ALTERNATIVES TO VANILLA: THE SCOOP ON TRENDS
Byline: CARA KAGAN
NEW YORK — It may seem that vanilla has been the only fragrance trend in the mass market for the last two years, but it ain’t necessarily so.
While manufacturers agree that vanilla is still alive and kicking, mass companies have been expanding their horizons with other fragrance classifications, many of which have enjoyed prior success in prestige market outlets.
One trend cited by industry experts as starting to trickle down from prestige channels is the creation of airy, transparent scents, typified by L’Eau d’Issey from Issey Miyake.
Another movement has been the introduction of modern versions of classic fragrance types such as orientals and florientals. Recent entries of this type are Charlie Red, Fire & Ice and Ciara Femme Fatale — all from Revlon — and Coty’s Longing.
Orientals and florientals have long been a mainstay of both classes of trade, but over the last year or so, mass companies have been following the prestige lead of contemporizing these classic fragrance types.
This is done by marrying their traditional warm, sensual dry downs with lighter, fresher top notes of fruits or florals.
“[LancOme’s] TrAsor, which pretty much pioneered this type of semi-oriental category, is one of the top-selling fragrances worldwide,” said industry consultant Ann Gottlieb. “Orientals also have a sensuality which pleases a broad range of consumers, so they have almost become a way for the mass market to play it safe.”
“Except for the left turn the industry took with vanilla, the floriental fragrance category has been the largest for the last ten years, but it is being interpreted differently now,” agreed Terry Augenbraun, president of Jean Philippe’s Premier division.
“But that turn wasn’t really so far to the left, since many oriental and floriental fragrances have some vanilla in the dry down,” he noted.
Revlon’s recent fragrance launches have been nothing if not sultry, with a contemporary, bright twist.
Last August, the company introduced Fire & Ice, which Revlon executives describe as a “sheer” oriental.
Charlie Red, which followed last fall, is classified as a hot, floriental scent, with fruity, sparkling top notes.
Ciara Femme Fatale, which will bow this month, also carries that torch — it is considered a sheer, modern oriental.
“These types of fragrances are classically feminine fragrances,” said Kathy Dwyer, executive vice president of marketing and general manager of Revlon’s cosmetics and fragrance division. “What we are seeing through our market research and the way fashion is trending is that there is a desire on the part of women to reinforce their femininity. It is even evident in the makeup they are wearing and the return to the use of color on their faces.”
In addition to Revlon’s candidates, other modern semiorientals include Bonjour, which was launched a year ago, and Coty’s Longing, which made its debut last October.
“You cannot and will not pull the American market away from the orientals,” said Mary Manning, vice president of new business development for Coty. She described Longing as a fresh and fruity floriental. “It is comfortable, and it is sexy. But it is now being played out in different ways. Technology has enabled us to make this type of fragrance more interesting and to impart it with sheer and paler qualities. “There is also the safety factor of an oriental that the mass market often relies on,” she added. “This consumer is usually much less experimental.”
Gottlieb predicted that there might be another type of sensual fragrance hitting store shelves in the not-too-distant future.
“While I do not see one single ingredient that will be the next big success story following vanilla, I think we will see a continuance of edible notes,” she said. “I think we can expect to see some sort of derivative of an Angel-type fragrance, in a more mass way. It is a niche market for department store brands, but that quality can be commercialized for mass. It is a very sexy fragrance category.”
Rather than vanilla, Angel by Thierry Mugler gets its warm, sensual sensation through the inclusion of chocolate.
On the flip side of these sultry scents, a lighter, fresher fragrance breed is slowly emerging at the mass level.
“Looking ahead in mass and at what is going on in the prestige market, I do see a trend in sheer fragrances with a light and splashy feeling,” said Gottlieb, who mentioned Sunflowers and L’Eau d’Issey as department store examples.
“There are also a lot of fragrances fitting this classification in broader distribution,” she added. “But I have not seen this trend played out at the mass level.”
Transparent, airy entries in broader distribution include Ultima II’s Head Over Heels, Destination — which is sold in Ann Taylor stores — and the fragrances in both The Gap and Banana Republic bath and body collections.
“Vanilla represented a simple, basic smell, and I think its success showed that people were attracted to natural, simpler products,” Coty’s Manning said. “I think that over the next few years, natural, simpler fragrances will take on fresher, transparent and gentle hues. It is happening in department stores, and it is time for it to trickle down to the mass market.”
She noted that L’Eau d’Issey, Arden’s Sunflowers and Bulgari’s Eau ParfumAe epitomized this type of fragrance.
