He doesn’t see Firmenich entering the psychoactive molecules market quite yet – cutting-edge brands are currently working with CBD, LSD and micro-dose MDMA diffusers. But he does see advances in fragrance technology, dispersal and manufacture of synthetic scent molecules themselves – a Firmenich predecessor, Lavoslav Ružička, after all, won a Nobel prize for chemistry – as a way to stimulate the natural highs that can be released in our brain – oxytocin, serotonin, dopamine – when it senses a particular smell that triggers an equivalent feel-good memory. And it’s here that he feels that fragrance can come into its own: in the areas of wellness, wellbeing, and crucially, self-care. ‘We associate fragrance with romance, love, sex, but it has a growing role to play in making us feel better, sleep better, care more holistically for ourselves.’
And he isn’t wrong. The wellness and self-care market is estimated to be worth a cool £1.2 trillion ($1.5 trillion, €1.4 trillion), according to McKinsey & Co, while the global sleep economy – one of the fastest-growing areas in the self-care wellness category – could be worth £488bn ($585bn, €551bn) by 2024 (source: Statista).
He sees Gen Z consumers as key drivers of these categories. ‘They understand the role of smell, of scent as part of a self-care routine. And they tend to experiment more with smell generally in terms of both understanding the functional and wellbeing dimension of a fragrance product and the way they interact with it.’
This, he tells me, is where things get more personal, bespoke, potentially mimicking the DNA of each customer so that the fragrance they apply, or the aroma of the room they disperse it in, becomes unique to them and their mood – energetic, sleepy, calm, meditative, even a deep work state. ‘It is the beginning of a new journey of fragrance, and the creation of whole new categories. But not just in terms of consumer types, but in terms of consumer needs and life stages.
‘Wellbeing and self-care are big words, big topics, but once you start looking at specific consumer groups and asking how a teenager is different from a menopausal woman you can really get into a more targeted way of designing to their benefits and to their needs and use fragrances to do that. It’s a brave new world.’
It is, and you can hear Matteo’s insightful take on it by listening to my latest Back to the F**kture podcast below.
You can also find out more about Matteo and the extraordinary work of the Firmenich team here.