The perfume industry is developing synthetic molecules with biochemists and bioengineers working to develop biosynthetic methods of producing fragrant compounds
The fragrance market and artistic perfumery
The global fragrance market has noticed a growth over the recent years, mainly driven by innovation and research in terms of new product launches and development and collaboration by the world’s major perfume producers. France — the cradle of the world’s leading perfume brands — has long dominated the global fragrance market within the production and export values. As the global sales of perfumes and fragrances continue to be boosted by the overall increasing disposable income of consumers, France is expected to remain the world’s leader in this market, with revenues that amount to US$2,621.4m in 2021.
In this scenario, among the big, leading brands known and exported worldwide, a growing niche of players prove how the French market for artistic perfumery is changing at a fast pace. While the concentration at the retail level in France (perfumery chains, such Marionnaud and Sephora, hold more than 70% of the market) makes the scenario difficult for smaller and niche brands, some ateliers and studios focus on high quality and premium ingredients and even complete personalization.
Ex Nihilo: luxury fragrances and complete personalization
It’s the case of Ex Nihilo, the French fragrance Maison founded in 2013 by Sylvie Loday, Olivier Royère and Benoît Verdier, at 352 Rue Saint-Honoré. Since then, Ex Nihilo has become popular in the niche perfumery world, being now present in 25 countries, with 135 points of sale – a number that is expected to double by 2022.
The expansion worldwide is not the only challenge for Ex Nihilo’s founders. Like many others, the fragrance market is also adapting to a more sustainable approach, and artistic niche perfume brands make no exception. That’s the reason that led to choices such as the use of Akigalawood and synthetic molecules, highlighted to help preserve the environment. Ex Nihilo reimagined the fragrance market to stereotypical luxury products and mass customization and offered its customers premium fragrances and complete personalization. To do so, the founders and noses of the brand only use the highest quality ingredients and raw materials as Givaudan premium raw materials.
Givaudan and The Hedonist
Givaudan has always been synonymous with the finest ingredients and sustainable processes in the fragrance market, developing non-endangered, sustainable sources of raw ingredients while launching a program to make synthetic processes eco-friendly as well. Givaudan is also exploring all the alternatives available to gradually give up on petrochemistry to create a 100% renewable palette of ingredients by 2030. Besides natural ingredients responsibly sourced, Givaudan also uses advanced chemistry and biotechnology to develop eco-friendly molecules to complement their palette of Naturals, with nearly 2.000 new molecules synthesized every year. Only a small number of these molecules end up in the final palette, based on a selection process involving performance and tests for human and environmental safety. As for today, Givaudan has patented over 150 new molecules and procedures in the past 20 years, and among them, there is one of the keynotes of Ex Nihilo’s latest parfum, The Hedonist.
The nose behind the fragrance is the self-made perfumer Jordi Fernández. Fernández didn’t follow the traditional scent learning path and has developed his skills on his own.Taking inspiration from the Spanish landscapes, he creates unique sensory experiences based on well-being. To create The Hedonist, he combined Ginger and Bergamot in the top notes and continued with notes of Cedarwood with Vetiver from Haiti, while Musks melt with Akigalawood, in a natural captive resulting from bioscience, with technologically advanced ingredients. Akigalawood is an innovative Givaudan registered trademark, a synthetic molecule with a profile similar to patchouli, combined with a hint of pepper and agarwood.
Akigalawood: the new patchouli
Producing synthetic molecules for the perfume industry has been a growing trend in recent years, with biochemists and bioengineers working to develop biosynthetic methods of producing fragrant compounds. This involves introducing novel, artificially designed genes into bacteria’s genome, which synthesize and produce aromatic chemical compounds or utilizing enzymes able to perform specific transformations. In such a context, Akigalawood, the captive ingredient of Givaudan’s, was created utilizing the second method. In addition, Givaudan Biosciences Team found that the enzyme laccase, with processing using just water and salts, transformed a natural material into a new fragrant compound, never before available to perfumers and having a profile similar to patchouli with hints of spicy pepper and agarwood.
These developments and innovations raise questions about the dilemma between natural and synthetic ingredients and the sustainability matter. Consumers often believe that natural materials are better for the environment, which is not necessarily true. For example, the over-sourcing of sandalwood rosewood and agarwood made these ingredients endangered and near to extinction; while sassafras oil is carcinogenic, the high levels of ketones present in sage oil are highly toxic, proving that natural ingredients do not equal sustainable or safe.
The Hedonist by Ex Nihilo
Companies such as Givaudan, contributing to biotechnological innovation, hold great potential for carving out a more sustainable future for perfumery and for the planet. The Akigalawood used by Ex Nihilo in The Hedonist is an example of a raw material produced through biotechnology and environmentally friendly processes, in line with Givaudan FiveCarbon Path™. The FiveCarbon Path is a unique sustainability ambition for developing new molecules based on five measurable targets: increasing the use of renewable carbon, maximizing biodegradable carbon, improving carbon efficiency in synthesis, increasing the odor per carbon ratio, and maximizing our use of upcycled carbon. This approach that brings together innovation and sustainability in a measurable way is unique to the Givaudan creation process and the entire industry and proves how sustainability remains a top priority in fragrance creation.
Even niche as Ex Nihilo, the fragrance industry is witnessing a significant trend that will become ever more critical in the upcoming years: sustainability. Sustainability is about producing responsibly from the raw ingredient to the packaging, choosing high-quality and renewable compounds, and discerning that natural materials are not necessarily better for the environment than natural ones, if produced consciously.
Taking inspiration from the Latin word ‘from nothing’, the French house was founded in 2013 by Sylvie Loday, Olivier Royère and Benoît Verdier, at 352 Rue Saint-Honoré, to give customers an alternative to stereotypical luxury products. Inspired by both the creative avant-garde and the French spirit of pure refinement, Ex Nihilo aims to express its concept of personalized luxury in all its forms, using their know-how and the most superb raw materials of perfumery.