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The Sweet Smell of Success: Why and How Americans Are Purchasing Air Care Products


By Monica Cantz

Do you remember that sensation of walking into a childhood friend’s home and being greeted with a waft of a familiar scent that was somehow unique to that particular household? It’s as though every friend’s house had its own distinct smell with its own memories, and no matter how many years pass, each time you smell that familiar scent you are transported back in time. There’s no doubt, the sense of smell has a huge effect on the human experience.

It’s no wonder then why nearly eight out of every 10 U.S. households purchase air care products, such as air fresheners, potpourri, sachets and candles. After all, who doesn’t like a house that smells clean and refreshing? Perhaps that’s why the $3.8 billion air care industry is growing – and here’s why you should care, too.

The statistics behind the sense of smell are quite fascinating. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), humans can distinguish more than 1 trillion scents! To put that into perspective, humans can distinguish several million different colors and almost half a million different auditory tones. Comparatively speaking, those numbers do not hold a candle to how strongly humans perceive their surroundings through the sense of smell.

Research has also found that the sense of the smell is the most sensitive of the senses, as well as the sense most linked to emotional recollection. In fact, a Yale University study on scent recognition ranked crayons among the 20 most recognizable and evocative scents to American adults. The survey found that 85 percent of all people remembered their childhood when they smelled the scent of Crayola crayons and the newer crayon-scented colored pens.

Now you see why air care is so important to so many households in the United States. As CPG marketers, what insights can we learn about this product category and the shoppers who are most likely to purchase air care products? The insights IRI has amassed on the topic range from trending scents and emerging themes to how various shopper segments buy air care products differently, as well as identifying which shopper segments show the most potential for future growth.

Among the shopper segments that are investing in air care more than the average are African Americans, younger boomers and people who own multiple dogs. Growth opportunities also exist with lower-income segments of the population, as well as with urbanites and older boomers. Millennials, on the other hand, seem to be less interested in air care compared to other age groups.

As for trending scents, IRI has noticed apple cinnamon, spice, Hawaii, woods, lavender and vanilla to be among the most popular this season. Additionally, IRI has also noted three themes that are driving many of today’s new air care product launches: consumers’ desire for simplicity, wellness and excitement in their home lives. Products that convey these themes are more likely to find success in the marketplace.

Another determinant of success is ensuring that second-year sales continue to soar as much as the first. Air care manufacturers need to create and adjust carefully targeted advertising campaigns that speak to the needs of its audiences and track new trending scents as well as consumer behavior over time.  With these strategies in place, they will continue to enjoy the sweet smell of success well into the product’s lifecycle and continue to create memory making moments for their customers.

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