The scent of success: How UAE perfumers remain competitive

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The scent of success: How UAE perfumers remain competitive
The UAE has established itself as an international destination and a strategic business hub for the perfume industry.

Dubai - Local brands blending modern and traditional elements, reflecting nation's drive in sector


Rohma Sadaqat

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Published: Sat 30 Dec 2017, 12:17 AM

As companies look to expand their reach into Gulf markets, international perfume houses are increasingly catering their products to local consumers by merging traditional oriental elements with French techniques.
Regional fragrance brands have made a note of this trend, and are making additions to their product ranges to cater to this new segment, and remain competitive in what could be perceived as a saturated market, experts say.
"The evolution of the perfume industry in the region to a modern lifestyle product is a rather recent phenomenon," says Salim Kalsekar, managing director of Rasasi Perfumes.
"Traditionally, perfumes were manually produced and then sold in souks, but the last decade has seen big changes in the industry, with the UAE establishing itself as an international destination and a strategic business hub for the perfume industry. The country claims the top position when it comes to the production and export of perfume, supported by the dynamic vision of the UAE leadership and regulations that promote business growth."
According to analysts Euromonitor International (EMI), the Middle East and Africa region will be second only to Latin America in the global fragrance growth market, accounting for 31 per cent of the estimated $5.8 billion value increase from 2014-2019.
Led by Saudi Arabia with a value of $1.7 billion and the UAE at $423 million, the MEA's fragrance market was worth $5.2 billion in 2015, seven per cent up on the previous year. Absolute growth for the entire region from 2014-2019 will value $1.8 billion, growing at a compound annual growth rate of 6.5 per cent, according to EMI.
Kalsekar believes that the increasing presence of global brands eyeing the regional perfume market will have profound implications, as the regional industry has to accelerate the pace of modernisation. Increasingly, regional brands are investing in aligning products, systems and practices to the global standards. This will have far-reaching ramifications across the supply chain, right from sourcing the raw materials to the marketing strategies.
"A trend that cannot be ignored is the increasing adoption of oud by international markets over the past few years," Kalsekar noted. "With the world warming up to the mystical magic of oriental perfumes, we have been aggressively pursuing international expansion. Last year, floral fragrances led the charge, with white floral and rose perennial being the most popular fragrances in the region. We see the floral trend continuing this year and beyond, with these notes being reinforced with the intense undertones of precious woods and rich spices."
Kalsekar's observations were echoed by luxury retail expert Anand Kumar, who said that perfumes have always been a huge part of the Arabian culture.
"For over 2,000 years, locals have used sandalwood, amber, musk and roses oud, or agarwood to create mesmerising scents. Oud is said to be the most expensive wood in the world, and oud oil's value is estimated to be 1.5 times the value of gold, and it is sometimes referred to as liquid gold. What is important to understand is that, it is not just a fragrance - the signature Arab fragrance of the sweet woody oud symbolises richness, power, heritage and one of the most important traits of this scent is that its instantly recognisable," he explained.
Kumar also said that as international perfumers realise the influence of traditional Arab fragrances, more than a dozen internationally-renowned luxury brands have embraced and launched their own versions of oud inspired fragrances, including leading brands such as Versace, Gucci, Tom Ford, Dolce & Gabbana and Roberto Cavalli. By doing this, they have made their brand more accessible and desirable to the local population, and these once foreign fragrances are now proving to be popular with perfume connoisseurs across the region.
According to Dubai Customs, Dubai imported Dh12.16 billion worth of fragrances and cosmetics in 2016, while exporting Dh1.83 billion worth and re-exporting $1.82 billion of fragrances and cosmetics over the same period. The total trade of Dh20.68 billion represents a growth of 23 per cent from 2012 to 2016.
Dubai Customs stated that France, the US, Saudi Arabia, Italy and the UK were the key strategic trading partners, making up 42 per cent of the total trade in fragrances and cosmetics with Dubai. Meanwhile, France, the US, Italy, the UK and India formed the key source countries for Dubai's imports of fragrances and cosmetics, making up 60 per cent of the total.
Kalsekar noted that UAE consumers love opulent, rich and warm oriental fragrances, preferably used in their natural forms and therefore stronger and longer lasting in nature. Musk, exotic flowers and precious spices, myrrh and amber, along with oud, are some of the highlight ingredients.
Similarly, a spokesperson for Lootah Perfumes said that the Arab world is considered to have the highest per-capita consumption in perfumes, due to their cultural heritage, where fragrance goes beyond beauty.
 "The UAE market has seen an evolution in terms of more western perfumery houses coming in to develop perfumes that are a fusion of Middle Eastern and Western influence. Many of the international perfumers understand the exoticness and the cultural essence of Middle Eastern notes, with a lot of brands infusing the fragrance of oud. Among the local crowd, traditional oud fragrances with a touch of western influence are in demand. Oriental fragrances are always in demand in the UAE, but we also see a favoring towards the blend of Oriental and French fragrances as well," the brand said in an e-mailed note.
When it comes to preferences, Lootah revealed that layering, personalising scents and oil-based fragrances dominate the market.
"Layering is a trend wherein two more perfumes are used to create bespoke fragrances. In the UAE, having a signature fragrance is sought after, and layering helps individuals create a fragrance intrinsic to them. Going to the perfume store and creating highly-personalised fragrances are also the new norm, as one can increase or decrease the concentration of various notes to suit their taste. Lastly, oil-based fragrance are preferred as they stay longer and are clearer in terms of the scent. They are also are less likely to cause any allergic reaction." 


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