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Highly Concentrated, Low-dose Fragrance Solutions

By: Jeb Gleason-Allured
Posted: January 17, 2013

Regulations, environmental responsibility, stability and other formulation issues, and cost represent the leading challenges for CPGs and their suppliers. Beginning in 2009, responding to an EU marketplace in which some traditionally fragranced products faced increased safety and environmental labeling requirements, CPL Aromas Ltd.’s R&D team began work on a technology, dubbed Ecoboost, to allow fragrances to be concentrated by 10 times more than conventional formulas while also making it easier for customers to achieve Ecolabel compliance, lower costs and improve performance across a range of personal and home care categories.

“Changes to regulations meant that for some categories it was hard to create unlabeled fragrances,” notes CPL’s global R&D director Tim Whiteley.

Stability and Performance

In the candle category, brand owners often seek cinnamon and other Christmas-related scents formulated below standard dosage so as to avoid the need for labeling. CPL’s technology allows perfumers to formulate scents to be dosed at 0.5% instead of 5%. Instead of standard cinnamon-scented materials, says Whiteley, the perfumers used alternatives with odor-boosting performance.

For high-end candle fragrances, customers often ask for fine fragrance-quality scents in a candle, requiring a dosage as high as 12–15%. That high threshold presents numerous stability issues, including bleeding, says Whiteley. However, using a technology such as Ecoboost can allow perfumers to provide the same strength and character performance of a conventional scent at a level of just 1.5%—causing all stability issues to disappear.

In experimenting with low-dose fragrances, Whiteley’s team found that discoloration issues were minimized or eliminated. In a surfactant-based product, for instance, the ratio between surfactant and fragrance was different than conventional formulations, therefore reducing the reactivity of the fragrance component. For instance, discoloration and browning of a honey fragrance in a body cream could not be prevented over time at standard dosage. CPL’s high-impact fragrance technology dramatically reduced discoloration.

Reducing or Eliminating Alcohol

A number of companies through the years have pursued alternative solvents to create label-free and alcohol-free formulations. One popular alternative has been silicone, which can accommodate fragrances at standard dosages. However, says Whiteley, silicone is expensive and possesses “a different skin feel.”

“So what is the solution?” he says. “If you push the fragrance dosage to 1%, you can use alcohol at a minute level.”

A standard EDT is 10% fragrance and 5% water; alcohol comprises the rest. Using the technology developed by the CPL team, perfumers were able to create EDTs with conventional strength by dosing the scent at 1%, decreasing the alcohol dose and boosting the water content to as high as 50%. The result, says Whiteley, are low-alcohol formulas with conventional skin feel and performance. The same technology allows formulators to provide alcohol-free formulas, for instance for baby products, offering lower strength and less fragrance without sacrificing clarity, stability, spray pattern/nebulization or skin feel.

While most customers are satisfied with minimizing alcohol content, a handful are pursuing 100% alcohol-free formulations, particularly in the Middle East where religious restrictions call for greater vigilance. “A 10% fragrance dose in an alcohol-free scent is not possible,” says Whiteley. “It won’t be clear or acceptable on skin.” Being able to concentrate a scent 10 times the conventional amount allows formulators to overcome these challenges.

Application in Household Products

In household refill products in which fragrance performance is expected once a formula has been diluted anywhere from one to 50 times, institutional-type dosages are being incorporated into consumer products. “You want to concentrate to minimize packaging,” says Whiteley, “and give fragrance power at 10 times lower [dosage.] … We’re seeing that type of product succeed on the marketplace in Europe.”

While the first purchase might be relatively expensive, refills offer cost benefits going forward, with the added environmental benefit of minimizing packaging. From a cost point of view, the margins on refills are dramatically higher than on the initial product. High performance, low-dose fragrances can help product developers hit the right cost parameters to produce those margins and ultimately create lower-cost products with the same performance as conventional offerings.