NEW YORK — Behind doors marked “Beware: Hazardous Materials,” scientists are busy at work in a lab that could pass for a remote, secret government compound. But this is home to the scientists of the Worldwide Research & Development Center of International Flavors & Fragrances Inc., a sprawling property located in Union Beach, N.J.
The work is less Vogue than Popular Science, and these scientists, despite their white coats and test tubes, operate less as chemists and more as psychologists.
“It’s really important for us to create fragrances that transcend daily experience and create an emotional experience,” said Nicolas Mirzayantz, senior vice president of Fine Fragrances & Beauty Care and North America regional manager for IFF. “The products cannot just be pleasing [in an olfactory sense], but [they must] have multisensorial dimensions. The emotional experience of a fragrance will be critical in our industry moving forward.”
At IFF’s offices here, Mirzayantz eschews a lab coat for a polished suit. And although his concepts for fragrances can seem like science fiction, IFF has been researching the emotional quotient of fragrances since 1984 and has created so-called “mood maps” and a database of 2,000 fragrances, accords and ingredients evaluated for their emotional range. But only recently has the company begun integrating its knowledge of the emotional strength of a scent to areas outside of fine and functional fragrances.
In 2004, fine fragrances and beauty care accounted for 17 percent of the firm’s $2.03 billion in sales, compared with 26 percent from functional fragrances.
In order to leverage knowledge in all of IFF’s different categories, the company appointed Joe Faranda chief marketing officer last year. Faranda, who was formerly with Home Depot and Avon, has global marketing responsibilities, with all regional locations reporting to him. Because all of IFF’s business units merge under Faranda, the company can observe a cross section of consumers and olfactory categories to create new products.
What IFF hopes to do is create entirely new categories for fragrances. One alternative application is in electronics. The company is working with brand consultant Lippincott Mercer, for example, to brand electronics giant Samsung using a custom scent, Intimate Blue. Packaging and marketing materials emblazoned with Samsung’s blue logo will emit a whiff when opened, while its store on Columbus Circle emanates Intimate Blue.
The key to this is an encapsulation technology that’s proving to be a major growth opportunity for IFF — especially within the textile industry. Encapsulation essentially allows for a fine fragrance to be released from a textile at any given moment. For instance, when sneakers are put on, or when one pulls on a sweater, a scent is delivered. IFF is now working on some products with Nike.
While this new technology and marketing may seem alien, the greener side of IFF’s business is being brought more tightly into the fold of the global operation.
Horticulturists led by Subha Patel, a nearly 30-year veteran of IFF and the director of nature-inspired fragrance technology, tend to more than 1,300 different plants, including more than 700 different kinds of fragrant orchids at the lush, 5,000-square-foot IFF Botanical Research Garden adjacent to its corporate center in New Jersey. The greenhouse, which opened in 1990 and underwent a significant renovation in late 2004, serves as a kind of a corporate and customer mecca.
“It’s an incredible experience for the customers to be in here,” Patel said on a recent visit to the greenhouse. “They get to see that every individual flower is its own art. No human being could invent this.”
But her work is no longer solely with clients and gardeners in the greenhouse. As part of the company’s new strategy, Patel is working more closely with Faranda, a new step for her. “I’m discussing with him the new directions [in which] we are going,” she said. “Usually we like to present our findings to our customers and educate them on the different fragrances in nature. We’ll see what inspirations come out of it starting the other way around.”
“You have to uncover unmet needs and you have to create needs,” added Mirzayantz. “We are upping the level of risk with our partners that are willing to create new applications, new product categories, new forums and new needs for consumers.”