According to a report by Future Market Insights (FMI), the sensory modifier market in general is projected to reach ~US $6.09 billion in 2024, and in ten years (i.e., by 2034), it will expand at a CAGR of 5.1% to reach nearly $9.98 billion. Of all the applications for sensory modifiers — including personalized environments, virtual and augmented reality, and health care and pharmaceutical treatments cosmetics are primarily escalating demand, which emphasizes their importance to enhance product appeal and sensory experience.
There's a much bigger picture to the overall product sensory experience, however, encompassing facets of sustainability, personalization, inclusivity and multisensory input — many of which could be powered by AI. These are revealed as follows by industry experts and further insights from FMI.
See archived: The Emotion Paradox in Product Testing: A Commentary
Clean Label and Sustainable Yet Effective
Within the cosmetic sensory modifiers category, natural and organic ingredients are sought, which is especially driven by clean label, sustainable and eco-friendly preferences, per FMI. Andrew Livermore, Ph.D., SVP of partner solutions for Curion, tends to agree. "We see ... a surge of products switching to clean ingredients ... and a stronger focus on corporate social responsibility where brands strive to make the world a better place through their actions and products." He adds, however, "Many consumers are unwilling to trade off product quality or convenience for sustainability benefits – especially in premium categories." He also believes excessive ingredients and chemical names driving the clean label trend.
As cosmetic companies reformulate their products using ingredients from waste streams, there will be textural and sensory challenges to overcome."
Jo Smewing, business development director of Stable Micro Systems, Ltd., sees both sustainable and renewable sources as top of mind for beauty consumers. "The growing demand for more sustainable products, as well as the renewable features of natural raw materials, are a perfect match to bring ‘circular’ beauty to our shelves — the concept of upcycling to make use of leftover or discarded ingredients," she explains.
"Food and beverage waste such as seeds, peels, flowers and fruit represent the main source of materials that can be upcycled into natural and organic cosmetics since these often contain food-grade ingredients that have rich properties for the skin," she adds. "As such, cosmetic brands are creating dedicated lines based on upcycled ingredients, sometimes maximizing on the textural attributes these new ingredients bring, such as in the creation of body scrub." She notes that as cosmetic companies reformulate their products using ingredients from waste streams, there will be textural and sensory challenges to overcome.
"In addition, formulators are looking at new powdered and solid forms that support consumers' eco-conscious zero packaging waste concerns," Smewing continues. "In the process of reformulation, however, the removal of ingredients and the creation of new product formats will have a knock-on effect on the texture and again, formulators will need to use texture analysis to compare their ‘simplified’ formula with the textural expectations of products that consumers already like and have become familiar with."
Holistic, Multisensory Experiences
In the tech sector, in terms of sensory modifiers, the integration of AI and the Internet of Things (IoT) is leading smart and interactive sensory experiences, per FMI. Companies are increasingly adopting experiential marketing strategies, too, to create immersive and memorable consumer sensory experiences; cosmetics included. The firm also notes the market is shifting toward personalized and adaptive sensory solutions that can cater to specialized consumer needs and preferences. Cross-industry collaborations are supporting this shift by developing multifunctional sensory modifiers; advances in neurogastronomy are one example.
Indeed, multisensory experiences are critical to product success and according to Smewing, texture analyzers can be combined with sensory evaluation panels to provide comprehensive insights into a product's tactile properties. "A product's texture can greatly influence consumer satisfaction, making texture analysis crucial in product development and quality control," she writes. "Through such analyses, the texture analyzer collaborates with other testing methodologies to offer a comprehensive understanding of cosmetic and skin care performance. The insights derived from these evaluations guide formulation refinements, ensuring products meet the desired performance and sensory criteria for users."
However, as Niedziela wrote, "liking" alone may fail to predict consumption behavior and product performance in the market. As such, neuro-behavioral approaches in market and consumer research are becoming increasingly important not only in designing consumer products, but also in understanding how consumers respond emotionally and physically to product experiences; from the product's use, to marketing communications.
Going beyond overall 'liking' and seeking deeper insights will be a key measure of product performance."
Livermore also believes that going beyond overall "liking" and seeking deeper insights will be a key measure of product performance. "This can be done by truly and clearly understanding what really matters to consumers, what drives their behavior and what impacts their beliefs at emotional, social and sensory levels." This includes not just functional, but also sensory, social and emotional needs.
FMI also reports there is a increased emphasis on creating multi-sensory experiences that engage multiple senses simultaneously. Alongside this is the growth of personalized sensory marketing, and advances in biometrics to capture individual responses and embed neuro-aesthetics into product design.
AI and Inclusivity in Testing
AI holds massive potential to research and design personalized, multisensorial products, according to Livermore. "It holds a lot of promise and we see this topic abuzz at conferences but ... the benefits are not yet clear," he writes. "[O]ne potential direction ... is the use of AI to encapsulate consumer mindsets and behaviors into an AI personality ... to help discover unmet needs and develop better products."
This includes supporting under-served consumer populations, which, Livermore notes, has shaped today's consumer panels, making them more inclusive. "This is a big initiative across the beauty and personal care industries," he explains. "Beauty and personal care brands have been criticized in recent years for their narrow definitions of beauty and lack of inclusivity. ... Brands are becoming very sensitive to this and have responded."
He adds, "The use of AI can be tapped here to gain deeper insights," e.g., by being integrated further into product testing with qualitative research and quantitative statistical analysis. Digital ethnographies can also provide an understanding of consumer needs and frustrations, per Livermore. "Digital technologies exist that have made this much cheaper, less invasive and more powerful."
It seems the future of personal care rests at the intersection of personalized, multifaceted sensory experiences driven by AI capabilities; although its success remains in the hands (and eyes, ears, mind, psyche, etc.) of consumers.