During the World Perfumery Congress (WPC) 2007 held at the Palais des Festivals in Cannes, perfume in its own right took centre stage.
The regulatory issues nowadays dominate most industry events, and although these were addressed, with particular emphasis on REACH, it is the business of creative perfumery and its multi-facetted issues that led the debates.
Key words throughout the proceedings included diversity and bio-diversity, sustainability both in business terms and raw material terms, globalisation and Creativity with a capital C. It made a refreshing change to remember the alluring aspects of the industry as opposed to its multiple regulatory issues. They are, of course, part and parcel of the brief nowadays and a nettle to be grappled with, but the romance of the product still exists. Pleasure should be the reason for perfume and despite the mergers, regulatory affairs and the overcrowding of the market, with annual launch figures for 2006 varying from 365 to 700, there is a general optimistic feel about the future of the industry.
The importance of the event was reflected by its preview in Time magazine a few weeks ago, where it was likened to the Davos of the fragrance industry and the players described as “sultans of smell”. The future of the fragrance business appears rosy, despite the many mergers around, but there needs to be a common path defined by all to seduce the consumer without angering the legislator, as Christian Maubert, President of Robertet’s fragrance division put it. Nature is our absolute model, an inexhaustible source of inspiration. However we are now aware of the fragility of our planet and although REACH is aimed at protecting the consumer from the negative effects of bulk chemicals, its inception affects naturals and essential oils as well. There are however counter arguments to protect naturals: The Landes forest in France emits more VOC’s a month (160tonnes of terpenes per day in summer), more in a month than the annual consumption of essential oils in the EU, described as the “natural’s’ paradox.
REACH, officially in place since June 1st 2007, is the milestone legislation as highlighted by Achim Daub, Global president Scent and care of Symrise. The testing alone is estimated to cost 100m euros. There will be an impact on industry creativity with fewer raw materials available, at higher cost and increased complexity of supply and REACH is only the beginning! There is the California Safe Cosmetics ACT looming, a new EU amendment under construction, the furocoumarins issue, the 2009 ban on animal testing for cosmetics and the umbrella issue of sustainable development.
Help is at hand for the industry players navigate this minefield as Jean-Pierre Houri, Director general of IFRA explained; the phase-in of REACH is gradual and the deadline for pre-registration of materials is from June to December 2008 with January 1st 2009 the publication of pre-registered substances. After pre-registration the “consortium “ approach is being encouraged and all information on how best to proceed is available from IFRA and RIFM. In his speech, entitled “The Tyranny of regulations”, Sumit Bhasin, Director of Global R&D at Procter & Gamble Prestige products put his philosophy on successful products in a nutshell: “ Get ahead of the curve, recognise the world is getting flatter, build a partnership with Mother Nature, learn from the winners and listen to your consumer”. Mother Nature, or the Exceptional Naturals of the Grasse region always get top billing from Jean Pierre Leleu, Maire of Grasse and President of Pass (Parfums Aromes Senteurs Saveurs), highlighting their privileged position of the area in the world of perfumery. A new generation of perfume plant producers are committed to the sustainable development of an historic agricultural heritage as Carole Biancalana of the Domaine de Manon explained. This enterprise requiring high level of investment and commitment can only be ensured by long term contractual agreements with like minded partners.
The naturals are also targeted by the new legislation and although it is not an insurmountable obstacle, it will take inevitably its toll on creativity and the materials available.
The new era of sustainable development also impacts heavily on raw materials. Organic is not a buzzword as Dominique Coutière, founder and president of Biolandes said but truly the new era of raw materials; consumers are becoming very aware and multi national companies are looking to traceability of ingredients to underscore transparency and ethical supply. Ethical supply and fair trade are core to the business of O’Boticario (Miguel Krisgner President) in Brazil, one of the most successful newcomers to the world of fragrances and cosmetics; although well-established in Brazil, it is only in the last few years that they have become contenders in the international market, now featuring in 20 countries. The biodiversity of the rain forest of Brazil, linked with sustainable developed crops are key to their long-term success. From Brazil to Australia, the watchword is sustainability and Dr Paul Biggs, general manager of the Forest products commission for western Australia even ventures as far as to underline that production of fragrance raw materials, in an intelligent way (a case in point being sandalwood) can actually contribute to saving eco-systems rather than depleting them.
The atmosphere of the exhibition stands was very zen with white bamboo sticks on Givaudan’s stand, white orchids at Takasago, ethereal orchids at Payan Bertrand and a general ambiance aiming at well-being and a spa style atmosphere on Robertet’s stand. The spa feel did not detract from the highly technical demonstration and the vast array of new materials around. Talking to the exhibitors they all seemed upbeat and pleased with the attendance and the generally high level of interest in new ideas as well as materials.