14-Oct-2016 Krefeld / Germany
A 60-year-old passion for perfume
From laundry detergents or cleaning products to shower gels and glue sticks: Henkel’s own Fragrance Center in Krefeld has been developing scents and aromas for the company’s products around the world since 1956. Approximately 10,000 tons of perfume oil is produced there each year. It all started 60 years ago – with only around 57 tons annually. Today, the Fragrance Center, which employs about 70 employees including five in-house perfumers, is among the top three perfume oil manufacturers in Germany.
“Scent plays a crucial role in the success of our products,” explains Dr. Anneliese Wilsch-Irrgang, who has been leading the Henkel Fragrance Center in Krefeld since 2011. “People will only purchase them if they smell nice.” The creation of a fragrance is a complex creative process. There are only about a thousand perfumers in the entire world, five of whom work for Henkel. They use over 1,000 natural and synthetic substances to compose scents for laundry detergents, cleaning products, soaps and shampoos.
Persil: Europe’s first scented laundry detergent
Henkel’s in-house production of fragrances started in Mönchengladbach, and really got going in 1956 on the premises of the former Dreiring soap factory in Krefeld – this is where Fa was born. Fragrance development actually began at Henkel for Fa soap, before a milestone was reached a few years later: In 1959, Persil was brought on the market as Europe’s first scented laundry detergent.
What does “clean” smell like?
The challenge for perfume experts is that preferences differ from region to region. Each culture has its own sense of smell. Whilst southern Europeans associate cleanliness with the smell of chlorine, for example, it’s the scent of freshly mown lawns and lemons that achieves the same effect in Germany. Scent preferences are also influenced by the seasons, as well as by social trends: Floral and fruity bouquets are often found in summer editions, and pastel trends in fashion are frequently complemented by light fragrances. Henkel’s perfumers also draw their inspiration from the world of fine perfumery.
The scents additionally have to be long-lasting and pass the test of daily life: After all, the clean, fresh smell of laundry detergent shouldn’t fade away too easily. Application tests for smell and color resistance play a decisive role here: Does the laundry detergent keep its color? What does the product itself smell like? And how do the clean clothes smell after two weeks in the closet? Production of a scent will only begin once it has passed all of these tests and been approved by customers and expert “super-noses”. Only then will a Henkel product be given a new note.