At least one segment of the mass market has opted to lighten up. Following the overwhelming success of Calvin Klein’s light and fresh CK One scent, a host of alternative designer fragrance [ADF] manufacturers rushed to the market with knockoff versions.
CK One clones include U from Parfums de Coeur of Darien, Conn.; DQI One from Designer Quality Impressions in New York; QK Too by Deborah International Beauty LTD. of Ronkonkoma, N.Y.; A Man & A Woman by New York’s Jean Philippe, and XXX from Parfums Vision International Ltd. in Edgewater, N.J.
“When something does that well in such a short amount of time, it is only logical that the mass market would sit up and take notice,” Jean Philippe’s Augenbraun said. “It will be interesting to see which ADF brands survive after the initial rush.”
Retailers on the whole are pleased with this mass reaction, claiming that it is impossible for them to obtain any real CK One from diverters. They are also hoping that the new knockoffs will attract younger consumers to their stores and to the ADF category, which typically attracts a somewhat older consumer.
Elizabeth Arden’s smash success Sunflowers, which is classified as a bright and transparent floral, is also a favorite with ADF companies. Lady in Red’s version is called Lady in Yellow, and Parfums de Coeur’s copy cat is called Ocean breeze. Meanwhile, Jean Philippe is imitating Sunflowers in its Blue Denim fragrance, part of the Jordache Denim collection of clones, which comprises two other scents: Red Denim, a version of Giorgio’s Red, and White Denim, its Vanilla Fields rendition.
“Right now the prestige and mass women’s fragrance markets are doing similar things, but in different ways,” said Michael Sweeney, vice president of commercial and creative resources for International Flavors and Fragrances. “The prestige market is trending toward clear, fresh florals, such as CK One and [Kenzo’s] Parfum d’EtA, while the mass market is taking clear, bright top notes that dry down to a warm, comfortable and flavorful type of approach.”
This type of fragrance, he noted, was the rage in the prestige market several years and is typified by TrAsor, which combined fresh fruity floral top notes with a semioriental background.
“One of the reasons the mass market is so hot for this trend is that it is a way of giving consumers perceptible value, since these are fragrances that have recognition and that last,” Sweeney added. “I think that mass will look at the Miyakes, the Sunflowers and the CK Ones, but it will probably interpret it through using natural-smelling fresh florals rather than ozonic notes, which tend to be more polarizing.
“The mass market has to keep a grip on the middle American consumer, and part of that is not walking away from the sensuality they expect a fragrance to have,” he said.
For its first non-sultry fragrance introduction in a year, Revlon is using its spring color promotion, called Marooned, as a launch platform.
Dwyer classified Adrift, the new scent, as a light and airy ozonic fragrance.
“Adrift is completely different from any fragrance we currently have in our portfolio,” Dwyer said. “We think that women are looking to build a fragrance wardrobe that encompasses a range of scents to suit their different moods and different occasions. I also think that what women choose to wear during the day versus the night are often two completely different fragrance classifications.”
Susan Virtue, vice president and creative fragrance director of Givaudan Roure, also cited the possibility of fragrances with green notes coming back into play.
Virtue noted that Revlon’s Charlie is considered to be an archetypical exhilarating, green floral.
“I can definitely see the market re-executing the exhilarating aspects of green fragrances, which express independence and confidence,” she said.”In the Seventies, when Charlie first came out, women were entering into an era of independence and confidence and were buying fragrances for themselves for the first time. That’s not so different from what the Nineties woman is about.”
Despite the slow emergence of a handful of new trends, vanilla remains a hotbed of activity for the mass market.
Del Laboratories originally was going to launch its vanilla entry this year, but decided to strike while the iron was hot.
The company accelerated the introduction of Naturally Vanilla, which bowed last fall, by at least six months, according to Bill McMenemy, senior vice president of marketing at the company.
Naturally Vanilla is sold in three forms — a cologne spray, a body spray and a body lotion.
Parfums Parquets, now owned by Renaissance Cosmetics, introduced its French Vanilla last September, at the same time Bonne Bell brought out its Vanilla Smackers lip and fragrance items.
Coty, which kicked off the vanilla wave two years ago with the introduction of Vanilla Fields, augmented its Vanilla presence last year with Vanilla Musk.
According to Manning, Vanilla Musk is now operating 20 to 25 percent ahead of plan, and sales of Vanilla Fields increased by 45 percent last year.
Reportedly, Vanilla Fields neared $35 million at wholesale in its first year, with Vanilla Musk doing nearly $15 million.
“We’re having such a success with vanilla that we are going to run with it as long as we can,” she said. “The fact that Vanilla Musk didn’t cannibalize Vanilla Fields proved to us that there are different opportunities within this fragrance category.”