As a result, stakeholders in the category—from finished goods companies to fragrance suppliers—are taking note.
“We’re noticing that scents are playing a very important role in how shoppers view their purchases as extensions of a lifestyle they want to live. Consumers are looking for simple ways to manage their overall emotional wellbeing and that behavior is being reflected through everyday products,” said Kristyne Chaparro, marketing manager at Sozio. “Overall,” she said, “the theme of being ‘environmentally conscious’ is altering the way market leaders are positioning their products.”
Selena Thomas, marketing manager for the UK with CPL Aromas, echoed that sentiment.
“Fragrances within household products have developed a lot over recent years as the focus has expanded from them just being fresh, functional and clean to being influenced by trends in other products categories as well as bigger lifestyle trends. Consumers are more [concerned] about what they spend their money on, so fragrances have to fit their lifestyle needs,” she told Happi.
The biggest trends in household product fragrancing center around issues like natural, sustainability and transparency, according to Jennifer Powderly, vice president of marketing at Takasago International. The “true-to-nature” trend has clients and consumers alike asking for fragrances that are as recognizable as possible with notes they can identify.
For example, consumers expect a lavender that is “real lavender, not a fantasy…It is no longer okay to call a scent lavender and it isn’t lavender; it should have that nuance in there,” said Powderly.
While asking for natural isn’t new, it is imperative that home cleaning brands have a grasp on underlying issues—and that’s where insight from people like Takasago’s Janis Gaudelli is helpful. As director, social media and trend insights at Takasago International, she looks at the bigger picture—the why consumers are gravitating to natural.
“We look at the larger scope—and then drill down,” she said. “We ask consumers: what does natural smell like—it has a scent…If they say lavender, they want to see lavender extract in the ingredient story,” said Gaudelli, who will co-host the upcoming “Naturally Confused” consumer panel during the ACI Annual Meeting & Convention in Orlando later this month (For more on the ACI event, see “It’s Not the Powder, It’s the Dose,” on p. 56 in this issue).
According to Chaparro, Sozio—which in November 2019 opened both a new factory in Jakarta, Indonesia and debuted a Clean fragrances collection at the ISSA show—explores industries like technology, food/beverage, travel, luxury fashion and architecture, which all play a role in scent development and innovation.
“By monitoring the latest releases in these sectors and, of course, within beauty and fragrances, we’re able to stay up-to-date on new and trending products,” she said.
Forecasting can help companies stay nimble, but making changes quickly remains harder for a bigger brands, noted Powderly. However, she said more mass market cleaning brands are having success through sub brands. As an example, she pointed to Clorox. The venerable cleaning company, best known for its iconic bleach, now offers Clorox Scentiva, a line of cleaners with on-trend scents such as Fresh Brazilian Blossoms.
According to Chaparro of Sozio, adding familiar ingredients and simple foods resonate with consumers as being natural or healthy.
“Ingredients like super fruits and influences from tropical climates have been popping up on the market,” she said, pointing to Clorox Scentiva Pacific Breeze & Coconut Multi-Surface Cleaner and Seventh Generation’s Hibiscus & Cardamom Hand Wash.
“The well-being trend has seen a rise in products highlighting essential oils such as citruses and herbs. The eco trend is influencing plant inspired fragrances while we still see a demand for more playful fragrances with tropical fruits such as guava or vibrant rhubarb,” noted Thomas of CPL Aromas, which offers products like Ecoboost, which uses just 10% of the normal fragrance dosage without a compromise in strength of quality, and Aromagard, a malodor counteractancy technology that is well suited for home care.
“Herbal and botanical scents with unique callouts are helping brands to align themselves with this trending identity,” said Sozio’s Chaparro, pointing to Method Lavender + Cypress Laundry Detergent and Basil Liquid Hand Soap from Mrs. Meyer’s.
“We think this category has elevated its olfactive offerings to mirror the shift that’s occurring in shoppers’ habits,” she said.
The Scent of Independence
As consumers seek more naturally-slanted products for their home care tasks, smaller-sized and indie brands have been meeting their needs by offering cleaning product formulations deemed to be, well, “cleaner”—including the way the products are scented.
