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Acres of Investment: Fragrance Brands' Agricultural Acquisitions

September 13, 2021 Carla Seipp
September 13, 2021
Chanel

It would appear that Chanel is jonesing for jasmine, and understandably so. The flower is the key ingredient to its perfume blockbuster No. 5, but also central to a range of other fragrances in the French house’s portfolio. 1,000 jasmine blossoms go into a single 30 ml bottle of No. 5, making a steady supply of the product indispensable to the house’s fragrance reputation and legacy. As with any earth-grown product, harvest can fluctuate in yield, and as with wine, the terroir can affect the scent of the blossom. Hence why sourcing an ingredient from the same supplier, year in, year out, is a key component to ensuring scent stability for natural ingredients.

“The jasmine of Grasse is probably the most important ingredient of No. 5. It is an ingredient that we’ve had to work hard for since there was a time when it was under threat because jasmine production was starting to move to other countries probably due to real estate pressure and the evolution of society in general. But that’s how in the 1980s we got the idea at Chanel to join forces with [the] farming family to ensure the quantity and continuity of the quality of the jasmine,” Olivier Polge, head perfumer at Chanel, explains in a Reuters reportage.

Chanel already owns 20 hectares of the Mul family’s estate dedicated to exclusively growing the flowers used in its fragrances. Now the luxury group has purchased an additional 10 hectares. Its C-Suite executives are unlikely to be a helping hand in the harvest any time soon, but it does show the larger-reaching economic effect a brand can have with such an exclusive partnership, and ensuring that the hand (moisturized with No. 5-scented hand cream, naturellement) that feeds you is appropriately secured. Another French maison, Dior, also has its own exclusive fields used for growing its jasmine, the Domaine de Manon estate just outside of Grasse.

Such exclusivity—which also comes in the synthetic form of captives, or aroma molecules only available to the specific company that buys access to them—not only makes for bragging rights, but also ensures a whiff of individuality in an oversaturated market. While the price of such business transactions remains undisclosed, it is a luxury that only a few fragrance houses (with the heft of conglomerate investment) can afford. However, true alchemy happens at the hands of the perfumer, so those using widely available absolutes and essential oils need not despair: your ingredients are only as strong as the magical formula you create with it.

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