A cause worth signing for(?)

Image taken from the original posting of the petition

I came across this petition today and I thought it was worth spreading the word. It is in French so I translate here the main body of french text:

Our fragrances are reformulated without any notice in cases of:

- regulation of certain raw materials.

- Modification to be “the flavor of the day. “

- lower the cost of production.

The consumer MUST be informed if the perfume, its evolution , and its wearing (development) have been altered .

Let us demand from the Perfume Industry the appearance of a Formula Number on each bottle of perume

The LVMH case (page 16 Le Monde, Economy , towards the middle of the document, sadly in French and too long to translate )

Excerpts :

“Dior has repatriated the manufacture of perfumes, changing each time their formulation.Other subcontractors in the Perfume industry have suffered in the same way as Givaudan: the latest version of Kenzo Flower is no longer produced by Firmenich , the latest version of Dior Homme is no longer entrusted to IFF and finally , the latest version of Fahrenheit – the first was co-signed by Francois Denachy-is no longer produced by Sumrise.

In all four cases the new scents do not have the same olfactory characteristics  as the previous versions. Even the subcontractors cannot do anything to claim to the authorship of these innovations . “

Reformulation is a big problem for perfume collectors. This article presents large companies as an unlikely ally in this combat for regulating perfume formulas and versions. When a large company looses a cotract the formula changes, the name stays the same, and the company that probably bid the lowest prize has the right to manufacture and cell a different smell under the same name. Who benefits? The label that sells its name and the subcontractor that offers “more for lees (money)”. Of course profit is not always the reason for reformulation. When a perfumer uses natural ingredients it is only expected that the original source of raw materials will dry out and alternative ingredients will have to be used. Sometimes the difference is minimal. Other times it is big. Most perfume houses choose to whistle indifferently and pretend nothing happened or even get defensive as I have recently discovered (scroll to the comments if you are interested). To my knowledge only Le Labo have admitted and justified the reformulation of Patchouli 24 and this is a brave move to the right direction.

It is for you to decide whether to sign this petition or not. I just thought it is an interesting subject and I also found very interesting the article on Le Monde which basically says that big labels have become so greedy that they change the manufacturers of their perfumes without any warning.

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About Christos

Scientifically minded but obsessed with the subjective aspect of things. Photos copyright of MemoryOfScent, with special thanks to Pantelis Makkas http://pantelismakkas.blogspot.com/. You are welcome to link to my blog but you are definitely not allowed to copy text or use the photos without my permission. All text and main photos are originals and property of MemoryOfScent All perfumes are from my collection unless stated otherwise.

5 comments

  1. GeM

    Bravo, Christos! and many thanks to post it!!!

  2. An interesting and complex debate… Part of me thinks, as the writer of the partition has given 4 examples of fragrances they know have changed, what use would such legislation provide, except for giving consumers piece of mind that their senses are indeed attuned to changes in their favourite perfumes. Such a system would be valuable if more than one formula coexisted on the market, but usually a new formula replaces an obsolete one, so consumers are rarely given an option of choosing a preferred formula unless buying second hand, off Ebay or from online discounters. Another question would be how sensitive the legislation would be? If a formula, in a bid to rebalance the scent to it’s original odour (whether it be because of quality fluctuation in natural ingredients, or a change in material supplier), should this also be declared? Or should such a legislation only come into play for major reconstructions, and if so what would be the threshold of change? Looking at other industries, I guess wine connoisseurs are able to select wine based on year- I was recently drinking the same wine from two different years and the difference was remarkable. But in the food industry, food critics are less sensitive if the chef changes a recipe….lol, as long as chicken doesn’t turn up on your plate when you ordered lamb. Hopefully perfume reformulations don’t go to this extreme!

    • These are valid points Clayton. But I think a formula number would make it for labels more difficult to choose a different subcontractor (and different ingredients). They would think twice and perhaps cut down a little of their profits. They would simply have to think twice. Now they go ahead and do it. By the time someone with the ability to tell the difference (what percentage of people buying Fahrenheit do you think can actually tell differences in formulations?) sales are continuing as normal. Then the conversation on reformulation begins. Still sales continue. After all this time some people decide this isn’t what it used to be, some others don’t mind the differences and some (the part that is the main target group of mainstream fragrance marketing) have just switched to a different perfume. If it was up to marketing people no one would ever buy a second bottle of the same bottle. With 1200 releases in 2011 who needs stability? Batch to batch differentiation is one thing (the equivalent to wine vintage) but blatant reformulation is like planting a different variety of grape and trying to come up with the same wine.

      Stimulating conversation as ever!

  3. Yes, it’s a very complex issue. As you say, sales continue as usual under the current system. Those execs with little foresight probably feel, “if sales are not effected, why should we change”. This is also an interesting situation because it brings up the debate of how powerful a voice the perfume blogging community have on these multi national companies. Whilst bloggers only equate to a small percentage (and many bloggers write from samples instead of actually purchasing the product) of revenue on a global scale, it would be interesting to be a fly on the wall of board room meetings where perfume companies discuss the impact they feel bloggers are having on their business. I find it very intriguing that more and more, companies are reducing the amount of information they release to the public. No more pyramids or description of notes. The trend is heading towards a brief description or theme (written by the marketing department) and that is it. When I look at my blog stats I can see a majority of readers find me by search engine using search terms in an attempt to find more information on a perfume (most likely because they are researching a purchase). I know this is what I do before buying any new fragrance. 99% of the time I am relying on information provided by the blogging world, not the brand’s official website. I get the feeling the industry approach is by reducing outgoing information, they reduce risk of misinterpretation by the blogging public- a concern industry insiders have raised in many an interview…. but whether they like it or not, people want to talk and discuss. The more forward thinking companies are more involved in the media, opening their doors to perfume fans, freely sharing information, like your example of Le Labo.

    I am still undecided whether I think the petition’s aim will hugely improve consumers ability to appreciate perfume, but I will be watching with interest! I’ll make the popcorn….

    • I really do not think bloggers have the power to affect sales all that much (yet?). They are on the watch list of marketing but not quite there yet. The majority of people buying mass marketed perfume do not read bloggs. There is “flavour of the month” feeling in mass releases. These perfumes are designed to make a kill in the first 2 minutes a buyer is spending with them when he or she are attacked and sprayed by SA’s.

      For niche companies things are a lot more different. Bloggers are important there and companies know it. So we have witnessed the very annoying fact of seeing a huge number of bloggers reviewing the same perfume, the same week of the year in an effort to barrage blog readers. Which of course in the long run will reduce the prestige of the blogging community.

      In a nut shell, I believe that formula number is what will eventually make the difference between table wine and AOC wine (to return to a very useful analogy). There decent table wines of course, but you have to look hard to find them :)

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