Challenges of Functional Perfumery


Generally, we use the word functional to describe things designed to be practical and offering a high utility value. Perfumery, however, is often perceived as all about   individual likes and dislikes that invoke and evoke emotions and moods.

So, what exactly is functional perfumery? For a perfumer, it is choosing fragrance ingredients that possess favourable application properties in sensory terms. Simply put, it is choosing ingredients that work well with each other as well as the bases and substrates used in various products. We use these products on a daily basis in personal care or home care products such as soaps, fabric softeners etc. Therefore, functional fragrances and fine fragrances are parallels under the fragrance umbrella.

Functional perfumery is increasingly important as it reduces the tedium associated with washing clothes, cleaning dishes and various other household chores.  When functional perfumery stepped away from the shadow of fine fragrances, it gained tremendous momentum as consumers regarded it as a necessity. Since then, demand has been steadily increasing owing to the growth and variety of products in the market. Functional perfumery is in some aspects more complex compared to fine fragrances in that the scent in the former must work to complement, modify or mask other ingredients in the product while producing a favourable smell, whereas scent in the latter plays the sole and most important role.

Functional perfumery can pose serious creative challenges. Perfumers must bear in mind the end product they are working with and the odours associated with their use, the chemical conditions and cost parameters. In addition, they should consider safety regulations such as IFRA and other country specific guidelines that may apply for the use of ingredients.  A perfumer must engage his or her creativity within these limitations to develop the desired fragrance.  Finally, a perfumer must ensure that the fragrance is technically compatible with the product that it will be used in. Thus, the real challenge for a perfumer is to ensure creativity, technical soundness and product applicability at a reasonable cost.

Fragrance is a strong determinant in consumer product purchase decisions based on  how the fragrance lingers—on first use, a while after use, after multiple uses—these can play an important role in the long-term success of a product. For example, if we buy a shower gel, we expect the atmosphere of the bath area to change in response to the scent of the gel; we expect its scent to remain on us at least for a while after use. There is a feel-good factor that consumers look forward to after using the product. Similarly, such expectations extend to other personal care and home care products.

These considerations add to a creative perfumer’s role. His or her job starts from creativity and technicality and extends to regulatory and marketing functions broadening the scope of the job and increasing its challenges.