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By: Jeb Gleason-Allured
Posted: September 4, 2009, from the September 2009 issue of GCI Magazine.

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“I’m often asked the question [by suppliers], ‘What if we compact perfumes?’ or ‘What if we can claim the perfumes come from all natural sources?’ ” says Hicks, who believes the industry can do far more for sustainability. “Redesigning a perfume that enables us to compact the consumer product it goes into has 100 times more effect on waste reduction and energy consumption than compacting the perfume itself,” he continues. “If you think of the challenge in designing a consumer product with a perfume in it, you’re designing it to have a certain experience and performance—when you’re using it, after you’re using it and so on. You have all these things in balance. As soon as you compact a product, all that changes. [One] of the things we’re trying to do with our partners is design perfume systems that still give the consumer the ideal fragrance experience all the way through the life of the products.”

Meanwhile, he says, “Naturals are wonderful materials, and perfumers love them. But the reasons synthetics have [become so important] is that naturals are [rather] expensive and vary in quality and supply availability. You can’t base your whole business in today’s world on naturals.” And, he says, “What are we really bringing consumers if we did that? Maybe the way to think about this is in terms of how we make the synthetics and how we use them in our products—something truly meaningful.”

Product Mixes in Hard Times

Companies constantly assess how much they invest in core brands versus how much they invest in new product categories and brands that will grow the business in the future. This is particularly crucial in rough economic climates. “Everyone will want to invest in that core,” says Hicks, “because growth in that has the best consumer reception and, ultimately, gives you the best financial return.” Brands can either upgrade existing brands or add line extensions, though Hicks notes, “you can take either of those too far.”

“You’ve got to get the balance right between how much you invest in your core business and what you do in terms of big, disruptive innovations,” says Hicks. “If you look at the past 50 years, the things that have proven to be gigantic for [P&G] were very disruptive innovations that started from scratch”—Tide being a prime example.

Jeb Gleason-Allured is the editor of Perfumer & Flavorist magazine.