Youve Come a Long Way, Baby

By Christine Esposito, Associate Editor | January 10, 2011

Fragrances found in today's household cleaning products are much more hip--and with good reason: scent can play a critical role in spurring consumers' interest and keeping them loyal to your brand.

BACK IN THE LAST millennium, could one ever have imagined that today’s homeowners would be washing their dishes in grapefruit, doing laundry in marshmallow or disinfecting the bathroom in early morning breeze?

Even in markets where price and performance are everything—including the household cleaning products sector—fragrance matters.

“While the functionality of the product is a must for consumers, how it makes them feel is a close second. Knowing that a chore within the home has to be done, fragrance offers a sense of pleasantness while the task is being done,” said Joseph Lattarulo, senior vice president sales and marketing, Robertet Fragrances. “Unlike ever before we are seeing complex and sophisticated creations enter into air care, laundry and even surface and floor cleaners.”

In fact, an intriguing scent can seal the deal, say fragrance experts.

“Choosing the right fragrance for a household product plays a critical role in the consumer’s purchasing decision. Fragrance keeps the consumer interested in a brand and it can bring new users to a brand,” noted Laura Kelso, fragrance program leader, Henkel Consumer Goods Inc.

Michelle Harper, director of fragrance evaluation at Arylessence, also pointed to the role fragrance plays in enhancing a company’s presence.

“Fragrance selection is more important now than ever before. That’s how products distinguish themselves in the marketplace,” she said.

Not Your Mother’s Citrus

Whether it is a bathroom cleaner or all-purpose wipe, household scents in use today are generations removed from basic pine and citruses that once peppered the household care aisles in the local supermarket.

Not that citrus is out. In fact, according to Method, it’s in—evidenced by Clementine, one its newest scents. Clementine was rolled out in 2010 in the company’s dish soap pump bottle and it should be making its way into other products this year, the company said.

“When we find a signature fragrance, we like to apply it across a variety of product forms, as it makes sense. Look for Clementine in other product forms in 2011,” said Suzanne McCormick, Method’s senior director of fragrance.

Many in the industry point to Method as a driving force behind the sea change in how consumers think about fragrance in their household cleaning products. And that fact that hasn’t gone unnoticed in San Francisco.

“Fragrance in household cleaning products has become increasingly important in recent years. Method has played an important role in raising the bar in the cleaning category by bringing unexpected and interesting fragrances,” McCormick said.

Method’s fragrance catalog includes unique scents such as waterfall and ginger yuzu, as well as seasonal varieties like holly berry and task-specific offerings including basil, which is designed to ward off kitchen smells. The company has taken an upscale approach to rather mundane products and tasks, and other companies are following suit.

Even venerable Pine-Sol, which was built around the deodorizing properties of pine back in the 1920s, offers scented versions of its popular multi-purpose cleaner. Clorox is reportedly tweaking the Pine-Sol fragrance collection, updating the lavendar and lemon variants, and working on new scents expected out this spring.

Venerable Pine-Sol comes in scented varieties.

“When it comes to product perception, we’ve seen a real evolution in the household marketplace. Consumers are more sophisticated, and therefore retailers are focusing on giving a ‘masstige’ approach to household products,” said Cecilia Vetralla, marketing manager with CPL Aromas, Inc., Somerset, NJ.

Fragrances for household cleaning products are influenced by a wide range of industries from food to toiletries to perfumery. While overall trends speak to fragrances that are fresh and clean, today’s scents are also more authentic and natural. There’s been a steady shift away from masking, medicinal and artificial scents, according to industry executives.

“The days of designing cleaning products around medicinal notes like pine, or single olfactive theme citrus notes are over,” noted Jack Corley, executive vice president at Trilogy Fragrances, which was recently acquired by TPR Holdings, LLC.

Household product makers say consumers are looking first and foremost for soothing and pleasant notes, “but like the complexity and balance of different fragrances accords they find so often in their body care products,” said Corley. Trilogy, for example, recently worked with a Canadian customer to expand its lavender vanilla theme from body care to a new household cleaning product range.

A Changing Role

Jodi Wilson, senior perfumer with Lucta USA, noted the changing role of fragrance in today’s competitive market.

“Fragrance has always been an integral and critical part in the selection of a household product. But, fragrance is certainly more significant now than in the past,” she said. “With more choices and more complex fragrances, the consumer has become much more educated about scents and odors and has come to expect ones that are multifaceted.”

And maybe even offbeat. Take Rockin Green’s detergents, which are made specifically for cloth diapers. They come in seven different scents from Smashing Watermelons and Rage Against the Raspberry to Bare Naked Babies (unscented) and new Mighty Mighty Marshmallow.

Understanding what consumers want when it comes to fragrance is a critical step in the process.

“End users have more discerning purchasing habits today,” said Frank Mara, senior vice president, Berje Inc., Bloomfield, NJ. “This is key to the success of many brands; their ability to keep up with well informed households driven by today’s information gathering technology.”

In addition to the unscented Bare Naked Babies version, Rockin’ Green detergent comes in Smashing Watermelons, Rage Against the Raspberry, Lavender Mint Revival and Mighty Mighty Marshmallow scents.

Castroville, TX-based Rockin’ Green takes this to heart. The company has turned to its customers’ noses for inspiration.

