Greenhouse Canada

Features Business Marketing
from the editor: Sniffing out new markets


May 4, 2010
By Dave Harrison


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According to the Sense of Smell Institute, the average person is able to recognize about 10,000 different odours. The sense of smell is powerful; try eating your favourite food while pinching your nostrils, and see if it tastes as good.

According to the Sense of Smell Institute, the average person is able
to recognize about 10,000 different odours. The sense of smell is
powerful; try eating your favourite food while pinching your nostrils,
and see if it tastes as good.

Breeders have gone over the top with ensuring shelf life for cuts and
extended flowering performance in the garden, and those are important
traits. But little has been done with enhanced fragrance, though that
may be changing.

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An August 2000 report by Purdue University scientists noted that
“boosting floral scents would not only make flower beds more
aesthetically pleasing, it would also improve the yield and quality of
many crops.” The report continues that, “plants use floral scents to
attract pollinators or to repel harmful insects . . . . The aroma of a
flower may contain as few as seven to 10 different oils, as in
snapdragon or petunia, or as many as 100 different chemicals, as is the
case with orchids.”

How important is fragrance to consumers? New York Times reporter
Natalie Angier, in an Aug. 5, 2008, feature entitled “The Nose, an
Emotional Time Machine,” spoke to several leading fragrance
researchers. She noted that, “importantly, the olfactory cortex is
embedded within the brain’s limbic system and amygdala, where emotions
are born and emotional memories stored.”

In a posting (“The Science of Scented Memories”) on the Human Flower
Project website, taste and smell specialist Dr. Alan Hirsch (founder
and neurological director of the Smell & Taste Treatment and
Research Foundation in Chicago), noted that flower fragrances affect us
in a number of ways. “Lavender, he’s found, causes relaxation. Jasmine
has ‘been proven to enhance athletic performance, and the smell of
violets ‘enhance(d) learning speed by 17 per cent.’ (Lilies, by the
way, ‘increase wakefulness’ so should probably be nixed for sleep
studies.) And roses? Their fragrance, according to Hirsch, ‘increase(s)
olfactory evoked nostalgia that will bring happy moments back to
memory.’”

The sense of smell is one of the last to deteriorate during the normal
aging process in otherwise healthy individuals, according to recent
research in Australia, remaining strong long after eyesight and hearing
begin to deteriorate.

Hebrew University of Jerusalem scientists, led by Prof. Alexander
Vainstein, have patented a way to genetically enhance the scent of
flowers and implant a scent in those that don’t have one. “Over a third
of participants in Flowers and Plants Association surveys stated that
scent influenced their choice of flower purchase,” notes a news
release. “The flower industry will be keenly interested in this
development, explains Prof. Vainstein. “Many flowers lost their scent
over many years of breeding. Recent developments will help to create
flowers with increased scent as well as producing new scent components
in the flowers.”

Shakespeare said it best in Romeo and Juliet, with the classic line:
“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would
smell as sweet.”

Consumers, star-crossed Elizabethan-era lovers among them, expect
flowers to be fragrant. There’s a large market segment of fragrance
aficionados not being adequately served.


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