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Covid forced social activities, like bar crawls and date nights, to go on hiatus, or move to Zoom. So the fact that fragrance sales increased by 82% in the first half of 2021, compared to the same time in 2020, demonstrates that in the age of wellness, perfume has been added to the list of self-care.
Ilaria Resta, global president since March of 2020 of the perfumery division at Firmenich, a fragrance and flavor company, said this shift in consumer preference is just one aspect of change that she has been tasked with reacting to. “The key pillars of my vision are related to anticipating and being on the leading front of the transformation of this industry, and future-proofing the business by anticipating or creating trends,” said Resta on this week’s Glossy Beauty Podcast.
That’s included navigating the “shift from fragrance [being worn to] appeal to others to being [worn] for our own relaxation and feeling better with ourselves,” she said.
Additionally, Resta has had to determine, “How do we communicate the fragrance in a virtual way [during Covid]?” she said. Fittingly for the digital-centric nature of the world today, Firmenich launched Scentmate, an “AI-enabled platform” that enables users to create a personalized fragrance based on data, as well as their personal preferences.
“Innovation is critical as a driver for value creation and differentiation [in fragrance],” she said.
Below are additional highlights from the conversation, which have been lightly edited for clarity.
On the evolution of the fragrance industry
“The power of fragrances in triggering emotions [and] memories. It’s outstanding, and [it] is used also for therapies in order to trigger specific emotions. There are ingredients proven to aid concentration and focus, in lowering the heartbeat rate and improving well-being. It’s an industry that is evolving from being pleasure-focused [and] hedonic-focused to being an industry that is also adding real physical and mental benefits. And [it] is very much science-driven, as much as it is hedonic and creative. It is a fascinating sweet spot between the left and the right brain.”
Firmenich’s relationship with sustainability
“The company started working on [sustainability] before it became even a word or before it became a necessity and a demand from consumers. Decades ago, at Firmenich, we started defining critical roles to assess the role of biodegradable, renewable ingredients in the palette of ingredients that our perfumers work with. But also when it comes to biochemistry, we develop fragrances that mimic nature but do not deprive nature [of these] ingredients. At the same time, we started looking at the broader role of sustainability when it comes to social responsibility. [We] make sure that all the sourcing strategies are [responsibly sourced] from communities that are treated in the best way, not only for the workers, but [also] for the communities they work with. We [ensure] there are equal wages and minimum wages for men and women. We look at the broader ecosystems of sustainability. And this has been inspiring the work at Firmenich, this has been an important glue between us and our clients.”
On the future expansion of the company
“The chief consumer officer role, which is at the cornerstone of the transformation that I’m bringing at Firmenich [in] the perfumery division, starts from the assumption that if you know the needs of the consumers in a thorough way, then you are ready for the future. Because at the end of the day, the consumers will tell you where [they are] going without even knowing that [they’re] telling you that. We need to be able to leverage the existing wealth of consumer data that we’ve gathered in more than 50 years to understand what the consumer need [is] by country, by age, by group, by segmentation, but also by the type of benefit or product they use. That’s why it was incredibly important to staff [the] position [with someone] that can understand, that can muster the knowledge of consumers… We are looking at innovation with a broad spectrum [lens] — not necessarily only on [one] specific angle, but rather from all the aspects that fragrance [touches].”