ROOM FRAGRANCE TRENDS FALL 2017
Release written by: Kathy LaVanier
President National Candle Association
Chair of the Candle Month Committee
Home Fragrance Scents 2017
Broadly Distributed Brand
Culinary Inspired(Pour l'air will likely never do this trend)
While we struggle to actually achieve it, Americans have aspirations towards a more healthy and secure lifestyle and a sense of well-being. Stress chases us in our uber connectedness, where a sea of devices pulls our attention in every direction with an influx of media messages focused on fear and negativity. We seek reassurances from our cultural past and comfort in nostalgic references that ground us in times of uncertainty. Uncluttered has been the décor mantra for several years now.
More recently, many Gen X and Millennials have also abandoned man-made materials for wood, stone, texture and organic origins. This plays out in kitchenware and décor accessories that look like they just arrived from 1920 sitting next to polished aluminum pans and iPads. We want to describe our things as crafted, not manufactured. This back-to-basics approach is seen in the growing interest in farmer’s markets, organic and fair-trade ingredients, eco-friendly packages and crafted products via sites like Etsy. We don’t want our home fragrance to be akin to plastic either, leaping out at you like Kool Aide on steroids. Scent too should be a craft.
What we see going on in the chocolate industry is a good representation of what is also up-trending with fragrance. Chocolate is being recalibrated for adult tastes with the addition of savory umami, pepper, Chinese 5 spice and bacon additions to predominately dark chocolate. Complex and rich but smooth and elegant cocoa creations include bourbon infusions while earthy variations include mushrooms. Complex infusions are developing all across the food and beverage range. One look at the craft beer industry’s rocketing success story clearly shows this trend. Right down to how we prefer our oatmeal or scone, subtle and edgy complexity rules. If anything, the world of home fragrance has been a bit slow in hitting this same trail.
Consumers under 35 don’t want to be labeled (dealing a heavy blow to brands like Abercrombie) or relegated to what they see as common or following. They want to identify personally and emotionally with the products they use. Their relationship with the scents they explore and select will become increasingly intimate, continuing to drive the niche scent trend in home fragrance.
So how does complex, infused, eco-earthy, culinary, edgy, gender neutral scent play out? It starts with a growing use of florals in exotic and/or unexpected blends. The color trends around the pastels and tropical hues has them grayed slightly, making them more sophisticated, cool and less fragile. They are more interesting and unique just as the scents are becoming when a floral is “grayed” with the addition of an opposite scent. Examples include blending rose with leather, freesia with musk, jasmine with oud or lily with ginger. Already on this trend are examples from Jo Malone of velvet rose oud, peony blush suede and dark amber ginger lily, and Diptyque’s Baies (berries and Bulgarian roses).
Tropical scents are also moving from sweet punch to infused cocktails. They inspire a sense of escape and adventure, enhanced by the 2016 Olympics being held in Rio. The few basic tropical fruits that have dominated this category for both candles and personal care are now too much the stuff of sun screen and kids smoothies. To stay relevant and exotically interesting, they must be paired with both unusual berries like acai or goji and richer and darker notes like bourbon, sandalwood, juniper berries, ginger, coffee and similar scents. Garnish the top of the scent with mint or a floral like lotus and the tropical category is all “grown up” instead of commonly sweet and sticky (i.e. mimosa cardamom from Jo Malone and Makassar ebony peach from Voluspa). Coconut is a perennial favorite in this category, but it will be reimagined as coconut musk or a version equally unexpected.
And similar to the tropical category, fruits will continue to explore how they can be paired, expressing their bitter as well as their sweet sides. In 2016 we have seen rhubarb find a strong following with its tang that gives the fragrance a bit of a bite. L’Occitane paired it with grapefruit in the pamplemousse rhubarb scent that includes accords of the bitter inner peal of the grapefruit. Expect this tartness to continue and be merged with floral notes to make fruits even more complex and interesting.
