Fragrance industry facing fresh challenges
On December 10 2019, Fragrance Foundation France (FFF), the association which federates and promotes the fragrance industry in France, appointed a new board of directors* for a two-year term, notably renewing the mandate of Philippe Ughetto, its president since 2012.
For the occasion, FashionNetwork.com interviewed industry veteran Ughetto, the vice-president of Doro, a specialist in luxury packaging for the perfumery and cosmetics sectors, in order to learn about the new challenges facing the fragrance industry. The latter is a major arena for cosmetics players: in 2018, fragrance sales alone accounted for over two thirds of the €3 billion revenue generated in France by the selective perfumery channel (source: NPD).
In recent years, the fragrance industry, like the cosmetics one, has continued to reshape its structure, as new players emerge and major mergers and acquisitions are carried out. The spate of acquisitions made this year by fragrance and scent specialist Givaudan are, according to Ughetto, one of the clearest indications of this pattern. The Swiss group's latest acquisition was that of the cosmetics business of Italian company Indena, specialised in plant-derived active ingredients.
Like the food and the personal care industries, the perfume sector is increasingly keen on using natural ingredients, to respond to the new expectations of fragrance aficionados.
“There are real challenges relating to sustainable consumption, and the fragrance industry as a whole is now involved in developing ‘green’ products,” said Ughetto.
The association he leads has some 50 members, from brands like Guerlain, Yves Rocher or L’Oréal Luxe, to fragrance producers like Givaudan or Firmenich, to distribution companies. Last year, to encourage its members to become ‘greener’ and more sustainable, the FFF organised a conference on natural bio perfumes with Cosmebio, the association of natural and organic cosmetics producers. Yet, while the number of perfume brands certified as ‘natural’ has multiplied in the last few years, going green remains a genuine challenge for the fragrance industry.
“There are many technical obstacles, and the boundaries of sustainable perfumery still remain to be defined,” said Ughetto.
Another corner the industry needs to turn is that of digital technology, a challenge that is all the tougher as the industry’s approach remains traditional.
“The use of digital data and AI are highly debated issues within the sector, especially on the retail side of it. [Data and AI] shed light on consumer behaviour, and pave the way towards bespoke perfume creation. Yet, here too, technological constraints differ from those of other industries, though progress has been made recently,” said Ughetto.
While robots still haven't replaced noses in scent creation, the use of AI tools is well-established in the sector.
Symrise and IBM have developed Philyra, an AI tool capable of generating specific olfactory compositions by analysing over 1.9 million existing formulations. The Givaudan perfumery school has instead created Carto: a computer linked to a robot able to develop a perfume concocted by fragrance designers on a touch screen.
*The new board consists of:
Philippe Ughetto (Doro), president
Nathalie Helloin-Kamel (Takasago), vice-president
Victoria Rongier (Interparfums), general secretary
Michaël Betito (Symrise), treasurer
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