Could lab-developed essential oils be the next big thing in ethical fragrance?

Could lab-developed essential oils be the next big thing in ethical fragrance?

THE WHAT? Researchers from the University of Glasgow are preparing to market a range of lab-produced essential oils, free from animal and plant extracts, aimed at improving the ethical and environmental footprint of the fragrance industry.

THE DETAILS The start-up, named Scent No. M, uses microbes to produce popular scents such as freshly cut grass and sea air. The team has received £20,000 of funding via the 2022 Converge Challenge as well as support from the innovation center’s scale up and business development experts to help commercialize the idea.

THE WHY? Dr Hua Wang, co-founder of Scent No. M and research fellow at the University of Glasgow, said: “Many people don’t realise that even though the fragrances found in perfumes or cleaning and beauty products come from natural sources, they may in fact be derived from animals – such as whales, deer and bees – and plants farmed specifically for the supply chain. We saw an opportunity for an alternative which doesn’t rely on depleting natural resources and can instead be developed in a lab. It is still a natural product; it is just a new approach to harvesting aromas.

“There could also be additional benefits for people who tend to react badly or find traditionally-fragranced products irritating. Our microbial alternative may be much kinder on the skin. The project is still at an early stage, but we are excited to see how the prototype could lead the business to grow, perhaps to include our own fragrance line in the future.”