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Sustainable Fragrances 2011: the Age of Transparency

By: Jeb Gleason-Allured
Posted: August 24, 2011

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Such strains on natural resources are only growing, noted Jack Corley, executive vice president of Trilogy Fragrances. The 2009 natural and organic product market reached $8.1 billion, he said, further breaking down results by category: aroma/fragrances, 4.2% (+13% growth), $376 million; deodorants, 2.7% (+6.7%), $240 million; baby care products, 2.24% (+14.3%), $200 million; bath items, 2% (+9.4%), $175 million; feminine hygiene, 1.35% (+9.1%), $120 million; shaving, 1.74% (+6.9%), $155 million; nail care, 0.04% (+16.7%), $35 million; skin care, 39% (+8%), $3,409 million; hair care 21.4.% (+9.4%), $1,920 million; bath and toilet soaps, 12.3% (+6.8%), $1,100 million; oral hygiene, 7.6% (+20%), $679 million, and color cosmetics, 5.1% (+20%), $456 million.

In his presentation, Tim Whitely, global R&D director of CPL Aromas, noted that more than 3,000 organic-positioned beauty and household products were launched globally in 2009 at an estimated ratio of 12:1. "These products are becoming more widely available, moving from specialist retailers to drugstores and supermarkets,” Whitely added, as 40% of US and EU women seek natural-claiming skin care products.

Corley’s presentation explained that these product categories require ever-increasing amounts of ingredients—essential oils, absolutes, fractions and isolates, botanical extracts, tinctures, resinoids, and vegetable oils. He added that the top 110 essential oils and absolutes represent—in terms of volume and value—about 95% of the global consumption in the flavor and fragrance industry. It comes as no surprise then that the essential oil and absolute market is growing at 8% per year. And the industry is already meeting its limit, threatening future supplies of Indian sandalwood, bois de rose oil and Haitian lime. The challenge, then, is for perfumers to create affordable and sustainable formulations incorporating naturals, even as they work to overcome technical difficulties such as stability, color differences and substantivity.

Because the palette for natural and organic fragrances is so limited (natural: ca 350 raw materials; organic: ca 150 raw materials), Whitely said, such fragrances cannot be as complex as conventional counterparts, nor can they achieve certain affects, such as woody or musk notes. He concluded, “Depending on the actual material and amount available, costs can be between 2x and 10x more expensive than the standard natural material.”

Pierre-Jean Hellivan, Vigon’s director of natural ingredients, echoed Corley’s comments, pointing out that naturals are sourced from all over the world—clove from Madagascar, mints from the United States, jasmine from India. The complexities of sourcing hundreds of naturals—much less doing so sustainably—has led to varying levels of sourcing sophistication throughout the industry. In a multilayer supply chain, Hellivan said, the fragrance house is often far removed from farming operations' purchasers, and faces supply-demand fluctuations subject to speculation by suppliers. Corporate citizenship is in its infancy, he declared, noting that rising pressure from retailers and consumer goods companies will inevitably push fragrance houses into sustainable sourcing programs, concluding, “Let’s assume leadership!”