The Fragrance Industry

The Fragrance Industry

Fragrances are used in both the personal care market and the household products market.  According to Merriam Webster, fragrances are derived from a mixture of essential oils, fixatives, and solvents and are commonly used to provide scent to the human body, animals, food, and living spaces.


The use of perfumes and scented oils dates back to the earliest human civilizations.  The perfume industry as we know it today was started in the 19th century due to advances in chemistry which allowed for larger batches and, therefore, wider distribution.


If a product is intended to be applied to a person’s body to make the person more attractive, it’s a cosmetic under the law.  Perfume, Cologne, and Aftershave are all examples of fragrance products that are regulated as cosmetics.

Fragrance ingredients in cosmetics must meet the same requirement for safety as other cosmetic ingredients. The law does not require FDA approval before they go on the market, but they must be safe for consumers when they are used according to labeled directions, or as people customarily use them. Companies and individuals who manufacture or market cosmetics have a legal responsibility for ensuring that their products are safe and properly labeled.  Properly labeled cosmetics contain a list of the ingredients on the label. However, in the fragrance industry the ingredients are trade secrets so it is not required to list them.


Fragrances use both natural and synthetic volatile organic compounds.  Fragrances are composed of ethyl alcohol and essential oils which contain the organic scent compounds.  Blending agents and fixatives are also added to maintain the scent over longer periods of time.


Natural fragrance ingredients are the trend for both men and women.  Musky and floral fragrances are being replaced by more lively scents.  Scents such as citrus and green fragrances with grassy or herb undertones are popular among both men and women.  Woody scents of cedar and pine, although traditionally masculine, are in favor with both men and women.


The traditional retail channel for fragrances, the department store, is experiencing a decline in business as beauty and fragrance sales shift toward the specialty stores such as Sephora and Ulta in addition to the online marketplace.  Premium fragrances have become more desirable than mass fragrances. According to Euromonitor International, the gender-fluid Millennials and Generation Z have been instrumental in the growth of unisex fragrances. Lighter-scented and more affordable body splashes, body mists, and deodorant sprays are taking market share from fine fragrances for the millennial consumer.  The millennials are purchasing entry-level, lower cost products from luxury brands because of their desire for extravagance. Overall, the NPD Group reports that women’s sales of cologne (lighter scented fragrance) have doubled since 2010 and men’s sales of eau de parfum have tripled in the last 5 years.

Fragrances in Business

Businesses are using fragrances to brand themselves and to create a more pleasant environment for the customer.  In addition, studies have shown that certain scents increased sales or the intent to purchase. United Airlines, for example, pumps fragrance that they named Landing into lounges and jet bridges.  The scent contains orange peel, sandalwood, and cedar and apparently keeps travelers calm and happy. And the M&M store in London has a chocolate scent pumped in because the store did not smell of chocolate as it should.