A New Standard: Olfactive Trends in the Age of Coronavirus

Salty is the new Sweet, Powdery Florals are back, and Minimalistic Freshness is paving the way for Scented Wellbeing. Covid-19 has accelerated behavioral trends across the board. Fragrance is no exception.

There is a reason woman cut their hair after a major breakup. Radical changes in appearance mirror radical changes in lifestyle, symbolizing new beginnings.

Most of the time, she will also change her perfume.

As we go through major emotional shifts, there is a sense of comfort in controlling the things we can change. The scents we chose reflect our psyche. We shy away from fragrances we were once addicted to, and that’s OK!

In the first Opus of our “A New Standard” series, we highlighted the impact of Covid-19 on consumer’s attitudes. In this piece, we explore some of the major olfactive trends emerging in this new reality, along with a selection of fragrances illustrating those olfactive sensations.

A New Standard: Olfactive Trends in the Age of Coronavirus

Olfactive preferences change with the tide of emotion

There is a sense of security in applying perfume. Whether to energize the morning with citruses, boost the mood at home with aromatics, or winding down at night with musks, fragrance is a key component to our days.

A spritz of your favorite scent is a personal escape from the mundane, an anchor to a reassuring routine.

The loud, extroverted scents that Showcasers may gravitate towards are replaced with more muted notes that can be appreciated by an audience of one. And the unique notes that Experience Seekers stumble upon will need to provide more than just a pleasant sensation, in a time where mental health is at the forefront of concerns.

We have summarized some of the major shifts in this simple framework, highlighting an overall desire for more simplicity, grounding, and freshness, which is in line with the spirit of the times.

Whether on the luxe or mass channel spectrum, there is a need to take heed to evolving olfactive preferences to remain relevant for what consumers feel and desire today.

TrendSpotting #1 - Clean, Purify, Cleanse!

With the ongoing health threat looming, the shift to a “hyper-clinical” world has also been translated through scent.

Fragrance is not (purely) hedonistic, with pleasant aromas signaling cleanliness to one’s self and others. Across many cultures, and especially in the Arab world, there is a direct association between smelling ‘good’ and being clean. “Perfume has always been a hygiene product for the consumer of the Arabian Gulf”, Abdallah Ajmal, COO of Ajmal Perfumes, tells us.

This idea is not new, as traces of such behaviors can be found back to the Middle Ages, as the black plague swarmed through Europe. Doctors used fragranced masks to keep away the bad smells thought to be the cause of the disease.

Nowadays, the smell of soap is omnipresent, paving the way for aldehydic notes and crisp cleanliness across the board. The ever-eternal colognes of the Mediterranean have made an unexpected comeback across the Middle East as sanitization products, reintroducing citrus-based freshness as a hygienic solution. Mike Wu, General Manager of AromaTech noticed that sales of specific home freshening scents surged, no doubt a nod to their antibacterial properties. “Eucalyptus and peppermint essential oils were our tenth best sellers, but when Covid-19 happened, we saw those numbers jump up. Eucalyptus became the second top seller,” Wu revealed.

cK Everyone
cK Everyone
Calvin Klein

A clean watery citrus reincarnation of a 90’s classic, relevant to The Now
Tacit Aesop

The 2015 Aesop revisit of the classic Mediterranean cologne with Tacit, crisper than ever!
Pure Grace
Pure Grace

Vintage soap and water smell designed to replicate the sensation of stepping out of a clean shower

TrendSpotting #2 - Salty is the new Sweet

As salt made its way as a hero ingredient to our desserts (Salted Caramel, anyone?), we are observing a similar trend with sweet, gourmand notes in perfumery.

A staple for the ‘Me Generation’, extroverted gourmand notes have dominated the palette, with edible Nutella notes in Mugler’s Angel Muse or candied chocolate in Carolina Herrera’s Good Girl. Crowd pleasers, indeed! But overnight, these notes became unbearable by nature. Too sweet, too sticky, too strong, incompatible with our craving for gentleness and care.

Yosh Han, Founder of Eau de Yosh and Creative Director of Scent Trunk, agrees with this shift. “I’m also seeing the oceanic salt trend happening with the addition of wood notes,” she tells us. “These types of modern fragrances do not follow traditional pyramid structures, but rather offer new gender-fluid categories that are cross-cultural and even futuristic. There is a kind of supernatural vibe happening and even a push towards galactic scents.“

Recent launches treat the topic of salt and salted sweetness with intriguing, subtle facets: nomadic island beach vibes with coconut waters, tasty succulents, dry woods and peeled lime… they all shine a light on this purifying mineral concept.

Salt Ellis Brooklyn
Ellis Brooklyn

Salt, sand, and ambergris: a 2020 ode to a refreshing walk on the beach
Arizona Bloom
Arizona Bloom
Floral Street

Arid sensations on wrapped in salted musk, Arizona Bloom evokes a nomadic sense of freedom
Tudo Azul
Tudo Azul
Anima Vinci

The aquatic 2018 scent suits today’s mood, with sea salt and rum citrus on a bed of dry ambery woods

TrendSpotting #3 - Comfort Me

Comfort and nostalgia have always an undercurrent in fragrance development, as we often tap into our memories to choose the scents we love. However, the current crisis has accelerated the yearning for touch, human connection, and scents that remind of softer, gentler times.

As our self-care needs grow, so does our gravitation towards the familiar, sentimental, and intimate. Talcum powder and heliotrope, musky second-skin shawls, are expressions of such facets, which will continue to bring reassurance as we spray ourselves with an invisible armor of snugness each day.

La Nuit Tresor
La Nuit Tresor, Nude

An extroverted scent redesigned to be worn at home; sweet skin sensations
Narciso Eau de Parfum Ambrée
Narciso Eau de Parfum Ambrée
Narciso Rodriguez

A soft “Vamber” fragrance resting on a bed of powdery musks and cashmeran softness
You Glossier

The smell of skin; a fragrance without a top note that recalls the feeling of a warm embrace

ScentSpotting #4 – Minimalistic Naturality & Wellness

From our indoor sanctuaries, we daydream of being outdoors and spending time with the ones we love. We crave… simplicity!

With the “Less is More” approach, gone are the days of overt opulence. We welcome freshly picked florals, the beauty of a single, herbaceous lavender sprig, the effervescence of a mandarin peel.

In an extreme interpretation of this trend, French Brand 100BON is attempting to create a new kind of perfumery, designed to make you feel good around concepts such as “Aromachology” and “wellbeing through perfume”.

Springtime in a Park
Springtime in a Park
Martin Margiela Replica

Floral simplicity in a blooming, green city park, nature in a bottle
Moment Présent
Moment Présent

A “mindcare” fragrance designed to ground in the present moment and sooth the spirit with natural essences
Florence Blossom
Florence Blossom
Roberto Cavalli

A 2020 limited edition, celebrating the freshness of Tuscany gardens, fresh florals and sparkling fruit

The courage to remain (olfactively) relevant

New challenges bring complexity, yet also opportunity. Yosh Han summarizes the olfactive era we are living in with simplicity and brio, describing the youth’s influence on us all. “The young ones want to smell how they feel. This will have a major impact on fragrance purchase and creation. It is really exciting.”

Never have we seen such shifting grounds in such a short time. With clean, salty, comforting and minimalistic fragrances taking over e-commerce sales at this time, the top performing perfumes, candles and scented cleaning products have a new face.

No one can predict with absolute certainty what will create a successful olfactive story on the market, however, adapting to consumer need states, culture and circumstances will continue to bear fruit for sustained relevancy.

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