The Smell of Clean in 2017

January 6, 2017

Changing consumer lifestyles and demographics are impacting the scents found in the household cleaning category.

Trying to sell a pine-scented cleaning product? You need to be specific about how you want that conifer to connect with your customers. Pine can be found almost everywhere in today’s cleaning category from basic notes in grandma’s go-to multi-purpose cleaner to the sophisticated blend of pine, cedar and lavender notes offered by a niche laundry detergent brand to a seasonal dish soap designed to spread holiday cheer.

Household care companies are under greater pressure these days to accurately translate the feeling of  “clean” for a wider array of customers in a variety of product forms, all while keeping an eye on macro trends and basic chemistry. 

“In the fragrance industry as a whole, the household category is the most technically challenging to formulate because of the high pH levels and the array of fragrance directions available in other categories are not always easily translatable,” noted Amy Marks-McGee of Trendincite LLC, a creative service consultancy that specializes in fragrance marketing and flavor marketing.

“Historically, household products were marketed as functional and consumers expected functional, hard-working scents. Today consumers are looking for experiential scents regardless of the products they use,” added Marks-McGee. 

According to Heather Correll, a fragrance evaluator with Lebermuth, two distinct trends have emerged: more sophistication in fragrance choices and odor complexity in scent pairings, and second, fragrance offerings that enhance the natural position and authenticity of the product.

This evolution of scent in household care is following changes in demographics. A variety of consumers from Millennials to aging Boomers, and factors such as gender roles and family structure are playing a role in who is buying—and using—cleaning products.

Shifting macro trends haven’t been lost on companies like Clorox, maker of the Pine-Sol brand. Last fall it unveiled Makers of Home, a social media campaign “designed to break away from outdated stereotypes and celebrate the members of our families, from dad and grandma to everyone in between, that make our homes spaces and places where we can feel safe and loved.”

The goal is to shed light on the more than one million households led by a single father and the 2.4 million kids who are being raised by their grandparents.

“In a not-so-distant past, usually the mom in the household was responsible for everything from cooking and cleaning to laundry,” Sacha Connor, director of marketing, the Clorox Company, said in a press statement when the campaigned rolled out. “But families look different today and we sought out to find and tell their stories. From our place on American countertops for the past 87 years, we’ve seen the evolution of homemaking firsthand and knew that the word ‘homemaker’ needed an update.”

Those changes can be seen—and smelled—in the venerable brand’s offerings; Pine-Sol can be purchased in Lavender Clean, Lemon Fresh, Sparking Wave, Mango Mandarin Burst, Sunshine Meadow and “original,” the latter of which remains the leading scent, according to industry sources.

Experts at fragrance suppliers are keeping close tabs on demographics too, tracking shopping trends as well as what’s influencing fragrances found in other sectors.

“In the household category, we are seeing that the tried and true are still popular—but they are evolving. The market is getting more sophisticated,” Jennifer Powderly of Robertet told Happi, citing as examples Lysol’s Cherry Blossom & Pomegranate and Hawaii Sunset Essence scents. 

“They are pleasant and more nuanced,” she added.

“Citrus, herbal and fresh characteristics are most common in cleaning products,” noted Heather Adams, senior director, fragrance development, Agilex. “Mass brands typically include a variation of orange or lemon, a lavender, and a pine variant. Specialty brands feature the same, but with added complexity and olfactive sophistication.” 

In addition, the old trickle down theory may no longer apply to the household fragrance category, say industry experts.

“Inspiration for household scents can come from many different directions. At one time fine fragrance dictated fragrance directions and trickled down into fragranced products such as personal care, home fragrance and household products. Now scents can trickle up or trickle down,” Marks-McGee told Happi.

“In general, consumers expect household products to be functional, but expect the fragrances to be experiential like the other fragranced products they use, “ she said, citing the Laundress detergent collaborative—Out West—with singer John Mayer. Launched late last year, it has powdery notes with rich undertones of sandalwood, leather and amber, surrounded by spice, patchouli and musk that are said to capture the spirit of the American West. 

Another example can be found in niche brand Pottymints. This dissolvable air freshener tablet, designed to be dropped into a toilet bowl after flushing, comes in Arancia di Capri—described as “a sensual scent” that combines fresh citrus notes of nectarine and orange blossom with hints of water lily and caramel—and La Fleur, a modern, sophisticated floral with notes of citrus, jasmine, honeysuckle and sandalwood.

