Perfume Packaging Does So Much More These Days

Innovative applications, eco-friendly materials, startling sample packs, and unusual sprays emerge to address consumer trends driven by sustainability, generational shifts, and the continued digital revolution.

Pascale Gauthier, Pharmacist PhD

December 17, 2020

12 Min Read
Photo credit: alexugalek –

Perfume, an emblematic product of the beauty world, is constantly reinventing itself to multiply innovations that delight us. Imagination remains essential for this beauty segment in constant progression, as evidenced by the figures. For 2019, the world of beauty amounted 220 billion Euros posted growth of 5.0% compared to 2018, (5.5% growth in 2017) with more than 11% devoted to fragrances. For 2018, total fragrances amount to $50.98 billion with 2.4% growth compared to 2017. Ten years ago, in 2009, the total fragrance rose 3.8% vs. 2008 to $36.63 billion.

This overall growth in the beauty world owes a lot to the development of the luxury sector (+11% of sales in 2017), sales in Asia (+ 10% of 2017 sales), ecommerce (+ 25% of 2017 sales), and travel-retail (+ 22% of 2017 sales). Since 2018, the world perfume market amounted to C with projections for the first half of 2019 that lead to double this market value in the next four years! [1,2]

figure 1 summarize P.Gauthier perfume what else-web.jpg

Packaging, a fundamental asset for the beauty universe, plays an essential role in the recognition of a brand or cosmetic product. Indeed, for cosmetics, packaging’s marketing value largely exceeds its primary function of product protection. This marketing impact of the pack — evaluated at 82% for all industry sectors — increases to 92% in the cosmetic universe. The high percentage is partially attributed to the specific effect of the materials used (48% innovation lever for cosmetics) and the wording associated with packaging (20% innovation lever for cosmetics). [3,4]

For perfumes, the bottle remains an unavoidable sign of recognition of a well-known fragrance. But new products have arrived. Recognized stars who have always been associated with fragrances now have competition from new celebrities and their “tailor-made creations” for brands and products.

Now, traditional perfume bottles coexist with packages in sometimes very unusual shapes, blurring boundaries between established and novel universes. In any case, technique and materials must follow the imagination of the creators! (See Figure 2)

figure 2 P.Gauthier perfume what else-web.jpg


Innovation in packaging includes shapes and materials, with this inescapable idea of eco-sustainability, which is also shared for formulations.


Amazing applications.

For perfume packaging, the spray remains a major element that will modify the physical characteristics of the product. By dissociating the particles, it widens the application surface, and immediately offers new sensations to the user.

A spray will transform the product and corresponds to an efficient and innovative sector: Pumps and aerosols (with or without the addition of gas) are always reinventing themselves. [5,6] Wider, longer, or more aerial, the spray can form a mist to envelop the user and create new perfume products — such as hair mists — that complement and enrich the offers of brands. These new products tempt the user much more (see Figure 3). [7,8,9]

Larger or finer sprays can change the product sensation. Here’s an example: Dolce, a patented innovation, uses a new generation of insert, which replaces a single route with multiples channels that have micron precision). This design allows a specific softness of the spray. For perfume, the user can choose how long and intense the fragrance will be, depending on the amount of pressure on the actuator. [10]

Innovation is also in the application: The “codex of gestures” is superb ethnological work around spray and the terminologies attached to it, often as a play on words. Application gestures are reinvented and simple movements are made fun. [11] Sprays are easy and quick to apply in one gesture, and often enlarge the application surface. Fragrance universes remain a specific one, with an idea of mystery that should be preserved and might be something as simple as dip tubes made invisible in bottles with new shapes.

figure 3 P.Gauthier Perfume what else-web.jpg

This great mastery of the manufacturing technique sometimes means modifying materials to address eco-design, which is so important for consumers and brands. [12] Sometimes, this is not an easy challenge — replacing an internal metal component of a pump with a plastic part, for example. Brands should avoid mistakes in technical performances, keeping any issues invisible to the user.

The revolution is also on eco-formulations with the arrival of water-based perfumes that sometimes require micro-encapsulation to preserve the fragrances. For these products, pumps might need adaptation! In short, technical marvels are most often ignored by consumers. Fortunately, multiple competitions highlight great developments of manufacturers. [13]


Alternative applications.

Societal evolution is also a recognized driver of innovation. For example, nomadism will generate sprays of small sizes to slip into the bag; miniaturization and diversity are essential. Millennials, sometimes with a tighter budget, will often opt for small formats, even if it means testing more products. This is a way for all brands to propose new products and reinvent their users.

For perfume, a ritual has developed with the “do-it-yourself” trend for the layering of scents. Consequently, pumps have been adapted to deliver very small volumes — here again, a beautiful technical challenge for packaging. [12,14]

However, despite their diversity, sprays are no longer the only packaging for perfumes. In addition to bottles, the imagination offers alternatives to the usual application of a scent.

So close to the skin, the perfume can calligraphy sweet words; the fragrance becomes gel and takes shape, thanks to pens, and applies with a roller. Numerous beautiful new formulations can be associated with small nomadic packaging to slip into your go-bag. The cushion, a pack system arrived from Asia 10 years ago (acclaimed in the makeup department), appears in the perfume sector, for an elegant application and a simple gesture — once again, perfectly nomadic (see Figure 4). [3,5,15] And one more gift has been created: a perfume link printed with fragrance … a new kind of sophisticated jewel. [16]

figure 4 P.Gauthier perfume what else-web.jpg


Startling samples.

