Future of fragrance? Sustainability, neurosciences and digital innovation

By Kacey Culliney

- Last updated on GMT

Fragrance innovation in 2022 is sharply focused on sustainability, the digital world and finding a place beyond scent, according to one expert [Getty Images]
Fragrance innovation in 2022 is sharply focused on sustainability, the digital world and finding a place beyond scent, according to one expert [Getty Images]

Related tags Fragrance Perfume Aroma compound green beauty Sustainability Green chemistry Biotechnology e-commerce beauty tech digital

Fragrance innovation continues to push boundaries as expectations rise around sustainability and functionality, and there’s fresh focus on mood-boosting and digital engagement within the category, according to one expert.

The year 2020, as COVID-19 took hold, was a transformational year for many industries worldwide, including beauty and personal care. And with the turmoil felt during the pandemic, experts predicted a fresh importance and engagement with fragrances, given their ability to connect on a deeper, emotional level​.

But Mintel said last year there remained room for more fragrance innovation​, particularly efforts to carve out a space in the wider health and wellbeing market, with the likes of relaxation claims and adding enjoyment to daily beauty routines.

So, as industry settled into 2022, were these opportunities still at the forefront? And what else was on the horizon for fragrance manufacturers, perfumers and brands looking to drive growth in the category?

CosmeticsDesign-Europe caught up with a range of fragrance experts at last week’s in-Cosmetics Global tradeshow in Paris to find out more. And in this interview, we take a deep dive into insights from the head of fine fragrance development at fragrance house major CPL Aromas.

Greener fragrances – biotech and smart sourcing

Aitana Lopez de Carrion, global fine fragrance development manager at CPL Aromas, said there were four key movements shaping the fragrance category in 2022: sustainability, digital, smarter processing and functionality.

“Number one, and it’s not only in fragrances but worldwide and cross-category for industries, would be sustainability. Looking at where we source the ingredients; how we source the ingredients; how we manufacture; how we process, to get better and to reduce waste,”​ she said.

And whilst there was plenty to be done at packaging design level, she said green chemistry and biotechnology were key tools for fragrance developers and brands pushing forward in the sustainability space, particularly as industry was also facing a raw material crisis.

“The whole industry is facing some lack of resource on some ingredients, so it’s a challenge. But then that will be converted into an asset in a way (…) Perfumers have to be more creative to replace those ingredients.”

CPL Aromas, for example, was currently working on technologies that captured a blooming flower’s smell to be recreated in the lab without having to crop the plant. “We are working in that direction a lot for two reasons: one is sustainability and the other is to have the real smell of things, because when you process [a flower], it will lose some molecules, so it will smell different.”

Fragrance with purpose – mood-boosting, joy and experiences

But beyond this, Carrion said demands were rising for fragrance and perfume developers to deliver formulas that stretched beyond just smelling nice, instead creating blends that offered experiences and mood benefits to consumers.

“Because of the situation we have [with COVID-19], we have been craving experiences now the world is opening up, and we’re looking for this joy, these experiences, enjoying life. And the lucky thing is, fragrances has always been this emotional trigger, so now is the best moment as a trend to use fragrances with purpose.”

It was no longer about creating perfumes for their scent, she said, but about developing formulas with added functions – be that creating moods, feeling better, feeling relaxed or feeling more joyful. Fragrances with “mood-enhancing properties”​ was a very important trend this year for industry, she said.

“The big, big, big trend is functional fragrances for the mood. There will be more neuroscientists involved in fragrances [moving forward] (…) We sell fragrances, and more and more we have to put more claims, whether it’s sustainability or function or anything else; it’s about claims. It’s not about ‘it has to smell nice’ but ‘what is the purpose of this fragrance in the world?’”

Working in a digital space – thinking beyond smell

Creating these blends, however, was one thing; selling them was another, Carrion said.

The challenge today for brands was working in an increasingly digital retail space and developing ways to draw in consumers without using scent. Industry was working on a plethora of methods, she said, including visual designs and triggering other senses to drive engagement, but it remained a key challenge in today’s beauty retail market.

Augmented Reality (AR) offered some promise in this space, she said, as did driving consumer education around perfumes and fragrances.

Moving forward, she said it would be important fragrance developers and suppliers worked closely with brands on methods to communicate fragrances beyond smell and better engage with consumers.

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