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Seeing Through Natural Fragrances
By: Katie Schaefer, Cosmetics & Toiletries magazine
Posted: February 3, 2011, from the February 2011 issue of Cosmetics & Toiletries.
A consumer’s choice to purchase a personal care product often involves the senses. Although the initial motivation to consider a product may be encouraged by a review or recommendation, the consumer often touches and smells the product before purchasing—making texture and fragrance integral to product development. In the past few years, environmental responsibility has also played a key role in swaying the consumer’s decision, motivating raw material suppliers to research and validate their sources. Joining in this eco-responsible effort is The Robertet Group, a fragrance and flavor house that has created Seed to Scent (S2S), a program offering transparency to the consumer as to where and how its fragrance materials are produced.
The Robertet Group has produced natural fragrances for 160 years; however, according to Christophe Maubert, president of the company’s fragrance division, it was not until the company acquired Charabot and Société Anonyme des Plantes Arômatiques du Diois (SAPAD) that its connection to source materials became closer.
Maubert noted that the company sought to answer a consumer need for truth and transparency in perfume. “We wanted to create scents with a continuous and traceable link back to the origin of the key ingredients,” he explained. “Our perfumers are continuing to forge links with local growers.” But the process does not start with the growers—rather, it begins with the perfumers.
Developing a Scent
A typical fragrance development cycle begins and ends in the office and labs, according to Maubert, who explained, “The process is straightforward: Clients brief perfumers, perfumers work on briefs, iterations happen and fragrances [result].” He continued that perfumers rarely have any connection to the people, provenance or place of the natural ingredients they use. “All they know is what they see and smell in a lab sample,” he said.
On the contrary, the S2S program aims to establish a relationship between the perfumer and the grower. “We collapse the process of creation by putting perfumers directly [in touch] with growers as a point of departure,” he explained. The perfumers then work with the customers and the growers through a proprietary process to create a fragrance. For example, when the company sources ylang-ylang from Nosy Be, Madagascar, the perfumer must monitor the small details of the essential oils such as conserving all the nuances of the flower that reflect its olfactory range. It reportedly is important for the perfumer to know the grower to ensure the quality of the raw material it is incorporating.