Keith Kelsen’s Scent Narrative: Business is Hacking Health & Wellness with Scent

Hacking health & wellness is an essential part of life and Scent plays a major role. Now, Big Business is beginning to invest and innovate new uses of Scent to meet the global demand for health & wellness.  The term “hacking” in this case means intelligent shortcuts that anyone can use to improve their life and the life of those around them.

As we have discussed in previous “Scent Narratives”, our sense of smell is the most unappreciated and powerful sense that we have.  In being our best, we all know that our wellness is essential. Understanding how people’s behaviors and trends are forming gives us a better idea where we are headed into the future of preventative health practices and wellness.

The health and wellness lifestyle is now mainstream and it is continually evolving…Hyper-aware, internet-savvy consumers are scrutinizing ingredients and labels as their demand for healthier food, beverage and beauty products rapidly escalates…“healthy” with claims like “natural,” “organic,” “free-of,” and “non-GMO” are tapping into consumers’ health and wellness concerns”.  Amy Marks-McGee,  founder of Trendincite, specializing in fragrance marketing.

Big Business is catching on.  As we know, Scent has a few thousand years of experience in disseminating health benefits through aromatherapy. As consumer-driven trends gain a stronger health conscience, the Scent industry is responding with healthier and sustainable products and solutions.


The move towards health & wellness is a global event.  Consumers in both developed and developing countries are beginning to demand healthier environments and products. Using economics as an indicator, we are seeing the values shifting as more and more Scent is being used in many areas of life. The core of Scent products is essential oils, usually derived from natural plant-based sources.

The global essential oil market size exceeded $6B USD in 2015. Increasing applications in aromatherapy coupled with rising demand is expected to drive market growth (through 2025). These naturally derived oils have no detrimental side effect unlike most conventional drugs and medicines, which is a major driving factor for the essential oil market. Growing consumer preference for natural products has led to the development of innovative applications. Essential oils are also widely utilized in cleaning & home products owing to their superior antibacterial and antiseptic properties.

Rising demand in numerous applications owing to antidepressant, diuretic, anti-inflammatory, aphrodisiac and antiseptic properties, is expected to boost the orange oil demand in upcoming years. The essential oil market is expected to witness tremendous growth over the forecast period with the introduction of natural and genuine products which are produced using bare essential oils. Increasing desire to benefit from naturally sourced products backed by high purchasing power and growing consumer awareness will positively impact the demand for products derived from essential oils.”[1]

The drive to “natural” is growing at an incredible rate.  According to Kline & Co’s most recent report, the natural beauty and personal care market represented $36B USD in 2015 in manufacturer sales alone. Overall, retailers and experts believe it is growing at 20%. All economic roads lead to massive growth as natural merges in meaning with health & wellness.


Consumers are self-advocating on a global scale, doing personal research on the web at an unprecedented rate. Searching for healthy alternatives to everything in their life from food to stress mitigation, they are becoming very knowledgeable in the properties of Scent.  As discussed in early Scent Narratives, research shows Scent can help lower stress levels, improve mental and physical performance, ease pain, cure insomnia, be used in PTSD treatment, help diagnose diseases like Alzheimer’s and even help us lose weight.

In diagnosis, Dr. Richard Doty invented UPSIT, (University of Pennsylvania Smell Identification Test) which has been effectively used as a self-examination test in the diagnosis of many diseases including Parkinson’s Disease and Alzheimer’s with over a half a million patients.  The University of Pennsylvania Smell and Taste Center, founded in 1980, encompasses the Medical School’s Smell and Taste Center and the first NIH-funded Clinical Research Center devoted to the senses of taste and smell, achieving worldwide prominence for both its research and clinical activities. Scent is becoming a major competitor to traditional and sometimes unhealthy medical practices.


Opioids are now acknowledged as the “gateway” to the Heroin epidemic.  For example, due to the recent awareness of opioid addictions, Physicians are looking for ways to use less pain medication. Doctors at NYU Medical Center exposed patients undergoing a laparoscopic gastric bypass to lavender oil (applied to the anesthesiology face masks they wore during surgery). Those patients required substantially less morphine and needed fewer analgesics afterward.  This could revolutionize pain medication and help to stop the epidemic of opioid addiction that plagues the country.


Major manufacturers like Unilever, Firmenich, and IFF are looking to natural ingredients and overall sustainability to create new products for this booming market in health & wellness.   Fragrances are being sourced from organic and healthfully produced materials.  Innovation and knowledge are shaping an industry that is a departure from traditional pharmaceuticals and methodologies, all driven by globally aware consumers.

Takasago International Corp and Firmenich have invested in and partnered with Uganda and Madagascar vanilla farmers. Unilever has an aggressive sustainable sourcing program and by 2020, the company plans to source 100% of their agricultural raw materials sustainably. Last year, IFF created PuraVita, the first-ever Cradle to Cradle certified fragrance.” Amy Marks-McGee 


Consumer awareness is promoting the innovation of many new products.  The latest in the development of healthy Scent has been in the field of adaptogens, literally helping humans “adapt” to the present stress-filled environment.  An adaptogen is a pharmacological concept that results in the stabilization of physiological processes to promote homeostasis. For example, inhaled Volatile Oil Content has been proven to decrease cellular sensitivity to stress. According to researcher and author, Agatha Noveille , they are aromatic “nervines” that sooth, calm and stabilize an individual.  Adaptogenic herbs have been used for thousands of years in ancient healing practices like Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Health & wellness solutions will hyper-evolve, as both consumers and manufacturers embrace healthy lifestyles. Mintel reported that almost half Americans surveyed are taking proactive measures to lead healthier lifestyles, including a focus on relaxation (49%), maintaining a work/life balance (48%) and focusing on mental health (43%). Scent can play a major role in all these areas. Scent has been trending higher in the last five years on Google search. Brands that authentically deliver health & wellbeing results will succeed. Consumers are savvy, have unlimited access to information and take to social media when they are misled. They demand value, benefits, and results, so brands must deliver or be disrupted by the brands that do.

[1] Grandview Research Essential Oil Market Analysis by Product, by Application And Segment Forecasts To 2024 Published: August 2016

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