Seeing Through Natural Fragrances

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.

Maubert claims that his company is unique in its involvement in each step of the creation process, which happens throughout the world as the company sources nearly 100 ingredients from 35 countries. In addition, the company uses its knowledge of natural materials to help growers to be more successful.

Maubert emphasized, “In many cases, [our] experts work with farming communities all over the world and have done so for generations. Season after season, harvest after harvest, the company has taken its knowledge of naturals and added a true competency to help farmers produce better crops and achieve better yields.” He added that the company often owns or has joint ventures within these communities. An example is in the Isparta region of Turkey, the world’s second largest producer of Turkish rose, where the company has held a presence for 60 years.

Maubert added that in areas where the company does not have this presence, it extends its knowledge to the local growers and once the material is sourced, the company conducts advanced processing and extraction techniques to obtain usable scents.

Fragrance, Cosmetic Application

The company has applied its S2S program in the creation of Evening at GoldenEye, a fragrance developed to capture the essence of Chris Blackwell’s GoldenEye resort in Jamaica. “Rather than just being ‘inspired by [Jamaica]’ through an island visit, we established links with local growers and applied our knowledge to forge an ongoing commercial project with the grower,” he explained. Olivia Jan, the perfumer in charge of developing the scent, traveled to Blackwell’s resort to experience the environment, smell the ingredients located there, and select growers in the area that produce those ingredients. In particular, Jan chose Jamaican pimento oil to create the final fragrance.

Although the program has only been applied to concept fragrances, it can be applied to a variety of fragrance and flavor applications, according to Maubert, including fragrances for personal care products. In addition to providing natural and organic product formulators with added claims support in relation to sourcing, the program affords product developers the opportunity to put the minds of their eco-conscious consumers at ease.

Maubert concluded, “Consumers will continue to demand products with greater integrity, transparency, beauty and relevance. Seed to Scent is a way to reveal the people and process in the development of scent.”

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