Food manufacturers and retailers are experimenting with the new science of scent marketing. Kraft Foods and Hershey’s Chocolates are two of the companies using artificial aromas to tantalize their customers.
In the good old days, the irresistible smell of freshly baked bread emanated naturally from the local bakery, enticing customers to come in and buy, says Harald Vogt, founder of the New York-based Scent Marketing Institute. But artifice is necessary today, as many natural scents are removed in food processing and packaging.
Science shows that the sense of smell can create powerful impressions and memories. “It plays a surprisingly large role in consumer decisions,” says Rick Perkins, vice-president of the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation (NSLC). To evoke pleasant memory associations, the NLSC uses different scents at its flagship store in Halifax such as French bread for the wine section and coconut in the rum section. “That store’s sales are up 52 per cent compared to our other NLSC outlet across the street,” says Perkins.
Many food manufacturers want to improve their products’ appeal to consumers with scent marketing – but they face challenges using it in retail outlets, says Vogt. Retailers are leery about a multitude of competing brands creating a cacophony of scents in their stores. “Whatever scent idea a brand comes up with, they need a second sales effort to get the retailer’s co-operation,” he says.
However, food manufacturers who also own retail outlets are already using scent marketing to their advantage. Mars, for instance, uses scent technology to spread the aroma of chocolate around its M&M’s World outlets, as does Hershey’s Chocolate at its retail locations.
Others are experimenting with new technology for scented ads in magazines. In 2006, Kraft Foods sponsored a special Christmas edition of People magazine. A full-page spread for Philadelphia Cream Cheese featured a strawberry cheesecake that smelled like the real thing, while other ads featured scented photos of Jell-O and Chips Ahoy cookies. The smells were released when readers scratched the photographs printed with scented ink. “These were produced using micro-encapsulation technology to print different flavours, which is superior technology to the old scratch n’ sniff strips,” says Vogt.
Scent is 80 per cent of taste, so food manufacturers are eyeing scent marketing despite the challenges. “People buy based on what they know, so if they aren’t introduced to different flavours and aromas, the chances they’ll change their preferences are small,” he says, adding that scent marketing is projected to explode into a $1-billion business globally over the next five years.