The Paradigm Shift in Natural Essences

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The Paradigm Shift in Natural Essences

"In a time of drastic change, it is the learners who inherit the future. The learned usually find themselves equipped to live in a world that no longer exists.” Eric Hoffer

It was Thomas Kuhn who first defined the term “paradigm shift” as the phenomenon where one conceptual worldview is replaced by another. In other words, it describes a major shift from one way of thinking to another– a transformation that doesn’t “just happen” but is driven by Agents of Change.

Anyone carefully examining the significance of our current market dynamics should reasonably conclude that the market for natural essences, such as natural perfumes and natural essential oils, is certainly in the midst of a transformation, suggesting a paradigm shift could indeed be
well underway.

And what are the Agents of Change for natural essences?

The first Agent of Change involves retailers and consumers increasingly looking for assurances regarding environmental sustainability and social responsibility in the practices employed in the production and handling of natural essences. As with many other products, they want to purchase natural essences they can trust and have confidence in.

The second Agent of Change is the fact that the pandemic has focused consumers on their health and wellbeing at transformational levels, noticeably affecting consumer purchasing behaviors. This shift has created unprecedented potential opportunities for natural products, such as natural perfumes and natural essential oils, to attract millions of new consumers who are becoming more aware of and very receptive to the many benefits for their wellbeing from sustainable natural perfumes and natural essences for aromatherapy.

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Regardless of whether we call it a paradigm shift or a market transformation, there have been profound changes creating opportunities as never before:

  • Every 1% shift from the $40 billion worldwide sales of synthetic perfume to natural perfume represents $400 million in new natural perfume sales.
  • The US retail market for natural essences used for aromatherapy is about $4 billion currently, with two large retail companies holding a 75% market share. The other 25% is divided between other large retailers, such as Amazon and Ebay, natural food stores, and aromatherapists selling high-value natural essences with less than 5% of the market. As other industries have already proven, such as sustainable, brewed coffee (Starbucks) or wine, the high end is where the greatest opportunities are.

Opportunities, however, do not happen automatically, and three factors must be considered before those companies marketing natural essences can truly benefit from these profound changes:

Highest Standards

To gain and keep consumer trust and confidence, those who plan for continued success selling natural essences must commit to having the highest standards possible. Adopting Sustainable Essential Oil Standards (SEOS) is one of the key catalysts propelling us forward towards this paradigm shift.

Highest Quality

No consumer should expect superior performance from natural essences that are not superior products to begin with. Sourcing and purchasing of high-value, sustainable raw materials should be the primary goal of every natural perfumer and natural aromatherapist in achieving future market successes.

Highest Understanding

The quote by Eric Hoffer above highlights the importance of developing superior knowledge and understanding of post-pandemic markets, rather than depending on pre-pandemic market strategies and previous consumer purchasing behaviors that no longer exist. This need for the highest levels of understanding should encourage everyone selling or wishing to sell natural essences to develop market- effective, consumer-centric expertise by re-educating themselves with up-to-date market information.

It should also be part of our understanding that even in today’s current market high-value consumers are still willing to pay significantly more for products that are valuable to them. This understanding is an important key factor for retailers to fulfill their responsibility to insure growers and producers are properly compensated for the work they do in providing high-value, sustainable natural essences to them.

Want to know more about SEOS? Join us at The First International Meeting of Perfume Professions, Tous au Parfum, in Paris on July 1st.

- Terry Johnson

VP International Perfume Foundation and Director,
World Heritage Program,,
SEOS Committee Chairman

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