Skip to main content

P&G Takes Next Step in Sustainability Journey by Sharing All Fragrance Ingredients

According to a recent Nielsen transparency survey, 73 percent of consumers say they feel positively about brands that share the “why behind the buy” information about their products.

The Product & Gamble Co. is giving consumers a peek inside its bottles.

P&G announced it will share online all fragrance ingredients down to 0.01 percent for its entire product portfolio in the U.S. and Canada by the end of 2019. That includes more than 2,000 fragranced products from Febreze to Herbal Essences.

In the past, many companies merely noted fragrances were part of a product’s composition. As an example of what consumers can now see online from P&G is a description of scents in products and why they are used. Olay, for instance, has alpha-isomethyl ionone, a minty aroma also found in celery and peppermint oil, according to P&G’s online ingredient cards.

P&G maintains that it is the first company to commit to this level of fragrance ingredient detail across such a broad product portfolio. This is the latest step in an overarching strategy to offer more ingredient information in recognition of consumers’ growing interests in knowing what’s in products. P&G already shares its full palette and provides a list of chemicals not used in fragrances, but the latest move allows consumers to take a deeper dive.

“Our goal is to give people information that is clear, reliable and accessible. This is another step in our sustainability journey toward enabling consumers to make informed choices,” stated Kathy Fish, chief technology officer at Procter & Gamble. “We’re providing more information about fragrance ingredients because we believe this will build even greater trust in the quality and safety of all of our products.” The company will monitor any consumer feedback on the transparency about ingredients.

You May Also Like

“Whenever we share new information, we expect feedback. That is an important part of being open,” said Tracey Long, P&G senior communications manager. “We will continue to listen to what people are looking for as they make informed choices about the products they choose. We are constantly evaluating ingredients in our products and welcome feedback from people as we are wholeheartedly committed to meeting their needs.”

The move comes as more consumers research ingredient information online before buying. According to a recent Nielsen transparency survey, 73 percent of consumers say they feel positively about brands that share the “why behind the buy” information about their products.

“We have been listening to people when they reach out to us, as well as through our in-depth consumer research,” said Dr. Scott Heid, associate director, scientific communications. “Over the past five to 10 years, we’ve seen an increase in the number of people who are searching for ingredient information that is clear and relatable, particularly in fragrances. People see fragrances as a ‘mysterious black box’; our goal is to share these ingredients in a way that makes them more familiar.”

A case in point of the new shopper mind-set is illustrated by Gwen Keller of Marlton, N.J., who consults the Environmental Working Group’s site before she buys. “I started becoming more aware of ingredients a few years ago and totally changed what I buy,” she said, adding she realizes that there is a need for some chemicals to maintain shelf life. Will seeing ingredients such as benzyl salicylate change what she buys? “I prefer that I know so I can decide,” she said while shopping in  a drugstore.

P&G will go a step beyond listing fragrance ingredients to include where else these ingredients can be found, such as everyday fruits, foods and other products. The company provided examples of what expanded fragrance disclosures include such as those used in Tide, Febreze, Herbal Essences and Olay products. P&G will first focus on its fabric, home and beauty-care products where there is the greatest consumer interest and will expand across additional product categories and geographies over time.

The EWG was among the first to applaud P&G’s decision. “EWG has long considered transparency a major driving force in consumer product markets,” said Ken Cook, EWG’s president. “The example set by Febreze, Tide, Olay and Herbal Essences today will, without question, encourage greater ingredient transparency efforts throughout the industry, providing consumers with the information they want and need to make better, healthier choices for themselves and their families,” Cook added he believes it marks a turning point for the entire consumer product industry.

Retailers are also pushing transparency. Wal-Mart will require all suppliers to list product ingredients by next year. Earlier this year as Target broadened its “better for you” beauty assortment and the retailer promised that by 2020 it will ban phthalates, propylparaben, butylparaben, formaldehyde, formaldehyde donors and nonylphenol ethoxylates from beauty, personal-care, baby-care and household-product formulations. The company said naturally positioned products drive double-digit sales lifts. In April, CVS Pharmacy announced it would remove chemicals such as parabens and phthalates from its private label beauty and personal-care products by 2019. The move impacts more than 600 items. Unilever also said it will begin listing fragrance ingredients in home and personal care online.

“I love the transparency factor,” said Jeanine Recckio, a brand consultant and beauty futurist with the Mirror Mirror Imagination Group. “What’s going to be interesting in the beauty industry is how brands can protect their innovative formulas as we disclose everything.” She said it could lead to easier copycatting or even counterfeit products. But she added, “This new naked transparency of what’s inside is going to set new standards in the CPG world.”

At the National Association of Chain Drug Stores Annual Meeting earlier this year, retail executives pressed consumer packaged goods giants to step up efforts to provide more information and work toward eliminating some ingredients. “We are seeing most of the major companies try to do more around at least using healthier ingredients,” Wendy Liebmann, chief executive officer of WSL Strategic Retail, said at that meeting.