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Link: Essential oils fuel a global natural mega-trend | PCM
By: Düllberg Konzentra
In our fast-paced world there is one megatrend that has dominated for well over a decade. No other trend can even start to compete with ‘naturalness’.
This concept has taken hold of the food industry and the cosmetics industry; the construction industry has a new focus on more naturalness and fashion has gone organic. Cosmetics, personal care and the health industries are key drivers in this development and are busy creating a constant stream of new products. Nature not only serves as a wellspring of inspiration, it is also the ideal source in every respect: the raw materials are renewable, many have a proven efficacy – and enjoy a very positive image among consumers.
Essential oils are a key component which allows businesses and brands to persuasively demonstrate their commitment to this trend. As purely natural products, essential oils are obtained from plants: from roots, leaves, bark, wood, resin, peel, flowers or seeds. Appealing as this advantage is, it can also leave suppliers facing considerable challenges, as the quality of natural raw materials depends on a wide range of different factors.
Essential oils: a complex topic
Over 100 plant families and roughly 2000 sub-species deliver the essences that are commonly and collectively known as essential oils. Despite the name, they are not oily: these compounds consist of highly volatile, liquid hydrocarbons that evaporate without residue; they are lighter than water, meaning that they cannot be diluted with water, but will mix easily with alcohol or fats.
The downside of naturalness is a combination of complexity and coincidence. Essential oils are highly variable in their composition. They consist of a multitude of organic compounds; a single essential oil can contain anything up to 100 individual components, including terpenes, aldehydes, acids, esters and hydrocarbons. Each of these components contributes to the unique smell and the quality of the essential oil. The quantity and quality of these compounds in the essential oil depends on many different factors: the conditions in which the plant grew, including the climate, altitude, amount of sunlight and when it was harvested. The composition can even vary depending on the season or the time of day. There is no doubt about it: essential oils are a complex topic.
They are a topic that Düllberg Konzentra has devoted itself to for more than 60 years. Only if one focuses completely on quality can you serve trends lastingly and credibly.
Using the company’s in-house distillation unit the products can be standardised, e.g. harvest-related fluctuations can be balanced and specially tailored to the customer’s specifications, thus always achieving the highest possible natural quality.
At the factory in Hamburg the ingredients are subject to stringent processes and meticulous analyses. Prior to processing and standardisation, all raw materials are first subjected to olfactory testing. Using a combination of enantioselective gas chromatography and mass spectroscopy the identity of the oil, its quality, purity and stability can be precisely defined. Based on so-called peaks, which are recorded by the computer at different times, the process also provides a precise image of the proportions of the components present in the essential oil – even down to the minutest traces.
If required the essential oil can be purified in an advanced distillation unit, and unwanted components can be skimmed off during vaporisation. This process is complex and time-consuming, as the highly sensitive compounds in essential oils can easily be destroyed if exposed to heat. For example, removing terpenes from orange oil or mint oil makes the oil smell ‘better’ and more intensive. These methods are used to produce natural qualities for personal care and for the pharmaceuticals industry.
The majority of consumers are familiar with essential oils mainly because of their specific therapeutic effects: tea tree oil disinfects, eucalyptus oil loosens phlegm, rosemary stimulates the circulation. Numerous effects and benefits of traditional plant-derived medicines have been clinically proven and are extensively described in the literature. Old favourites are being rediscovered. Lavender, the scent of grandmothers and aunts, has not only come back into style in new perfumery interpretations, it is also used as a soothing ingredient in various therapeutic products.
Düllberg Konzentra’s essential oils are used in cosmetic and skin care products, in the wellness and spa segment, in the food industry, in oral care and in OTC products such as cough lozenges, creams or medicinal baths. The pharmaceutical industry is another important client thanks to the company’s comprehensive collection of EU-GMP certified oils. New product fields are constantly opening up, as natural raw materials have been used for centuries, if not millennia, for beauty, body care and health products all around the world.
Inspiration from around the globe
It is important to look beyond local borders and be inspired not only by indigenous species. Aromatic herbs, spice oils and exotic plant-derived compounds are products that are firmly anchored in the culture and the minds of people in the Middle East and Asia, with applications ranging from cookery to body care and traditional medicine. This strong tradition is also reflected in modern, high-quality natural cosmetics.
The traditions of Ayurveda and TCM are still very much alive in modern, high-quality natural cosmetics; essential oils are celebrated. Refreshing lemongrass, mood enhancing jasmine, soothing sandalwood: these products are very consciously used here in skin care preparations. The reasons for this are twofold: both aromatherapeutic and perfumery aspects play a key role – which are key strengths for essential oils.
Essential oils have always been a key ingredient in perfumery, as synthetic fragrance components were not developed until the end of the 19th century. Today’s consumers increasingly want their body care products to be formulated with natural ingredients, because these also sensuously win over the organ that has the final say in the purchase decision: the nose. It is here that suppliers like Düllberg Konzentra can make a true mark.
Fragrances: a natural stage for essential oils
By using scent, producers can immediately communicate the positive characteristics of their products and can set themselves apart from the competition – something that does not apply exclusively to natural cosmetics. It is therefore important that an ingredient supplier in this field can offer not only the latest technology but also creativity that is equally advanced.
Classic choices for perfume compositions remain essential oils from flowers such as rose, jasmine and lavender, from citrus fruit such as bergamot and orange, from woods like sandalwood, and cedar, from spices like anise and myrrh, from the roots of vetiver, the needles of conifer trees or the berries of the juniper bush.
Thanks to the company’s expertise in perfumery, Düllberg Konzentra has been able to take a step further and has developed the company’s own Natura collection of perfume oil compositions made of 100% natural ingredients. Clearly identifiable, recognisable scents, like mandarin or rose, play a role, as do more complex compositions that are based on popular fine perfumery or are inspired by classic accords such as chypre, amber or fougère.
The company’s experience in the Middle East is also influencing its perfumery offerings. One perfume style that has a very strong potential to become a lasting trend is ‘Modern Oriental’: here, exclusive Oriental-style accords, such as oud, sandalwood, saffron, vetiver and vanilla, with floral notes, e.g. white blossoms or modern, fruity nuances are combined.
Identifying new trends at an early point
Even with complex processes and modern technology, the magic of essential oils can still shine bright. So where is the potential for these costly, sensuous and effective compounds today? The likely answer is that it is to be found in a combination of the mainstream and major global trends, but equally in the niche.
Fifteen years ago, naturalness was on the fringes of society, now it is firmly in the mainstream. As well as classic beauty and body care products, it is vital to continue to keep a close eye on new niches. For example, there are many exciting aromatherapy applications and products: moist, hot cloths which are popular in Asia, sniffboxes with blossoms, pillow sprays to add a gentle, soothing fragrance to pillows, essential oils as a fragrant ingredient in massage oils or ‘spa at home’ products. There is much potential out there just waiting to be opened up.
In a day and age defined by the fine divide between work-life balance, with people increasingly becoming conscious of the need to attain a state of wellbeing, the appeal of nature is set to accompany us for a long time. Düllberg Konzentra are very aware of the marketing effect of natural ingredients and essential oils. The opportunities for manufacturers of natural cosmetics and conventional products are vast, and the company is in a position to provide valuable support.
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