Scent, as much as the formulation and packaging, is a key motivator for consumers when deciding which personal care product to buy. Yet, often it gets overlooked or sidelined when budgetry decisions are made.
“You may have the best formulation, innovative packaging and communication, but if it doesn’t generate emotion with the consumer, then the product is likely to fail. Fragrance is key and will prompt purchase,” stated Francis Hembert, Dévelopment International, Cinquieme Sens, who maintains that the emotional factor creates addiction.
Consumers often talk of their addiction to certain scents that have been around for some considerable time and remind them of good times, such as holidays and childhood memories. Ambre Solaire is frequently described as the “scent of summer,” while Nivea is equally recognizable by consumers who may have fond memories of the brand while growing up. In each case, the fragrance is the brand’s DNA, which is passed across generations and cannot be changed.
In her presentation at this year’s In-Cosmetics show in Paris, Claudie Willemin, president, Société Française de Cosmétologie (SFC), described how olfactive signatures influences consumer tastes in different countries. For example, orange blossom is used in the French version of Mixa Baby, but in South Europe and Brazil it is formulated with a powdery scent. Another French brand, Dop Douceurs d’Enfance, which is a family cream shower gel, has the scent of Madeleine cakes, which are known to evoke strong childhood memories among French consumers.
“Fragrance is the signature of the performance, the signature of the brand and can be designed to enhance the efficacy of a product,” Willemin observed.
Mintel has researched the importance of scent as a purchase driver in toiletries and identified key consumer trends by region. In all the categories monitored, fragrance was rated as one of the most important attributes, sometimes scoring more highly than performance or efficacy. Mintel’s research, carried out in 2012, showed scent as the second most important attribute after moisturizing in shower gels for both European and the US. In the US, consumers also rated a pleasant fragrance in shampoos or conditioners more highly than product benefits such as volumizing or defrizzing. However, scent in hair care is rarely communicated.
For hand and body lotion, consumers were more concerned with how a product works than how it smells. European and US consumers rated moisturizing and natural ingredients to be more important than scent, which came third. France and the US were the countries where consumers most likely looked for unscented hand and body lotions.
Along with functionality and price, scent is a priority when consumers shop for personal care products. Mintel discovered that, globally, only 1-4% of personal care products are unscented. Understanding this, manufacturers are now putting more emphasis on scents and are enhancing the creativity, quality and the sensory experience of toiletries. However, fragrance is frequently not specified; instead brands emphasize the ingredients and skin care benefits, such as coconut oil and ylang extract.
In 2012, the most popular scent used globally in toiletries was floral, especially in soap and bath products. In terms of named floral notes, lavender, rose and jasmine came out on top for all toiletries.
Fruity and gourmet notes were featured next and are strongest in North America, where consumers favor them over all other kinds of fragrance. Coconut and vanilla are the top scents in the edible category, driven by new product development in Europe and North America.
Other key scent trends picked up by Mintel included green/herbal/woody and fantasy, which is not an olfactory description but is used to denote feelings and moods, such as dreams and twilight. According to Mintel, fantasy notes in toiletries have doubled during the past five years and are popular across the world.
Manufacturers are always looking for inspiration from other categories. For example, fine fragrance is a rich source of ideas, particularly ingredients. Recent examples observed by Mintel include Palmolive Damask Rose & Musk bar soap and Korres Vetiver Root Green Tea Cedarwood shower gel. On the shelves are more original scent fusions, such as Dial Goji Berry & Orchid shower gel and Dettol Rose & Cherry in Bloom hand wash.
The primary scent trend in today’s cosmetics market is the increasing development of naturals, according to Claire Delbecque, R&D–marketing manager, Bontoux SA, an international supplier of aromatic raw materials to the perfume and cosmetics industry.
“The use of naturals started first with very noble products, such as rose oil and neroli oil, and now is widely increasing to all kinds of natural essential oils, used both for their properties and fragrance,” she said.
Delbecque insists that the challenges in scenting cosmetics products are the development of IFRA-compliant qualities, such as tea tree oil low methyl eugenol, and producing sustainable qualities of ingredients such as lavandin oil CENSO. The company is presenting its new concept, BontouxOnline.com, at In-Cosmetics 2014 for the online sales of essential oils for European professionals, which enables very fast deliveries for small quantities of 30 essential oils.
“Opening our sales to smaller quantities than usual will lead to opportunities for new developments for customers who are not yet used to working with essential oils, but who are asked to do so by final customers,” explained Delbecque.
New Ideas for Fragrance
According to Mintel, consumers are diversifying the way they wear fragrances, resulting in new opportunities for ancillaries and new scented formats, such as perfume for hair. In the future, brands will link fragrances to their functional benefits, such as playing with the natural texture of ingredients like raspberry pips which could be used for exfoliation. Already in the US, consumers expect fragrance to play a bigger role in cosmetics, such as having mood-boosting or stress-relieving properties, providing an energy boost or even anti-aging properties. Before too long, fragrance functionality will be as important as smell.