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Natural and synthetic raw materials are at the heart of perfume composition. Familiarity with them entails knowledge of botany, science, the latest regulations – and, of course, the olfactory world. In late 2019, two ISIPCA students launched ScenTree, an online classification and information tool for these materials, intended for industry professionals. Originally an end-of-degree project, ScenTree is well on the way to becoming a reference for anyone who wants to know more about the perfumery ingredients, from the people who use them to those who produce and distribute them. We asked Maxime Baud, who now runs the platform by himself, to give us an overview of the project.
What has happened since ScenTree was founded two years ago?
There were two decisive events: the departure of Thomas, the co-founder, who left the company in June 2020, and the health crisis. I’m now the sole manager of the project. Which meant I had to learn to be on all fronts while having a job on the side, since all the income is devoted to optimising the project. This has forced me to review priorities and focus the project on the most important aspects, especially with the health crisis. But I get plenty of IT support, and I’ve been lucky enough to be able to count on people who give me good advice.
How have the successive lockdowns influenced your work?
To understand what a big impact they’ve had, it’s important to understand how ScenTree is constructed. The ingredients are arranged according to their olfactory family, each of them representing a tree limb. The descriptors – spicy, oceanic, zesty, etc. – form the different branches. When I create a record for a new ingredient, I have to give it these olfactory descriptors, but perceptions are very personal.
To make up for this subjectivity, I organise evaluation sessions in the Cinquième Sens coworking space. Unfortunately, with the restrictions, we could only organise three instead of the twenty or so planned, and I couldn’t add as many ingredients to the database as I wanted. On the other hand, it meant I got to work on the existing records: with 560 ingredients, there’s plenty to do! It’s painstaking work, and allows me to consolidate and optimise the database.
What major developments has the site been through?
Two hundred ingredients were added, which represents 40% of site content. But, more importantly, I integrated and consolidated the IFRA data, adding the regulations to each ingredient record, which was a big job. New categories of information were also created, such as the detection threshold for synthetics. A lot of IT development has been done to make the site easier to access; some pages have been added, such as the news page. And thanks to the financial support of our partners, various new features will be coming soon.
Can you give us an example?
The main development will be the option of creating your own account on the site, with the aim of modifying classifications so they reflect each person’s perceptions as closely as possible. For example, if I’ve classified bergamot in the citrus and green category, but a user perceives floral facets instead, they’ll be able to move it to a different place in their classification, which will only be accessible to them. Other users won’t be affected by the change. It’s a major and much-requested feature, planned for the first half of 2022.
How do you go about identifying new raw materials?
It’s a process based on discussions with companies. Some of them send me a sample of their materials, while others don’t know that it’s something they can do. The ingredient will then be evaluated in the sessions. I may also be interested in a particular material – ylang ylang, for example – and ask for samples from the different suppliers so I can compare them during olfactory sessions. This process allows me to hone the descriptions and thus make the classification even more objective.
Do you know who the main users of the site are?
They are mostly women, between 18 and 30 years old, mainly French and European and working in the industry. But we have a wider audience on social media, such as our Instagram and LinkedIn pages: we publish exclusive content there, including lots of fun facts about the ingredients. They offer an alternative reading of the molecules, which means people can understand perfumery differently.
Who are your current partners?
I’ve formed partnerships of various kinds with major players in our industry. As soon as Scentree was launched, we received the support of Cinquième Sens, which made its coworking space available in the 7th arrondissement of Paris for the raw material evaluation sessions I regularly organise.
The ISIPCA, where I got my degree, has also supported me, financially as well as through various teachers who help me with completing the database when they can.
Another essential issue in the life of the site is its ability to finance its development. ScenTree’s current model is based on the paid promotion of raw material producers on the records of the materials they distribute. This is also what will allow us to maintain access to free content.
I’d like to thank Quosentis and its founder, Julie Rochon, who was the first to believe in us. The company is already present on records for about thirty materials, and we have just renewed our partnership.
To get help with these commercial aspects, I now work with the Nez advertising department, particularly with Dominique Brunel. It was a logical move, since Nez was the first media to support us, and its team is regularly in contact with the composition houses and raw material suppliers. It means I can concentrate on the classification itself and on the site’s new features.
Nez is also a vehicle for raising ScenTree’s profile and opens up new opportunities. For example, for the first time we are partnering the Beautyworld Dubai trade show taking place next October.
How would you like the future to look?
I’d like ScenTree to become the reference for perfumery ingredients, to be seen as a professional, educational, and collaborative tool. Thanks to the extension of the database, more visibility for producers and interaction between visitors, I’d like ScenTree to become a “social Wikipedia” of perfumery raw materials!