Olfaction is the most primitive evolutionary sense because is linked to the limbic system, our brain area that control and regulates our memories and emotions. Having such strong emotional bonds, odours have a great influence on brand positioning and remembrance, and determine the acceptance or rejection of commercial goods. Aromas are of extreme importance in cosmetic products and fast-moving consumer goods, and constitute a fundamental part of the marketing and sales strategies of many companies in these sectors.
An odour is usually composed of up to hundreds of volatile compounds primarily of organic nature (VOCs) that, when released by products and materials, cause an olfactory sensation. It is important to bear in mind that the human nose is very sensitive and can detect these compounds at very low concentrations, even below the detection limits of current analytical techniques. A wide range of methods are used nowadays that allow the characterization of odours, both for the identification of its chemical components and for the interpretation of the olfactive perception. These techniques can be applied during all product development phases (design, prototype, launch, and market maturity). High-performance instrumental analysis such as gas chromatography coupled with an odour port and a mass spectrometry detector (GC-Sniffing-MS) integrates chemical characterization and sensory profiling and, therefore, it offers a unique opportunity for product optimization and commercial success.
This communication provides an overview of the different methodologies for measuring and characterizing odours from cosmetic products, both from the chemical and sensory perspectives. State-of-the-art methodologies for evaluating the long-lasting effect of fragrances, identifying off-notes, and the odour perception for product optimization will be discussed. These methods include: odour descriptive analysis, quantitative analysis of intensity and other attributes, hedonic tests, discriminative tests, as well as integrative approaches for the identification of odorous VOCs through GC-Sniffing-MS technique. Some practical examples on the relevance of integrating both sensory and chemical assessment techniques will be presented as well.