Sampling, an unavoidable partner in the perfume sphere, has also undergone revolution. The miniature (often collected) remains essential; completed with simple tubes, produced on demand (for a rapid test), and finally miniaturized to the extreme, the spray is also available in single-dose in a “sampling magazine.” Sensory marketing, according to a Rockefeller University study, relies on olfactory memory (35%), which is much better than that of other senses — 5% for visual, 2% for hearing, 1% for touch [18]

The perfume vaporized or impregnated on an object (such as a ribbon, ceramic, or jewel) enhances the “gift” nature of the free sample. [20,21,22,23] (See Figure 4.) In the act of taking care of their consumers, companies recreate the brands’ universe with boxes with cutouts/embossments and bring to light new rituals that connect fragrances with memory


Digital delights.

“Digital,” omnipresent in daily life, also integrates into the perfume universe. Of course, the internet will allow brands to promote products and increase sales. It also, and above all, communicates differently around perfumes. A tag associated with a sample will help consumers discover and understand a fragrance, especially when it’s associated to a full-story telling (see Figure 5). [17] Expanding the universe of possibilities is one of the great strengths of the digital world, allowing, with a single click, someone to learn everything with disconcerting ease. But beware! It is a delicate balance of revealing while preserving the mystery inherent in the world of perfume and luxury.

Digital and promotion: The marketing power of social networks is no longer in question. For perfumes, brands are multiplying their offers, revealing more and more imagination to reinvent systems. Installing and using Olfaplay, the app of large perfume house Guerlain, on your smartphone allows everyone to record an olfactory memory. [22] Smell, feel, and sometimes even recreate …

One more example can be given from 2019, during the Saint Etienne Design Biennial, where “Resurrecting the sublime” promises to immerse you in the scent of lost flowers, species extinct because of colonial activity. [24] This scientific and artistic collaboration extracted DNA from herbaria at Harvard University, and has enabled researchers to re-synthesize the gene sequences of the enzymes that produce perfumes. Then, it was possible to reconstruct the scents of the missing flowers, using identical odor molecules. Shining proof that science is beautiful and indeed an art.

figure 5 P.Gauthier perfume what else-web.jpg


In terms of personalization, digital performs in the perfume universe. With simple capsules, as desired, a small machine allows everyone to prepare their fragrance in the moment (see Figure 5). [25] In January 2019, at the Computer Electronic Show (CES) in Las Vegas, a company presented a machine that uses inkjet printing to make scents (spraying droplets from 20 to 30mm). Another new product was a nice little domestic system that diffuses fragrances on demand (voice control, via dedicated application) including lights of different colors. [29]

This idea of diffusing scents was already proposed in 2014, with the “Ophone,” a creation of David Edwards, aiming to send scented SMS (short message service, aka text messages). A dock is connected to a platform incorporating cartridges of scents. This system has remained confidential for the moment, kept in the section of curiosities. [30] Its creator has also worked on perfumes and aromas with WHIF and WAIHH, a series of unusual objects offering a new way of experiencing food: by sucking their odors. Coffee to smell or alcohols to savor differently, for a feeling of drunkenness that avoids the harmful effects of alcohol! (See Figure 5.) [27,28]

Always going further with digital, the Japanese have fitted virtual reality glasses with olfactory cartridges. Intended to reinforce the real effect of the universes proposed in certain video games, the marine, herbaceous odor, can be combined with the vision of the landscape, guaranteeing total immersion (see Figure 5). [26]

More seriously, artificial intelligence enters the world of perfume creation. No, our “noses” do not compete with multiple algorithms. But the digital tool can prove to be a useful complement for a pre-screening, helpful for dispatching relevant fragrance associations.

Partnerships are created between large companies. And young, creative perfumers rely on 21st century tools, in concert with the demands of the public. [31] The large Generation Z (16%) is found in the hyper-personalization of the products, including fragrances manufactured on demand, for a luxury studied at the right price in accordance with their consensual creeds. [32]

In this multitude of ideas supported by the digital wave, time will quickly sort out between pure gadgets and lasting proposals. With ever more technology and imagination, the world of fragrances is reinventing itself, mixing codes and never ceasing to surprise and seduce us, integrating digital as an additional tool for the creation of these unique products that will always make us dream, perfumes … and what else?


Dr. Pascale Gauthier is a pharmacist (D.Pharm) with background research from Auvergne University — Masters in Biopharmaceutical, a specific Master (DEA) in Pharmacokinetics, and a Ph.D. in Pharmaceutical Technology. She is in charge of courses in Auvergne University and is involved with several patents, international publications, and conferences. Her research is focused on modified release forms, pharmaceutical design and categories of users, and digital in the area of health, as well as innovative packaging and formulations in cosmetics. Reach her at [email protected].



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About the Author(s)

Pascale Gauthier

Pharmacist PhD, Auvergne University

Dr. Pascale Gauthier is a pharmacist (D.Pharm) with background research from Auvergne University — Masters in Biopharmaceutical, a specific Master (DEA) in Pharmacokinetics, and a Ph.D. in Pharmaceutical Technology. She is in charge of courses in Auvergne University and is involved with several patents, international publications, and conferences. Her research is focused on modified release forms, pharmaceutical design and categories of users, and digital in the area of health, as well as innovative packaging and formulations in cosmetics. Reach her at [email protected].

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