In other toilet scent news, as this issue went to press, Air Wick was rolling out a new  “before you go” spray called V.I.Poo, in four scents: Fruity Pin-Up, Rosy Starlet, Lavender Superstar and Lemon Idol.

The Scent of Wellness

Consumer lifestyle trends, behaviors and attitudes also influence fragrance. For example, health and wellness is affecting eating and drinking habits, and that in turn, can impact fragrances in other areas.

“The beverage, flavored water and sports drink segments provide flavor options that translate to fragrances. Popular flavors like pomegranate, mangosteen, dragonfruit and yuzu seem to find their way in to scent offerings and pairings,” noted Correll. 

They have at Method, which offers a ginger & yuzu mop and floor cleaner and a ylang ylang scent daily shower cleaner, she said. 

Powderly of Robertet brainstormed about popular brands in the beverage sector—think La Croix and other sparking seltzer style drinks—and how they could also influence household care. 

“There is so much nuance that can transfer into household cleaners—the fizzy factor, citruses, superfruits—they lend themselves nicely to household care,” she said.

Experts expect more healthful, natural options from food and beverages to continue to spill over into the household category.

“Consumers are looking for better-for-you products and are interested in greener, more natural and even organic ingredients. In household products this trend translates into greener chemistry and the use of natural ingredients or fragrances such as herbs and flowers,” said Marks-McGee.

Method’s on point here, too. This spring the company will roll out odor-eliminating kitchen gels infused with naturally-derived herbal and citrus extracts such as clementine, lemongrass, and basil + thyme. Hitting Target stores and target.com in March, the non-drying washes are designed to eliminate stubborn smells and leave hands feeling soft and clean, even after multiple washes. 

According to Adams of Agilex, coconut, persimmon, sea salt and coriander are some of the newer, more interesting notes found in home cleaning products. 

“Consumers expect innovation in functionality and fragrance experience—which influences perceived performance and enhances the living space,” she explained.

The connection between scent and functionality is ramping up at P&G. Armed with the knowledge that users enjoy a scent when there are fewer malodors present, the R&D team has been working to improve Febreze to address just that issue. 

This month, Febreze will roll out its new OdorClear technology, described as the brand’s “toughest and most effective odor cleaning formula ever,” according to a brand spokesperson. The technology features reactive perfume ingredients that bind to a broad range of odors and disable them by changing their structure so they don’t smell—think buffering ingredients like citric acid as well as odor neutralizing polymers.

P&G’s trademarked OdorClear technology will be available across the entire Febreze line, from its automotive SKU to plug in units to air spray to fabric spray. In addition, consumers can pick up new Febreze One, billed as a 2-in-1 odor eliminator that works for both air and fabrics. The non-aerosol spray imparts a lighter scent experience, according to the company.

P&G’s laundry properties are also big on delivering modern and more effective fragrances that add to a consumer’s experience long after the wash is folded and put away. The Downy Unstopables Liquid Fabric Conditioner line, for example, comes in three scents—Fresh, Lush and Shimmer. In addition, Gain is offering its strongest, long-lasting scent experience with new Wildflower + Waterfall Scent Duet.

The greater focus on lasting scents is following changes occurring within the fabric care in general. According to P&G, consumers find that removing fabric odors is as important—sometimes more important—than stain removal. (You can learn more about this and other trends in laundry care in this issue.)

What’s Ahead?

Those tracking fragrance trends predict that the desires of a younger, more diverse consumer base will have a major impact on the accords and ingredients that will be used to scent the household products of the future. 

“Millennials are driving authenticity, product transparency and customization features,” noted Lebermuth’s Correll, who said up and coming notes to watch include fine fragrance influences such as complex woody, earthy notes of sandalwood, vetiver, patchouli and oud. 

Experts contend savvy household care brands are wise to keep an eye on what younger consumers are eating as a source of inspiration. Remember when salsa overtook ketchup as the No. 1 condiment in America? Well you should see the growth of sriracha these days!

“With instant access to information, food and beverage is an important facet of this generation and the variety of flavors they experiment with are influential,” said Marks-McGee. “At one time ingredients such as habanero, ginger, matcha and turmeric were exotic and unfamiliar, now they are becoming ubiquitous. These type of ingredients are inspiring other fragranced consumer products and will eventually inspire household product scents.”•

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