By Silvia Manzoni. Illustration by Margaret Mitchem for I’M Firenze Digest
“You smell amazing. What is it?”. “A tomato fragrance” – but it may also be cucumber, carrot, watercress or sweet potato. Conversations like this will soon become commonplace as perfumes with plant ingredients are gaining popularity. Perfumers have used vegetable molecules to add unique touches and fresh twists to their fragrances for a long time. Think of the tomato leaf used in 1976 by the great Jean-Claude Ellena for Sisley’s Eau de Campagne or Olivia Giacobetti paying tribute to carrots in Love les Carottes for Honoré des Prés, an eco-friendly, natural perfume brand. However, vegetables are taking centre stage in perfumery today, becoming a main attraction. Even beetroot, celery, basil, and parsley have already been used in perfume formulas, and more are on the way.
The history of vegetables in perfumery
L’Artisan Parfumeur led the way in 2022 with Le Potager (meaning vegetable garden), five unisex Eaux de Parfum fragrances featuring vegetables that hadn’t been used in perfumes before, such as cauliflower or fennel.
Officine Universelle Buly followed this promising trend with a collection dedicated to horticultural aromas. Called Les Jardins Français, it offers six fragrances that bring the scent of edible vegetables to the forefront.
«These vegetables are amazing. We know their taste, but we forget that they also have smells. The scent of the leaves and stems that permeates your hands when you pick or cut them. What if vegetables were the great neglects of perfumery?», said Victoire de Taillac, founder of Officine Buly.
From carrot aromas to 3D fragrances: perfume trend is very fresh
The creators of fine fragrances have been approaching their fellow aroma specialists, the creators of food odours, for a few years now. With its Delight project, aimed at activating pleasure receptors, perfume company Givaudan experimented with fragrances that contained scents of pea or carrot or even the Pisco Sour cocktail. The team worked hard to identify the key facets of pleasure associated with flavours, such as fruitiness, sweetness, juiciness and tanginess, delicate savoury tastes or intoxicating alcoholic notes. These aspects were then translated into new fragrances that evoke other senses beyond smell, including the mouth-watering sense of moreishness.
Arnaud, Senior Flavourist, says: «As a flavourist, I work in a realistic, true-to-life way, while a perfumer works in the world of abstract and interpretation. In our collaboration with Project Delight, we wanted to mix these two strengths and add a realistic touch to our fragrance palette. Meet 3D fragrances with new depths of sensory experience».
Symrise and its platform for vegetable studies
Another giant in fragrance creation, Symrise, has recently launched a new platform called Garden Lab, which is a significant step toward sustainability. The project is dedicated to vegetable studies and explores the world of nature’s fragrances, featuring a vast reservoir of scents that brings consumers closer to nature and expresses all its energies. Artichokes, asparagus, leeks, cauliflowers and onions peep out of perfumers’ baskets, the result of a collaboration with Symrise Diana Food’s nutrition experts. The SymTrap technology makes it possible to extract perfume materials from food waste, allowing Symrise to create a collection of fragrances made from 100% natural raw materials. The company upcycles their products from the food industry and sources raw materials locally while respecting seasonality.
«With its Garden Lab Collection, Symrise is exploring a new range of natural fragrance ingredients. We have created innovative fragrances by combining the best of two seemingly distant worlds in one product: fine fragrances based on aromatic vegetable varieties – adds Jean-Yves Parisot, President of the Nutrition Segment and member of the Executive Board – It allows perfumery to use real vegetables to create fine fragrance for the first time. Artichoke, cauliflower, leek, asparagus and onion meet the increased demand for sustainability as they consist of 100% plant-based materials. They also address the trend towards health and well-being with their natural olfactive appeal. Fresh and intense vegetable essences also meet the increasing demand for plant-based products».
In short, the realm of research in vegetable-based perfumery is wide open. While the first examples of this potential vegetable revolution are already available in stores, new and exciting developments are yet to come. In other words, to find your ideal perfume, you may now want to ask yourself which vegetable you find the most appealing.