a selective pace.

While there have been a few glimmers of hope, the bleak economy in general continues to take a toll on the consumer products industry, noted Karen Doskow, associate project manager, Kline & Company, Little Falls, NJ. However, despite lackluster sales during the past year, the home fragrance market is well positioned to capitalize on the fact that, for a variety of reasons, consumers are spending more time at home.

“To make the most of a tough situation, home fragrance marketers must retrench, reinvent and rethink their product development, distribution and marketing strategies in order to provide the kind of innovative products at an affordable price that consumers demand at this time,” noted Ms. Doskow. “Certainly, innovative delivery systems, repackaging and other product-centric innovations are a consideration, but marketers must also consider how and where consumers can access their products.”

Candles Light it Up

Home fragrance is not only about scent; its design element is also imperative in creating a successful product, noted Simon Kneen, creative director, Banana Republic. He told Happi,“Candles in beautiful frosted or colored votives provide a sophisticated accent to any room. Home fragrance that looks great or has a strong architectural/design aesthetic has been successful in the past and will continue to be so in the future.”

An upscale room spray from Febreze for Fall 2009.
Signature perfumes and colognes act as inspirations to the home fragrance market too, according to Mr. Kneen. For Fall 2009, Banana Republic is bringing back its popular Classic perfume in candle form. The top opens with juicy, sparkling notes of grapefruit zest and mandarin citrus, as the heart marries classic floral notes of lavender and exotic syringa flower with leafy silver sage. It dries down to blonde woods and musk—just as the eau de parfum (EDP).

Marketers are also targeting the upscale consumer through mass to catch that shopper at an affordable price point. SC Johnson recently rolled out The Fragrance Collection by Glade, a line of gourmet-inspired candles available in scents such as lotus bamboo and acai.

Meanwhile, Procter & Gamble launched the Febreze Home Collection, the brand’s first contemporary-scented and styled home décor line. The cornerstone of the collection is the Febreze Flameless Luminary. Its scented “shades styles,” as they are called, are available in fragrances such as pomegranate mango or green tea citrus. A wooden base activates a flickering, flameless glow and diffuses scents into the air via the shade. Seasonal offerings include cranberry pear, caramel crisp, orchard cider and vanilla frost.

In addition to the Flameless Luminaries, the Febreze Home Collection offers the first soy blend candle for the brand, encased in glass with a bamboo base, as well as a room spray.

“Over the past year, we have seen consumers continue to experiment with new air care product forms and scents in their homes,” said Cathy Beros, senior scientist, Febreze Home Collection Research & Development, Cincinnati, OH. “Consumers are enthusiastic about air care products that have a decorative design that will complement their décor.”

Designs aside, sometimes it’s the scent that really makes a home fragrance product stand out, according to Rick Ruffolo, senior vice president of brand, marketing and innovation, The Yankee Candle Company, South Deerfield, MA. He tells Happi, “Without question, scented candles remain the single most popular way to enjoy home fragrance. When done right, scented candles make great gifts, are decorative and provide ambiance that other home fragrance devices can never match.”

Seasonal offerings from Chesapeake Bay Candle for Holiday 2009.
In 2009, Yankee Candle’s best selling new fragrance introductions included Garden Sweet Pea, Lavender Vanilla and MacIntosh Spice. Mr. Ruffolo attributes his company’s success in the category to “seasonal relevance.”

“We continue to see the importance of having the right scents at the right times of year. For instance, the food/spice category grows in importance and relevance as customers emotionally prepare for the Fall and Holiday seasons. Likewise, floral scents in the Spring, and fruit fragrances in the late Spring/Summer are ways for customers to integrate what’s going on in nature with the changing seasons into their homes,” he said.

Mei Xu, owner/president of Chesapeake Bay Candle, Rockville, MD, agrees that a classic jar candle might just be the panacea for recessonistas craving a wallet-friendly new home fragrance item.

“Value has been one of the strongest purchase decision drivers, and we have seen consumers trade down to more affordable candle and home fragrance solutions,” she told Happi. “Pillar candles and jars have regained popularity, as they allow consumers to combine décor and fragrance.”

The S-Pod from PartyLite.
For Holiday 2009, Chesapeake Bay Candle will unveil a limited edition featuring “multi-note scents” of wild ginger cassis, Siberian fir pomander and black star anis in fragranced soy candles or reed diffusers. The candles are contained in a special edition silver mercury glass featuring the brand’s signature tree motif in clear glass—allowing the glow of the candlelight to shine through the mercury vessel. Items are wrapped in a gift box featuring silhouettes of blossoming trees spread over silver foil paper with ombre shading.

