Making scents: ‘Natural’ products are no longer a luxury

How can I not write about organic and natural as I exhibit at the annual Natural Products Scandinavia in Malmö, Sweden? The show is home to all things organic, with a government Bill pushing to have 60% of Sweden’s food organic by 2020. For the Swedes, “natural” is no longer a novelty or a luxury, but something they expect. From around the globe, creators and producers flock to share in a bright future. Within the exhibition hall, every second stall is billed as organic.

Even outside the Malmömässan halls, Scandinavians expect “natural”. At the hairdresser, unprompted, the stylist described the experience as “100% natural”. Every product she used to tame my mane was free of synthetics. Let’s unpack this increasingly global trend. A natural ­product means it comes directly from a raw material that could be found in nature. In terms of perfume, this means there are no synthesised molecules in the juice.

Understanding the meaning of the word organic 

The word organic is split into a few meanings: for perfume, a product might be certified organic by an organisation such as EcoCert in Europe or the Soil Association in England. Or organic may mean the perfume contains certified raw materials (such as essential oils that have been farmer certified). It’s a breath of fresh air for a natural perfumer to talk business with a population where this sort of ­knowledge is firmly in place. Conversations are immediately more in-depth.

First, they understand that a ­product is already superior because it is natural (or organic) and, second, they know the intricate choices that are demanded when delivering such products. Is this a body butter made with pure shea from Ghana? Have you added anything to soften the consistency? It is so easy and so tempting to add a synthetic stabiliser to a product or a preservative – or even a petro-chemical by-product that gives a skin-feel that can be marketed as “rich” or “creamy”.

But what does this mean for you, the consumer? It means the time has come to question what is in the products you habitually replenish. Efficacy is a big word in cosmetics. There must be a reason a material is in a product, for what it does. Otherwise it has no business being there. For me, the most powerful part of the Swedish experience has been to experience government support that backs conscious living.

They reject recycled plastic, because it is still plastic. They support authenticity, transparency and traceability – while still delivering design-minded and superior crafted products – and welcome those who also produce with this ethos. It is a haven where the passport is conscious trade. If we look to the past to predict the future, the success of the brand “Swiss Made” will pale in comparison to the “Swedish Made” in the very near future.

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