“We do not use any synthetic perfumes in any of our products,” said Deb Kaylor, who is chief marketing officer of Sapadilla, a Cincinnati-based maker of home care products that include dish and hand soaps, all-purpose cleaner, laundry detergent and a countertop cleanser that are formulated with plant-based ingredients.
She told Happi that each Sapadilla scent has been curated with up to seven different essential oils, and the company blended the ratios multiple times to end up “with scents that we feel really spark with consumers—we talk that our approach is similar to the way a winemaker blends his grapes.”
Sapadilla’s scent names are Sweet Lavender & Lime (floral), Grapefruit & Bergamot (citrus) and Rosemary & Peppermint (fresh), which Kaylor said stems from the two oils whose scents come through strongest in the final blend.
“We know that scent preferences are very subjective so we try to cover as many scent camps as we can,” said Kaylor. “Consumers who use essential oils recognize what a different scent experience it is versus synthetic perfumes. So far, consumers are welcoming that different experience in the cleaning category.”
Similarly, Rebel Green, an indie home care company based in Mequon, WI, also formulates with essential oils and invested considerable time to find just the right mix. According to co-Founders Ali Florsheim and Melina Marcus, the Rebel Green team researched and experimented with 50-60 blends before creating a roster of scent blends “that would be great for consumers and would also mix well with the formulation. Blending with different essential oils creates different experiences than singular oil,” Florsheim said.
For Rebel Green, which late last year became a Certified B Corp, formulating with essential oils is paramount for the brand and its customers.
“Our customers spend a big portion of their day in their home environment and they don’t want their families to be breathing synthetic fragrance and harmful fumes. We don’t want them to worry so we have a healthier formulation,” said Florsheim.
According to Marcus, Rebel Green’s scent profiles are designed to appeal to customers across the board, and in all applications.
“Consumers want the same experience; you are the same person cleaning the kitchen as you are when you are doing laundry,” she said.
Rebel Green’s scents include options like Peppermint & Lemon, Pink Lilac, Lavender & Grapefruit, Frankincense & Pine, the latter of which started out as a seasonal item, but quickly became a customer favorite. There is also an Orange Blossom & Chamomile scented baby laundry detergent as well as truly “unscented” options for detergent, dish soap and hand soap.
“Out of respect for consumers, when they say they want unscented, they want unscented,” noted Marcus.
Looking ahead, Rebel Green executives told Happi that a new scent will come on stream in 2020, and like the others, it too will be crafted with essential oils.
“Our consumers are smart; they have done the research into what makes a healthy home,” said Florsheim. “They are choosing essential oils instead of synthetic fragrances and we are happy to provide that for them and be a part of their home.”
The Mass Market
Bigger players are hearing that message, too. Target rolled out Everspring, a brand comprised of more than 70 household essentials items like all-purpose cleaner, laundry detergent, wipes and dish soap that comply with Target Clean, its new product standard introduced in March 2019. Scents in the Everspring line include Lemon & Mint, Citrus & Basil, and Lavendar & Bergamot, among some additional hand soap options like Mandarin & Ginger, and seasonally themed Winter Citrus & Pine and Peppermint & Clove.
Seasonal and limited scents offer brands a chance to test the waters, so to speak, and can spark interest among consumers. Method has long been a leader in this respect, bringing some long-overdue excitement in what had a rather mundane utilitarian category. One of its latest launches, the Method x Minted collection, features artwork from four Minted artists and four new fragrances inspired by the designs the artists created for the bottles. The new scents included Bloomy Bouquet, a lush and luxurious floral fragrance with hints of lily and orchid; Ocean Drift, a cool marine fragrance with a deep blend of nautical notes; Tropical Cloud, a fresh and fruity fragrance starring notes of mangosteen and passion fruit; and Wild Wood, a spicy, warm and woody fragrance that has notes of cedarwood and amber.
Schmidt’s, another breakout brand that has made headlines in the AP/deo market by treating body stink naturally (and for its acquisition by Unilever), is now addressing dirt in the home. In Q4 2019, Schmidt’s launched a Cleaning Vinegar Multi-Surface Spray and concentrated laundry detergent, both of which were formulated in the same vein as its deodorant—with plant-based ingredients and essential oils.