Sticks and Stones...and Sprays

Besides the classic scented candle, air fresheners such as plug-ins or sprays are no longer just for the bathroom or kitchen. They have also become an important part of a home’s décor, noted market research firm Mintel.

Due to their expanding role in the home, air fresheners are also appealing to varied demographics. Teenagers and homeowners who want to extend fragrance to more rooms than before are all being targeted, said Mintel in its report. Therefore, the top companies in the home air freshener segment are competing for the next best delivery system and are trying to keep up with the latest fragrance trends.
While there is likely to be an increased focus on the home during the recession, air fresheners are discretionary purchases and will likely be one of those markets where consumers will look for better deals and may be more likely to purchase at mass merchandiser/discount stores, according to Mintel’s recent report on the market.

Revamped delivery systems add decorative appeal to the product with aesthetic beauty, agreed Kline in its analysis. For example, Henkel’s Renuzit line has been reinvigorated with a modernizing spa-inspired upgrade to its familiar adjustable cone, including customizable wrappers that can be downloaded and printed for a personal touch to fit any decor.

Further bolstering this steadfast brand, Henkel recently launched Crystal Elements, a set of scent-infused crystals in variations such as emerald rainforest or ruby berries, displayed in a decorative glass container.

Portability is a big trend this season in home fragrance. Blyth’s PartyLite brand is building its client base with its new “fragrance on the go,” the S-Pod. Targeting all those smelly cars, purses, lockers, teenager rooms and offices out there, this travel-friendly scent device was designed to refresh anytime, anywhere and resembles an Apple iPod. It is available in four fragrances—French vanilla, strawberry fields, mulberry and calm waters—and is sold with a refill.

Aura Cacia, a company that specializes in eco-friendly essential oils, is bringing spa-like benefits to the home with its new Aromatherapy Shower Tablets. The products are made with 100% organic essential oils and are available in lavender, eucalyptus or peppermint.

The company also recently released a line of natural plug-ins. This collection of electric aromatherapy air fresheners features 100% pure essential oils to provide fragrance. The line is available in four aromas—lavender, lime and grapefruit, bergamot and orange and spices and clove.

Fragrance sticks, or reed diffusers, are another popular delivery system for home fragrance. The natural wood gently draws the fragrance from essential oils usually housed in a glass jar into the air and gently evaporates into the surrounding room creating a long-lasting fragrance. Every couple of days, if the sticks get a little dry, simply turn them upside down and a fresh wave of fragrance will waft on by.

Boutique brands such as Sweet Grass Farm, Greenland, NH, have found success in fragrance sticks. According to the company, these “unique and practical fragrance sticks” can be set up on a shelf, or in a powder room or bedroom.

The company recently added ripe melon and citrus blossom fragrances to its roster of reed diffuser offerings; the company also will release a herb blossom linen spray and dusting oil for furniture outside of the wood stick range this season.

Some marketers are focusing on glass jars that house the essential oils as ways to draw attention to their home fragrance collections. L’Occitane en Provence, a French body and skin care line, sells a line of reed diffuser sets inspired by the ink pots once used by schoolchildren.

Home Fragrance of the Future

With most leading economists forecasting a weak recovery, there is still plenty of opportunity for home fragrance marketers to gain a foothold now and gear up for the future, noted Ms. Doskow of Kline.

Retail sales of air care products are projected to increase by 12% between 2008-2013, according to Euromonitor International. One category that is expected to grow is electric air fresheners, such as plugs-ins, which may rise 3% between 2008 and 2013. Increasing commoditization is likely to lead to declines for gel air fresheners and other household air care, according to the report.

Alyce Nicholsonsheehan, senior scientist, air care scent trends expert, P&G, sees the shift start with innovative new home fragrance variations. She told Happi, “Looking forward and with the economy in the doldrums, air care needs to catch a fresh new wind and breathe new life into our sails. I expect we’ll start to see some new scent notes within air care. Look for chic, feminine notes along with everyday, rugged masculine notes to be part of the fresh new beginnings.

“While fruit notes and floral notes will always be part of the air care landscape, the passion will come from pushing the extremes of femininity and masculinity into new directions for air care,” she concluded.

Ms. Xu at Chesapeake Candle agreed. “As far as fragrance trends are concerned, the most important trend for 2010 will be gourmand. Gourmand fragrances address the comfort trend—during these challenging times, people are seeking comfort to help confront daily financial and emotional stress.”

Industry experts agree that this year, innovation and a little blood, sweat and tears could feasibly turn the home fragrance sector around.

According to Ms. Doskow, “No doubt it will be a slow and steady climb, but the market is ripe for the leading consumer products companies to crank up the R&D engine and bring forth the next generation of home fragrance products. In this economy, it will take some landmark product and distribution initiatives to restore the market to the comfortable sales levels of its heyday.”
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