Just How Herbal Are Those Essences?

P&G to List Fragrance Ingredients in Transparency Push

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Procter & Gamble Co. is making a bet that Febreze will still smell as sweet when customers know it contains tetrahydrolinalool.

Febreze products
Febreze products Credit: PG

The world's largest consumer-products company will begin listing the ingredients in fragrances from items like Febreze and Herbal Essences, opening up a new front in the push to make labels more transparent.

P&G had been hearing for years that customers wanted more disclosure, spokesman Scott Heid said. Fragrance "was something they wanted to learn more about," said Heid, who holds a doctorate in toxicology.

The measure follows an announcement by Wal-Mart Stores, the world's largest retailer, that suppliers will be required to list all product ingredients by next year, while Target Corp. is mandating the same thing by 2020. Both retailers are also asking for the removal of certain chemicals such as formaldehyde.

P&G now wants to help shoppers who "didn't understand any of the ingredients or the ingredient names" after the company in 2012 released a list of components that it uses and bans, without giving a breakdown of what its specific products contain. Heid added that disclosing the information is important to a significant portion of customers, with at least a quarter now saying they look at the information.

When disclosing a product's contents, companies frequently exclude specific components in favor of generic terms like "fragrance" -- which can effectively result in the omission of dozens of ingredients.

P&G aims to have all fragrance ingedients for its more than 2,000 scented prouducts listed online by the end of 2019. It will start with fabric home and beauty categories and will provide information on how the ingredients are used and where else they are found.

Under the new policy, the company will list any substance present in concentrations of greater than 0.01 percent.

Unilever, the second-largest consumer-products company, said in February that it will begin listing its fragrance ingredients for its home and personal care goods online to the same level. Both Unilever and P&G will also list common allergens contained in their U.S. products, a move that's required in Europe.

The companies are contending with newer brands like Beautycounter that cater to shoppers, many of them younger, looking for cleaner ingredients.

"We are amping up our efforts in that space" said Tracey Long, another P&G spokeswoman. Growing preference for more natural options is influencing "how we think about the product offering in our portfolio of choices."

-- Bloomberg News

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