Frankenflowers and the Natural Perfume Industry

I found this to be an interesting tidbit:

Scent On Demand: Scientists Genetically Enhance Scent Of Flowers:

“A team of scientists at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem has found a way to genetically enhance the scent of flowers and implant a scent in those that don’t have one . . . Prof. Vainstein and his research assistant Michal Moyal Ben-Tzvi succeeded, together with other researchers, to find a way of enhancing the scent of a flower by ten-fold and cause it to emit a scent during day and night – irrespective of the natural rhythm of scent production . . . The flower industry will also be interested in this development, explains Prof. Vainstein. ‘Many flowers lost their scent over many years of breeding. Recent developments will help to create flowers with increased scent as well as producing new scent components in the flowers.'”

Enhancing the scent of a flower by ten-fold! That’s an astounding modification, and could create an explosion of natural perfumery through significantly decreasing the cost of obtaining natural essences.

An article from October 3rd notes that “The mainstreaming of natural and organic personal care products means that the value of the European market is set to exceed €1.4bn ($1.76bn US) this year . . . what is really helping to drive sales is the fact that these type of products are becoming more and more readily available, with some of Europe’s biggest retailers, including supermarket chains such as Tesco and Carrefour, now stocking their own private label ranges” — so the potential enhancement of scent in flowers could make the field of natural perfumery accessible to a much broader consumer audience.

Presently, natural perfumery is limited in scope due to the cost of its materials vs. the cost of producing a scent utilizing mostly synthetic compounds, but fields of flowers yielding a ten-fold increase in essence oils could tempt even the largest corporations into producing their own “all natural” fragrances (lower costs = higher profits!), paving the way for already existing smaller, independent perfumers to follow in their sizable wakes.

I am curious, however, to hear the language the big players will use to differentiate their products for the two markets — I mean, they’re going to want to make money on the naturals, but they’re not going to want to do it in a way that makes their mostly synthetic fragrances sound cheap or bad: “Buy our new All-Natural Dior perfume because our synthetic fragrances smell like shrieking pots of toxic chemicals!”

Catchy, no?

The genetic modification article also raises the point about the possibility of creating flowers with new scents — a Rose/Geranium (Geranirose!), or a Violet/Daisy (Violaisy!) — but I don’t know if that would be any more helpful for a perfumer than simply mixing rose oil with geranium oil. It could certainly make a trip to the local florist a lot more entertaining, however.

But just as there’s resistance in some quarters to genetically modified crops, will there be a resistance among natural perfumers to genetically modified flowers? Larger corporations are unlikely to have a problem with it (“What? Ten times more Grasse Rose for the same price? I’m in!”), but I wonder about the reception these flowers will receive among the individual perfumers who are adamantly all-natural.


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