Unveiled last month after around one-year in development, Scentmate was Firmenich’s latest digital tool designed to empower brand owners on the creation and delivery of fragrances in body care, hair care, air care and other categories.
Users simply connected online and interacted with questionnaires and visuals to build-out scent profiles that matched specific brand needs – suggestions spun out by the Artificial Intelligence (AI) software powering the platform from pre-curated blends designed by expert perfumers with years of knowledge and data access. Interaction with these experts was also possible along the entire creation process, ahead of samples being sent directly to the user, dramatically speeding up a traditionally timely and expensive process.
Empowering the booming small beauty entrepreneurs
“COVID accelerated even further the belief that this industry is transforming,” said Ilaria Resta, president of global perfumery at Firmenich.
“And it’s transforming because, on top of the traditional players – well-established companies in the market – as you know, there are more and more indie brands, small entrepreneurs, that are accessing the market because the digital and e-commerce marketplace gives more room for young entrepreneurs and small companies to be known and distribute their products,” Resta told CosmeticsDesign-Europe.
And this, she said, had given rise to additional development needs – notably scent creation.
“Finding and developing products is not always easy and providing the brief of a fragrance is sometimes complicated because from a basic description it’s very hard to really give a precise brief.”
The Scentmate platform aimed to simplify this process, inspiring users who were not less familiar with fragrance development, she said.
Alfonso Alvarez-Prieto, general manager at Scentmate by Firmenich, said: “When you’re an independent brand or entrepreneur, approaching a fragrance can be a daunting moment; it can feel obscure. We need to say one thing: there are more astronauts than perfumers. It’s a very hard knowledge to acquire. What we want to do is open this up, ensure clients have access to the academy in the platform. We want to share all this passion and culture for fragrance, and that’s a revolution.”
The online tool, Alvarez-Prieto said, had been designed to inspire the user’s imagination and empower them to be “creative and masterful” in building fragrances to suit their brand.
And Resta said the platform had now started to attract the interest of the bigger, more established beauty players too.
“What we discovered is the process actually services a broader base of customers – bigger [companies] interested in a briefing process that is less traditional. Typically, [fragrance briefings] happen in meetings, face to face, smelling ingredients together, and this is still valid and going to happen but there are new ways of doing business and it tends to give broader access to perfumes.”
Augmented fragrance creation – the future digital transformation
Scentmate was part of a “much broader digital transformation at Firmenich”, she said, designed to align with these changing needs amongst big beauty brands, but also the rapidly growing smaller players in the market.
“The intention is to really augment creation through digital. And AI and data can help the creation process, not by replacing the perfumer but augmenting the choice the perfumer has from thousands of ingredients. The combinations can be millions and it’s through these combinations the art and creation takes place. What we’re tyring to do with data is augment this process,” Resta said.
Not only did this empower and inspire new innovations, she said it also enabled existing brands the capacity to quickly reformulate should an ingredient need to be substituted, because of raw material shortages, new regulations or other reasons.
So, did a platform like Scentmate spell the end of a perfumer’s central role in fragrance creation?
“No. Never,” she said. “I think maybe for certain, very simple applications we’ll one day see a perfume created using AI. But of course, AI is backward looking and a reflection of the past reality. It is not surprising consumers. If you look at the best scent creations, they come from discovery. What we tend to do is use AI as an augmenting capability. It will replace humans when it comes to stability of the formula; testing of the formula with consumers but never ever will we see the perfumer disappear,” Resta said.