Seaweed may not be the first ingredient that springs to mind for perfume. But algae are among obscure ingredients to which perfume makers are turning to preserve the scent of their fragrances in the face of new EU anti-allergy restrictions.
The global high end perfume industry, generating $25 billion in annual sales, is readying itself for EU regulations that will come into force in early 2015.
These will ban widely-used ingredients such as oak moss, a natural substance, that was found in the original versions of best-sellers including Chanel’s No.5 and Miss Dior.
Perfume creators say they love oak moss for its woody, earthy notes which give it depth and help make scent last longer. But on the grounds that between one and three percent of the EU population could suffer an allergic reaction - such as dermatitis - Brussels is banning two of its core molecules, atranol and chloroatranol.
Perfume makers will only be allowed to use oak moss from which these two molecules have been removed. The makers say this results in a much lighter and less vigorous scent.
"I am crazy about oak moss, it is one of my favorite ingredients," says Marc-Antoine Corticchiato, perfume creator or "nose" at his niche Parfum d'Empire brand. A 100 ml bottle of scent costs 120 euros.
Corticchiato, like many other "noses," is anxious about the new wave of potentially costly rules emanating from Brussels.
The fragrance industry that supplies perfume makers like Corticchiato already has its own self regulation body - the International Fragrance Association (IFRA) - financed by providers such as Givaudan, New York-listed International Flavors & Fragrances, and Germany’s Symrise. It has imposed restrictions on a growing list of ingredients over the years for various health reasons.
In addition, perfume makers do a lot of their own in-house and post-market surveillance and do their own testing, which can cost several hundred thousands euros a year, depending on the number of products and ingredients involved.
Leading brands such as Chanel, Dior and Hermes have 'noses' and their own research laboratories. They do not publish figures for the costs associated with them but industry experts estimate them to be in the order of several million euros a year.