The earthy side of home fragrance speaks to the fusion of 2017 with 1917 and shopping for unique finds at the farmer’s market, organic food store, Etsy or DIY supply store. Seeking the grounding effect associated with “natural” and organic also enhances the desire for a healthy lifestyle. This territory has historically been populated by sweet fruits like “preserves,” wild flowers and some herbs. But our tastes for foods in this category have transformed to artisan versions that infuse spice and unanticipated flavors into everything from pickles to jam. In home fragrance this category is experiencing an artisan transformation as well, with much less sweet and much more earthy, savory, spicy sensory texture. Niche candle scents began noticeably trending in this direction in 2013 and the ability of prestige lines to bring this to market is in part driving the sales growth in the lux candle market. A few examples include Voluspa’s pomegranate patchouli, Jo Malone’s lime basil mandarin and wood sage sea salt and Delirium’s Celebrate (cranberry, blood orange, cinnamon leaves, eucalyptus, moss and pine). Continuing to follow culinary trends, expect the unexpected in 2017 in home fragrance earthy scents with more peppery and spicy notes as well as more dusty, mossy notes (think mushrooms in the food world and tropical rainforests).
Gourmand is a tricky category that really lives in two worlds, just as the food it is based on does. There is the more simple dessert that hits the sweet tooth and brings back memories, like Jeni’s ice cream in ever changing flavors or a slice of pie from the gourmet deli. And then there are the experiential desserts served in trendy restaurants. Exaniner.com says “pastry chefs have already been starting to take their menus in less sweet directions, using sea salt and bacon as ingredients. But now they're creatively turning to vegetables as a main ingredient. Whether it's bursts of green or a vibrant orange, we’re suddenly seeing carrot cake pushed in the carrot direction.”
During the holiday season, we will perpetually love the sweet reminders in scents that feature vanilla and baked notes. Sales at this time of year will always be strong for pumpkin, baked and spiced apples or pears, sugar cookies, maple sugar and all things cinnamon. The sense of adventure will take us to the edge of the box, but not outside it, with variations on marshmallow and salted caramels, infusions of mint and the occasional addition of scents like bourbon and rum that marry well to praline. Bath & Body Works and Yankee really are the drivers in this space.
Hitting the lux version of gourmand requires a careful balancing act that drives in complexity and avoids being cloying or novelty. Nick Steward, Director of L’Atelier Création at L’Artisan Parfumeur says “It’s easy for a gourmand to fall into clichéd ‘foodie’ notes. It’s up to the perfumer’s talent to avoid falling into this edible aspect.” Chocolate and vanilla have been paired with woods like patchouli for some time, but now it is being taken beyond that into new adventurous spaces. In the perfume world we see examples like Maomi Goodsir or du Serail, with notes of fruit, rum, sage, ylang-ylang, honey and tobacco. Earthy food scents like cocoa, molasses and honey and other natural taste treats will be merging with savory scents, florals and spice. Think notes like vetiver Tonka, ginger, jasmine, pepper, and even vegetable, herb and green notes like saffron, fennel, carrot and beetroot.
The past two years have seen the US population getting into the spirit of the explorer’s lounge (every pun intended). What began several years ago as an artisan wine movement has taken over every form of liquor now, from beer to distilled spirits. This goes hand in hand with the regional handmade, craftsperson as artist, naturally derived materials swell at retail. These regional brewers and distillers are creating very clever and eye catching labels/marketing along with a mastery of the English language in describing their product. They add unusual infusion flavors and in many cases also add longer aging and short production runs (you want it because there is not very much to be had). You can be sure the fragrance world is gearing up to jump on board this juggernaut. Bourbon and whisky infused scents began hitting candle lines two years ago, but not really in the artisanal fashion that is driving the beverage industry. We saw prestige candle makers like Voluspa and Nest mixing bourbon with vanilla. To catch the wave, the niche candle makers are just beginning to find this space in its true form, with scent aspects that offer similar hooks like aging, rare essential infusions and limited production runs. This is then be married to the other aspect being leveraged by the alcohol artisans, very creative marketing and labeling and a focus on being regional.
Also in the explorer’s lounge we find leather and tobacco along with metal or vacuum metalized glass containers, brass in particular (brass is also a favorite metal for specialty liquor ware). Deep, musky woods are blended with suede and tobacco to create candles that are natural companions to enjoying a distilled and aged beverage. This type of scent has seen many new arrivals in the prestige candle market in 2016 and will continue to grow in 2017. A few examples include Delirium’s sweet tobacco
Juniper Berries (Gin)