“We wanted to come up with scents that were fun and non-traditional,” said founder Kim Webb. “We relied heavily on customer feedback, and let them pick the scents that they liked best and then we took it from there.”

According to Webb, customers “wanted something on the softer side, that had a little more depth. So Mighty Mighty Marshmallow was born.”

Henkel is listening to consumers, too. “Consumers’ expectation of fragrance/ freshness longevity has expanded. For example, they expect their clothes to not only smell ‘just-out-of-the-dryer’ fresh on laundry day, but also days or even weeks afterwards when wearing garments or using towels and linens,” said Kelso.

“Enhanced fragrance performance through technology is an emerging market focus,” agreed Harper. “Consider new product claims which promote ‘renewing freshness’ or ‘reawakened freshness on the move,’ signaling efficacy and superior performance along with a superior fragrance experience—truly a value-added benefit, as value is a key purchasing driver.”

The Smell of Green

Another driver is the eco-movement, and this trend is manifesting itself in several ways when it comes to fragrances for household products. For starters, consumers are looking for eco-friendly products as well as products that have more natural smelling aromas. Household product companies, therefore, seek greener ways to scent their products as they work to achieve high-profile eco designations or look to go more natural.

“A considerable segment of consumers are looking for eco-friendly or natural smelling aromas. These fragrance types are also driving new product launches. From manufacturers, we are seeing an increase in requests for fragrances that meet various certification requirements, such as DfE-, Green Seal- or EPA-registered,” said Harper.

At that level, CPGs are setting the bar higher when it comes to fragrancing their products. Lucta, for example, worked with a startup green firm to develop dishwashing liquids, fabric softeners, laundry detergent and all-purpose cleaners that are DfE-approved “and quite complex and sophisticated,” according to Wilson.

Industry insiders agree that the green movement will only get stronger, and will continue to shape fragrance selection in the future.

“The natural, sustainable, environment safe, green, clean, organic movements are bound to grow stronger,” said Odila Zocca, vice president technical, chief perfumer at Premier Specialties, Inc., Middlesex, NJ.

Premier Specialties, with the addition of Premier Honduras, is focusing on a sustainability program and has recently implemented a strategic partnership in Nicaragua where it is growing and manufacturing sustainable certified materials indigenous to Central and South America.

“We are bringing sustainable oils and waxes and making them available to our customers as ingredients for finished products and making these ingredients available to our creative team to be used in fragrances,” said Roger Rich, president, Premier Specialties, Inc.

Transparency is another growing issue in the household products marketplace, and fragrance is part of the discussion too. In late November, SC Johnson announced that it would voluntarily disclose, by 2012, the ingredients it uses in fragrances and dyes as well as provide expanded information on preservatives in its products. The goal of the program, which is being touted in a new national advertising campaign, is to help consumers make informed choices about the products they use in their homes.

“Consumers in general are more educated and ‘earth’ conscious, demanding for more environmentally friendly products. They are reading labels and following the bandwagon of the big multinationals like P&G and Clorox that are making efforts to market mainstream products avoiding the use of environmentally harmful chemicals,” said Irina Rich, vice president, fragrance evaluation at Premier Specialties, Inc.

The introduction of new natural cleaning products based on naturally derived alkyl polyglucoside, for example, increased demand for natural fragrances.

“It makes little sense to formulate a green or natural household cleaning product and then add a synthetic fragrance based on petrochemicals,” said Corley of Trilogy, which last year developed CleanScents, a new line of 100% natural fragrances. The line “works hand in glove with these new natural household cleaning products,” he said.

Looking ahead, fragrances used in household care will continue to evolve, taking cues from fine fragrance, food, personal care and elsewhere—and gain complexity and sophistication along the way.

“Expect to see complex green accords along with a growing influence of oriental and wood notes, resulting from fine fragrance trends,” said Harper. “Woody notes like vetiver, cedarwood and patchouli or fresh, green galbanum will find increasing appeal in the home and household category. Modern rose accords, gourmand chocolate and aromatic coffee are notes to watch for as well.”

A Global View

Henkel says Spring Oasis, which has fresh, crisp, clean and airy notes, is the most popular scent direction in the Purex Complete 3-in-1 Laundry Detergent line.
Perfumers are taking a global view, looking to emerging markets for new ideas. “There is a wealth of interesting ingredients and materials that we’ve just started to research and explore. With strong cultural qualities from these emerging markets, it will be a great source of inspiration for future fragrance development,” said Chris Casale, creative perfumer with CPL Aromas.

“Apart from the traditional trickle down, food can be one of the most influencing sectors of fragrances,” added Lucta’s Wilson. “With changing demographics in the U.S., this can lead to changes that will influence the fragrances for household products. Perhaps U.S. fragrances will be further influenced by tastes that are more Hispanic or perhaps more Asian. Perhaps European countries will be more influenced by more traditional Middle Eastern tastes.”

Fragrance professionals at CPG firms and suppliers alike are working on new technologies to deliver enhanced fragrance profiles, be they ecofriendly, more natural smelling or longer lasting scents. And they like how today’s consumers are willing to smell “outside the box,” so to speak, when it comes to household care.

“I am thrilled at consumer acceptance of new scent profiles,” said Kelso of Henkel. “I think that over time, they in fact, have come to look forward to new directions.”

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