Fragrance vs. Flavor

Industry expert Tony O'Lenick asks: What is the different between a fragrance and a flavor? This question is answered by Steve Herman, expert in flavors and fragrances.

Naturals, organics and foods are enjoying great consumer acceptance. In fragrance, the gourmand category has become mainstream, with chocolate and coffee as common as floral and citrus. From a marketing viewpoint, it is tempting to substitute a flavor for a fragrance, but is it legal?

Fragrance and flavor materials are sometimes the same--vanillin being a common example. However, some materials can be used in flavors and not in fragrances while others can be used in fragrances but not in flavors. It may seem strange, but some materials that are safe to eat are not safe on the skin. In the other direction, it may seem obvious that it would not be wise to drink Chanel No 5!

Different fragrance materials can be acceptable for different applications. Until recently, the division was between skin and nonskin application, with skin being further divided between leave-on and rinse-off. These categories are being expanded into 11 categories, which can be referenced on the International Fragrance Association (IFRA) Web site,

Fragrances used in lip products are made entirely of Generally Regarded As Safe (GRAS) ingredients but are not flavors. Fragrance materials can be considered anything listed in the Research Institute for Fragrance Materials's (RIFM) database and are not banned by International Fragrance Association (IFRA).

Until the flood of European Union legislation, the fragrance industry, like the personal care industry, was self-regulating; this occurred through the joint efforts of these two organizations--RIFM and IFRA. Now they are partly scientific and partly involved in interfacing with various governmental agencies.

Flavor ingredients might be defined as anything with a Food and Extracts Manufacturers Association (FEMA) number--similar to the International Nomenclature Cosmetic Ingredient (INCI) name in personal care. It is like saying that a word is anything found in a dictionary.

All this flavor and fragrance information is gathered by Allured Publishing Corp. in the annual Flavor and Fragrance Materials (FFM) guide, which is the essential resource for the flavor and fragrance industry. This is comparable to the Cosmetic Bench Reference (CBR) directory of cosmetic raw materials, also produced by Allured.

More in Sensory