“We see a world of opportunity because people are realizing home care can be self-care, and are thrilled to continue our longstanding commitment to providing customers with products that are good for them and their families with the introduction of Schmidt’s home care,” CEO Ryu Yokoi said in a statement when the line was announced.
The Cleaning Vinegar Multi-Surface Spray is said to clean and refresh household surfaces with vinegar and the brand’s signature essential oils for an “aromatic” cleaning experience. Spray scents include Bergamot + Lime, Amber + Aloe and Citrus +Minerals, while the company’s concentrated laundry detergent is available in Citrus + Minerals as well as Lavendar + Sage variants.
Lavender is creeping into more cleaning products sold in the US. This note has traditionally been more popular in South America and for brands targeting Latinx households where it is very much the culturally accepted clean smell, according to experts such as Dr. Pamela Dalton of the Monell Chemical Senses Center, an independent, non-profit scientific institute dedicated to interdisciplinary basic research on the senses of taste and smell.
“There can be vast cultural differences in what people can smell, and what it smells like to them,” she said, adding that research has revealed that there is more variation in people’s olfactive systems than had been previously understood.
A recent study from Monell Center, Philadelphia, and collaborating institutions, has shed light on understanding the extensive individual differences in how humans sense odors. By demonstrating how small changes in a single olfactory receptor gene can affect how strong and pleasant a person finds an odor, the findings expand understanding of how olfactory receptors in the nose encode information about the properties of odors even before that information reaches the brain. Small differences in olfactory receptor genes, which are extremely common in humans, can affect the way each receptor functions. These genetic differences mean that when two people smell the same molecule, one person may detect a floral odor while another smells nothing at all, noted Monell.
Exploration & Expansion
These days, cleaning brands are pushing the boundaries in scent—even as they are facing increased scrutiny about ingredients and hearing louder calls for more “recognizable” scents at the same time.
“In today’s landscape we’ve seen launches that are really pushing the needle when it relates to unusual offerings. We’re not really seeing that there is an area that hasn’t been tapped yet. Everything from cannabis to coffee blends, to even your preferred IPA beer have been translated into a home fragrance,” said Chaparro. “Therefore, why can’t we apply the principle of ‘inclusivity’ to fragrance, who dictates what scents are only for home and what scents are only for personal application? Today’s consumers are open-minded and are willing to experiment with fun, daring scents. Why limit the playing field by setting boundaries on what we can and cannot do given the vast olfactive palette we have?”
Thomas of CPL Aromas noted that while there are many spheres that can influence fragrance, cleaning products still need to connote “clean” to consumers.
“As much as trends in other categories influence the scents in home care, we have to remember that consumers still want fragrances to be impactful and often clean,” she said.” For example, within cleaning products, we do not see many overly sweet, gourmand fragrances as they would not create that ‘just cleaned’ freshness.”
Scent experts agree that when it comes to mundane, even arduous tasks like cleaning, the scent needs to connect with the customer on a personal level.
“We know that there is immediate connection between the sense of smell and mood, and if you have an aroma diffusing in the environment you are in, you should like it. It can make a task like cleaning less onerous and more enjoyable,” noted Dalton.
“Given the diversity of fragrances seen today in products like dish wash, floor cleaners and kitchen cleaners, people are saying: ‘This is the way I want my house and my kitchen to smell,” added Dalton. “And just as brands are trying to distinguish themselves with signature scents, people are using household cleaning products with scents that are meaningful to them.”
• Best known for its home fragrances, Scentsy is expanding its fragrant products to our four-legged friends. The Meridian, OH-based company has rolled out Scentsy Pets, a collection of lightly fragranced grooming products for dogs, cats and other furry friends. The range includes deodorizing spray in three scent options—Honey & Chamomile, Oatmeal & Aloe and Orange Zest & Nectar.
The move is designed to tap into the growing pet industry. The American Pet Products Association (APPA) says there is least one pet in nearly 85 million American homes right now, and consumers are spending more than ever before. According to APPA, total US pet industry expenditures were expected to $75 billion last year.