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Decorating a home includes more than the placement of furniture and art. Consumers today are using scent to decorate, adding an individual touch that represents their personality and tastes. Companies are branding scent to create an emotional connection with the brand, evoking a mood or memory. As a result, the decorative fragrance market has surged, and will grow to an estimated $7.2 billion by 2010, according to Euromonitor. Knowing a good thing when they see one, retailers are enhancing point-of-purchase branding through the use of scent memories, such as Bath & Body Works using essential oils of new fragrance releases to draw consumers into the store. While scent draws the consumer into the store, in-home the fragrance product must also be visually appealing, blending into the decor or adding a punch of color.
Potpourri, scented stones and reed diffusers provide that sought after sense of individuality with the necessary decorative flair. In the best combination, the scented items and the fragrance harmonize to complete the luxury decorative feeling.
“Whatever product you are dealing with, you want the fragrance to be an asset and not to turn on your product later on, as the scents are changing,” said Gerald Gaucher of Ellesca, whose Mediterranean product line includes home fragrance. For manufacturers, the scent must match well with the delivery system, particularly with potpourri, which brings its own natural scents, thus avoiding a clash of fragrance over time.
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Scented objects bring added value in the form of safety. While reed diffusers create a consistent scent packaged in attractive bottles, they also provide a fragrance that can be showcased unattended, unlike candles or oil warmers.
“We see a rising popularity in items that can safely fragrance a space,” said Jill Belasco, Latitudes International. For example, Xela Aromasticks recently introduced its Tea for You diffusers, scented with different tea combinations, while Latitudes International launched its Curly Reed Diffuser, with twisted reeds that provide a decorative statement.
“With no smoke, there are no pollutants causing harm to the environment. With no flame, there is no danger of leaving the reed diffuser unattended,” said Kim O’Hagan, Beauty Bureau, parent company of Xela Aromasticks.
While safety is a concern with consumers, they also want products that provide value through a long-lasting, consistent scent. “One of the major challenges is to create the most exquisite natural scent with a long, consistent fragrance life span,” said Gaucher. Additionally, the delivery system must be able to support that consistent and long-lasting scent. The key with potpourri, for example, is blending the natural scents within the potpourri with chemical fragrance to provide a longer and more consistent scent life. The fragrance load within potpourri is therefore a key cost. “Within candles, there is smaller percentage of fragrance than in potpourri, making it cheaper to create candles for the mass-market,” said Alan Brown of The Lebermuth Company, Inc.
According to the National Candle Association, U.S. sales of candles is approximately $2 billion annually, with more than 95% being sold to women. With more than 10,000 scents available to the U.S. consumer, the fragrance of the candle is the most important characteristic impacting purchasing decisions. Candles appeal to consumers for their ability to fragrance a room inexpensively, but that is countered by the short-term effect and safety concerns. As a part of the overall home decor, however, candles will continue to partner with potpourri and reed diffusers in creating a sense of ambience for consumers.
A variety of home fragrance options exist for consumers. Yet within the marketplace, demand continues for innovative delivery systems to provide a consistent scent that can be left unattended. Therefore, manufacturers are maximizing the capabilities of scented stones, potpourri and reed diffusers to provide that consistent fragrance, while meeting the decorative needs of the consumer.
“Scented stones and object potpourris have become part of home decor for the consumer, a way of identifying a style,” said Belasco. For consumers, the individuality of a home fragrance item is seen as an extension of their self-expression.
Rainbow Rocks, harvested from various inlets in the Caribbean islands, are infused with flower- and plant-derived fragrances, while being marketed as a nontoxic, niche product that appeals to an individual’s unique tastes. Scents such as Beach and Blueberry bring to mind special events and memories, contributing to the ambience within the home.
Stone Scents, a company that deals in scented stones, uses sea salt blended with essential oils to create its product. Refresher oils are provided to increase the longevity of the fragrance, addressing a key concern for consumers who want the product’s appearance and scent to last over a period of time.
“In addition to the growth of non-burning fragrance vehicles, one of the most important trends in the home fragrance category is the green movement. Recyclable packaging, less packaging, organic and sustainable ingredients ... our clients are sensitive to all of these product aspects in a new way,” said Belasco. “The consumer is highly aware of environmental issues and marketers are rushing to meet their requirements.”
For example, as fragrance vehicles, scented stones and diffusers are highlighting this growing trend. Natural and organic ingredients and products are increasing in demand through all distribution channels. While natural is still plagued with a variety of definitions, Belasco believes that the consumers are likely to spend more if they believe the product is natural. Refresher oils for potpourri and scented stones reflect this green movement, giving consumers the option to reuse these items, while at the same time, highlighting their natural aspects, such as wooden reeds or crystal stones.
Manufacturers, noting the trend, are producing scented products with limited or reusable packaging. Currently driving the category’s growth overall is the diffuser, particularly reed diffusers, that combine the unattended fragrance with natural ambience.
Fragrance diffusers are predicted to become the largest segment of the category by 2010. The rage for reed diffusers is due in part to the natural aesthetics of essential oils, as well as limited packaging. “Fragrance diffusers continue to enjoy double-digit sale increases in all channels of distribution and that trend is expected to continue for at least four years,” said Belasco. Diffusers and scented stones, with refresher oils that increase their life cycle, appeal to the sense of ambience within the home.
At the same time, diffusers provide a value benefit for cost-conscious consumers. “The appeal of the reed diffusers is the fact that they are very easy to use. Our small diffusers last four to six months. Most candles only last 40–50 hours when burning. The value of diffusers is great and the fragrance is there at all times,” said Tracy Sullivan, Hillhouse Naturals.
Diffusers and potpourri are available at various price points that appeal to both the cost-conscious and the luxury consumer. Within the U.S., mass-market imports have driven the consolidation of manufacturers, according to Cathy Cook of the Fragrance Materials Association. As a result, most home fragrance manufacturers within the U.S. have turned to developing high-end potpourri and diffusers, thus appealing to luxury consumers while setting themselves apart from mass-market imported products, according to Cook.
“There is a renewed interest in the luxury market for high-end potpourri and other passive fragrance products,” said Belasco. While imported fragrance products, including potpourri, have cut into the domestic market, according to Cook, companies such as Aromatique, for example, have taken potpourri and remade it as part of a luxury decorative fragrance package. The company offers large distinctive botanicals carefully arranged with a memorable scent, then layered into cellophane bags. The potpourri is complemented by scented candles and other decorative accessories to artfully combine visual elements with fragrance. The company builds on visual appeal and unique fragrances to create a distinctive brand that resonates luxury and relaxation with the consumer.
Within the home fragrance market, there are product highs and lows, but the overall market has shown consistent growth. “The home fragrance industry has enjoyed a long period of healthy sales increases, most particularly with moderate and luxury marketers. While the popularity of specific product types may be cyclical, the product category in total is poised for a successful five-year trend,” said Belasco. The popularity of nonburning products, such as diffusers, is currently driving the growth for the whole category. As a result, the industry is planned for a 10–15% increase during the next four to five years, according to Belasco.
Brands within this product category must keep in mind that these products appeal to the consumer because of the decorative aspects and individuality that they inspire, in addition to the fragrance. Therefore, manufacturers must continue to be innovative within the delivery system itself, be it reeds with a twist or uniquely colored stones, as these items become part of the ambiance consumers wish to inspire.