Interview with Nadia Geyken, Perfumer at Givaudan

Nadia Geyken
Perfumer at Givaudan

In the second issue of the soap boiler newspaper from 1874 (today our SOFW Journal), it reads: Smells set the olfactory nerves in motion in just as specific tonal levels as sounds set the auditory nerves in motion.

You are writing: …perfume is ‘music for the nose’. Today we want that music to keep on playing. How do you approach this claim? 

I resonate deeply with the analogy of perfume being ‘music for the nose’. Just like music, fragrance has the power to evoke emotions and create a sensory experience. My approach is to craft fragrances that tell a story, using a harmonious blend of notes to create a composition that lingers and leaves a memorable impression just like a catchy tune. Consumers want their fragrance to last longer. Givaudan has developed new ingredients and technologies answering this. One of this innovation is Scentaurus™ Vanilla, a fragrance precursor naturally activated by oxygen in the air, slowly releasing a sweet and powdery vanilla note for weeks! It provides consumers with a long lasting freshness and keeps this sweet music for the nose playing!

Music creates emotions. How important is emotion for cosmetic products? And what role does fragrance play?

The sense of smell is the only one of our senses that is directly connected to the amygdala, the part of the brain that is responsible for memories and emotions. A perfume in a consumer product will therefore already simply create emotions.  

Emotion is a crucial element in the cosmetic industry. Fragrance, in particular, plays a pivotal role as it has the ability to evoke specific emotions and enhance the overall product experience. A well-crafted scent not only contributes to the product’s identity but also establishes a deeper connection with the consumer, making the cosmetic experience more memorable and enjoyable.

Consumer products seamlessly integrate into our homes.
A detergent or fabric softener, for instance, transforms a mundane task into a delightful experience. Picture the tranquility as you slip into bed, enveloped in the soothing fragrance of freshly washed linens or the comforting embrace of a newly laundered towel. 

Even as you go about your daily chores, the aromatic or citrus notes in cleaning products elevate the experience, infusing each task with a pleasant aura and evoking positive emotions.

Consider the ritual of applyinga deodorant – a simple act that goes beyond the practical. The fragrance, carefully chosen and applied before stepping out, not only provides a shield against odor but also serves as a reassuring touchpoint. It’s a subtle declaration, a personal signature that accompanies you throughout the day. In these moments, fragrance becomes an integral part of our daily lives, influencing our emotions and enhancing our overall well-being.

Music is very diverse, and the proverb says: What is the owl for one, is the nightingale for the other. How do you tackle the various tastes?

Indeed, diversity in preferences is a challenge and an opportunity. I address the diversity of tastes by adapting my creations to the specific country or region where the product is intended for sale. This involves a thorough analysis of imprinting smells, cuisine, nature, temperature, and cultural habits unique to that location. However, when dealing with a global launch, the challenge becomes more intricate. In such cases, I identify olfactive directions for each category that are more classical and have a broader appeal. Additionally, I keep a keen eye on trends in other artistic realms, such as fashion and the food industry, for inspiration. This ensures that my fragrances not only align with contemporary olfactive preferences but also reflect the broader cultural and artistic zeitgeist, creating a product that resonates with a diverse global audience. Universally liked smells are quite rare but vanilla is one of them: it embodies softness worldwide! Having
Scentaurus™ Vanilla in our palette is a great asset to provide a long-lasting freshness, loved by consumers all around the world, in their daily products.

Another emotional topic is sustainability and natural. How do you face these challenges?

Sustainability is a top priority in today’s world. I am using more and more ethically sourced and environmentally friendly ingredients in my formulations, thanks to our constantly evolving palette. We’re on the right path to our 100% biodegradable palette by 2030. That’s a strong ambition as our company activity requires a supply of more than 10 000 raw materials. Additionally, I explore innovative and sustainable practices in the fragrance creation process. By aligning with the growing demand for natural and eco-friendly products, I contribute to the industry’s sustainable future.

What is our future outlook for the fragrance industry?

The fragrance industry is poised for exciting developments. As consumers become more conscious of ingredients, sustainability, and unique experiences, there is a growing demand for innovative and eco-friendly fragrances. We are currently witnessing a heightened level of communication about perfumes, their ingredients, and the sense of smell. This increased dialogue not only makes consumers more conscious but also intrigues and sparks curiosity, leading to a greater depth of knowledge and love for the world of perfumery. Furthermore, the recent global experience of the COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the importance of the sense of smell. With approximately 80% of what we eat being influenced by our ability to smell, the temporary loss of this sense during illness has made many people realize its significance. This heightened awareness underscores the profound impact that fragrances can have on our well-being, making them an integral part of our daily lives. 

I anticipate continued exploration of new scent profiles, enhanced technological advancements in fragrance creation, and a heightened focus on sustainable practices to shape the future of our industry.

Published in SOFW Journal 3-2024.

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