Synthesizing the Future
and trust with the consumer. A 2016 study by Label
Insight3 reports that 73% of consumers are willing to
pay more for a product that communicates transparency, and 94% are likely to be loyal to a brand
committed to full transparency. It seems, then, that
consumers are willing to accept ingredients which
have been synthesized, if there is some transparency
around their inclusion in a product.
Chemicals are Evil?
We can conclude that consumers are wary of not
only chemicals but also the process in which these
chemicals are derived from. A series of experiments
in the 1970s and 80s by Daniel Kahneman (Nobel
Laureate in Economics) showed how people make
judgements under conditions of uncertainty. These
experiments demonstrated that we as humans prefer
to avoid losses over acquiring gains. 4 Apply this to
the public’s perception of the chemical industry and
to the F&F segments in particular, and it becomes
easy to understand why consumers put more weight
on information that suggests something can harm us
over information that suggests that there is no difference between two sources.
The vast majority of consumers have little
understanding of chemicals and chemistry and
simply get confused and concerned by chemi-
cal names. For example, tell someone that their
green tea or blueberries are good for them because
they contain anti-oxidants, then they have an
increased level of confidence that their purchase
of the product is giving them a health benefit. Tell
them instead that they contain polyphenols, and
they may be mildly confused, but as the benefits of
polyphenols become more widely understood and
accepted, then they can overcome that confusion.
One step further: simply tell them that a product
has (2R,3S)-2-( 3,4-dihydroxyphenyl)- 3,4-dihydro-
2H-chromene- 3, 5,7-triol and there is a good chance
they will run a mile claiming that the government is
trying to poison them.
Add this to some of the chemical and chemical
industry-related incidents over the years, such as
Bopal, Flint, Flixborough, Texas City and Toulouse
or the more recent explosion at a fertilizer factory
in West Texas (of which there are some interesting
clips on Youtube), and we can see why consumers
have such a fear of chemicals, and view the chemical
industry as a major polluter and threat to society.
Despite these perceptions, the problem is that we
need chemicals. There have already been numerous
articles in this publication alone about the benefits
that molecules bring to the creative process, so how
do we get around this fear?
Can We Have Another Earth, Please?
While some sections of society think it would be
nice to be able to source everything from a cultivated feedstock and remove synthesized chemicals
completely, we must remember a couple of things.
The consumer, I’m sure, would gladly accept fragrances and flavors created from extracts, distillates,
absolutes and essences of plants that they can easily
identify and connect with. However, if we were to
cover the majority of notes and tastes the perfumer
and flavorist would need, realistically this wouldn’t
be feasible. Firstly, not every material used in the
creation of flavors and fragrances, whether it is
a natural complex substance (NCS) or a distinct
chemical molecule, occurs in nature. Some of the
F- 2. Global resource growth