International Flavors and Fragrances’ Judith Gross called from Serbia, where she stopped to smell the orchids. “Serbia is a whole discovery,” said Gross, whose job as global marketing director for fragrance innovation at IFF takes her to the far corners of the earth for a chance to sniff something new. “There’s hundreds of orchids and odors, and fruits and herbs here.”
In France, where she’s based, Gross has been working on a new project, The Science of Wellness. A program for an holistic wellness approach, Science builds on the company’s more than 40 years of research in fragrance and its impact on emotions and wellbeing.
Through a combination of neuroscience and consumer perception data, a fragrance palette, and its in-house artificial intelligence tool created in 2006, IFF perfumers design scents that can be used in consumer goods in the wellness space.
“We started building an extensive understanding of the connection between smelling and scents and emotions,” Gross said, adding that the data base has shifted over the 40 years. “We expanded from simple emotions like happiness to colors and textures. When you smell, what colors and textures does it make you think of or feel?
“We [originally] created the data base to understand what ingredients correlate to consumers’ minds,” Gross added. “We have over 2,000 ingredients based on thousands of consumers from around the world. We completed this measure, which was based on consumer perception with the latest neuroscience, not just when consumers declare what they know they’re feeling, but what happens in the brain and brain signals connected to scents.”
The revolution continued to augmented perfumery 15 years ago, a pioneering revolution for IFF and the fragrance industry, Gross said. “We added data science, which involves many combined disciplines such as computer science and data science,” she said. “It can examine all the possible combinations of ingredients that have the biggest impact on the senses and perceptions. It computes, based on our 40 years of data. IFF in-house teams have developed algorithms, etc. They use the tool, which is embedded in their fragrance creation palate of 1,200 ingredients.”
Gross said the results are always based on a creative idea that comes from listening to consumers. Sometime the [ingredients] find their way into a fine fragrance brand like Givenchy or Ralph Lauren. Sometimes it’s a shampoo or shower gel.
“The perfumer will leverage 40 years of history to work on embedding the ingredients or combination of ingredients that will help create the emotional impact that’s required by the brand’s brief,” Gross said. “They want to reinforce the idea of happiness or mindfulness and they’ll use artificial intelligence to accomplish it.
“The science of wellness is so incredibly relevant today,” Gross added. “We know from this different year [of Covid-19] that we had incredibly strong demand from consumers.”
IFF surveyed last year 14,000 consumers across the globe. About 80 percent said they’d love a fragrance with emotional or physical benefits, and 67 percent also wanted wellness based on science.
A box with four different fragrances pulled from the data base are combinations of ingredients. “They’re not finished fragrances, they’re accords,” Gross said. “An accord is a small or short formula that only uses a small quantity of ingredients. Each was identified by AI.”
IFF has hundreds of varieties of accords, which it can leverage and add to a fragrance creation idea. Some fragrances that were launched fairly recently have several similar accords. Irresistible by Givenchy called out the wellness properties in its press dossier, Gross said. “The same for Calvin Klein CK Eternity Summer, which recently launched, where the idea was to increase the emotional power of perfume, using the science of wellness,” she added.
Gross said IFF uses captive ingredients that it’s creating. “One is the essential rose and the other is a jasmine from India, which we use for its relaxing properties,” she said. “It’s that constant utilization of the data base, which contains millions of bits of data. There are so many ways to combine different types of ingredients and olfactory families. There’s an infinite amount of possibilities for the Science of Wellness.”
Fragrance brands may not have fully capitalized on the marketing aspects of olfactory impacts on wellness, but Gross said there will be groundbreaking approaches for upcoming launches that are still in development.
James Harden took the story and ran with it for a collaboration with Pura, James Harden Signature Home Fragrance. “James worked with us with the Science of Wellness, focusing on developing two scents, one that would be relaxing and the other one, which would encourage mindfulness,” Gross said. “They’re calling it out in their marketing. Scents backed by science, animating ingredients, feel the power of confidence and understand what a relaxing space can do.” Pura is a home fragrance with a fragrance diffuser.
“We believe that fragrance is the new hope,” said Gross, sounding rather lofty. “We strongly believe in the history of fragrance. Its origins go back to Egyptian and Roman antiquity, the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. The role of fragrance was always way beyond the role that was assigned to it. Perfume was about healing, health and wellness.”
This is a return to what fragrance has always been since it’s inception, Gross said. “We’re seeing a return to those over 3,500 years and fragrance and going back to the more profound elements of perfume. After a year and a half when many people lost their sense of smell, they understand how important it is to their emotions and how they feel the world.
“Consumers have told us during the lockdowns all over the world that they continued to use scents and candles because fragrance is a source of wellness and can evoke beautiful places. What the actual science allows us to do is to go against our preconceived ideas and bring perfumers actual insights into using ingredients or combinations of ingredients they wouldn’t have thought of.”