Brand owners, fragrance and flavor purveyors, and polymer processors are creating a range of plastic products incorporating scent — with or without the use of compounding.
Plastics ``is one of the lesser-known … applications of scent,'' and holds huge potential, said Harald Vogt, founder and chief marketer for the Scent Marketing Institute in Scarsdale, N.Y.
``Scented polymer resins find their way into the manufacturing process of garbage bags to counteract odors,'' Vogt said. ``They go into plastic caps of products such as water bottles where they help generate and/or increase the flavor of the products.''
Vogt noted other applications: ``Scented caps for shampoos to prevent tampering and product damage, scented primary packaging to increase the appeal of the product and to enable product sampling while on the shelf, scented toothbrush handles as indicators for replacement [and] scented fan blades as an inexpensive fragrance dispenser.''
Large suppliers of fragrances and flavors include Givaudan SA of Vernier, Switzerland; International Flavors & Fragrances Inc. of New York; Firmenich SA of Meyrin, Switzerland; and Symrise GmbH & Co. KG of Holzminden, Germany.
Scent can drive sales, but not necessarily by embedding a fragrance in a package, according to Steven Landau of ScentSational Technologies LLC, based in Jenkintown, Pa.
``Spend five minutes in a store and watch how people buy products,'' said Landau, the firm's chief technical officer and chief marketing officer. Shampoo and personal-care products, for instance, avoid using tamper-evident seals so the scent can get a shopper's attention. People open, smell and often buy, he said.
ScentSational has plastics processing partner- ships with Bemis Co. Inc. of Neenah, Wis.; Crown Holdings Inc. of Philadelphia; Fabri-Kal Corp. of Kalamazoo, Mich.; Pliant Corp. of Schaumburg, Ill.; Portola Packaging Inc. of Batavia, Ill.; London-based Rexam plc; Seaquist Closures of Mukwonago, Wis.; and Munich, Germany-based Sud-Chemie AG.
Applications with significant volumes for scented products include blown film for kitchen trash bags, especially Glad and Hefty brands; small, single-use, sachet-type bags for products such as ketchup or shampoo; and molded components for automotive air fresheners.
Glad Odor Shield trash bags in ``fresh clean'' or ``fresh vanilla'' scents are made with a patented technology that the company said neutralizes odors. The fresh clean scent also is embedded in Glad's ForceFlex drawstring bags. Clorox Co. and Glad Products Co., both of Oakland, Calif., and Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble Co. develop and manufacture Glad products under a joint venture agreement.
Pactiv Corp.'s scented Hefty Kitchen Fresh tall waste bags incorporate an odor-neutralizing ingredient within the polyethylene film. Pactiv launched Kitchen Fresh CinchSak bags in 2003 with an interior odor-neutralizing patch containing the patented ingredient ActaZene. Lake Forest, Ill.-based Pactiv eliminated the patch in a 2006 reformulation and rebranding.
Baby products are also a market for scented films. Among scented baby wipes are the private-label Parent's Choice product from Wal-Mart Stores Inc. of Bentonville, Ark., and the Nature Babycare line from Naty AB of Nacka, Sweden.
The Playboy infant-care business of St. Louis-based Energizer Holdings Inc. offers odor-controlling film products for diaper disposal using a large plastic container and lid. The Diaper Genie II's Air-Tite control has a liner refill with seven-layer barrier film, and the original Diaper Genie Twistaway wraps diapers in a triple-barrier film.
Not all scented plastics are film products. Rotuba Extruders Inc. does twin- and single-screw compounding, and sheet and profile extrusions at its headquarters facility in Linden, N.J.
The custom extruder and compounder has partnered with Eastman Chemical Co. of Kingsport, Tenn., and is the exclusive supplier of Eastman's scented cellulosic plastics, which are made from renewable softwood materials.
Rotuba President Adam Bell said the company supplies scented Auracell-brand natural polymer for Tessco Technologies Inc.'s aftermarket portable clip-on cell phone cases, and coated lighting fixtures from Mobern Lighting Co. of Laurel, Md.
Rotuba is preparing to commercialize other products, including jewelry, hair products, bathroom furniture, mobile phones and MP3 players, Bell said.
The firm works with fragrance supplier Givaudan which, beyond its Swiss base, has manufacturing and research and development operations in Teaneck, N.J.
Rotuba customer Tessco markets two-piece, clip-on cases for portable cellular telephones. The cases cost $19.95 and come in four scents: vanilla vibe, raspberry rave, groovin' grape and coconut chill. Tessco's mobile devices and accessories business targets teenagers and tweens. Rotuba supplies scented Auracell pellets, and Tessco contracts for production of the eight-model line in southern China.
Auracell resin is made from wood pulp, ``making it sustainable and not dependent on petroleum,'' said Chris Barnhill, Tessco manager for the case line.
The Hunt Valley, Md., company plans to introduce scented iPod and iPhone cases during the 2008 holiday season, and has more scented plastic products in mind.
``We are in discussions with domestic and international fragrance and consumer electronic and toy companies,'' Barnhill said.
Other specialty compounders have other scented products on the drawing board. Polyvel Inc. in Hammonton, N.J., might commercialize an odor-absorbent masterbatch by year's end. Polyvel compounds fragranced masterbatches for consumer goods and packaging, including those for Food and Drug Administration-approved food-safe applications.
``Some [compounds] go to reprocessors and recyclers and may include vanilla to mask smells,'' said Dean Dodaro, inside sales technical service engineer.
Polyvel can compound a fragrance with almost any resin and has experience adding hickory, barbecue or bacon scent to polyurethane for dog toys. The company employs 20-25 and has an in-house laboratory that can perform injection molding trials. The firm also extrudes material into pellets for shipments.
International Flavors & Fragrances Inc. produces scented masterbatches and is promoting its proprietary PolyIFF technology. A facility in Hazlet, N.J., compounds scented low density PE.
``We ship to any converter … to make any molded piece,'' said Chris Gellner, PolyIFF commercial representative.
Other scented plastic products are still in the conceptual stage.
Author-entrepreneur Russell Brumfield of Clearwater Beach, Fla., said there is market potential for scented plastics in promotional golf balls; affinity cards from hotels, coffee shops or book stores; and holiday items such as ``a Godiva card with something pleasant like chocolate or cinnamon'' scents.
Quimby Press in June began distributing Brumfield's 334-page book, Whiff!: The Revolution of Scent Communication in the Information Age.
ScentSational is small as a technology, development and licensing company, but works with major players. In 2004, ScentSational introduced its proprietary CompelAroma technology, which can incorporate a scent in a plastics package or a tamper-evident seal.
``We can allow a shampoo maker to put an [internal] induction seal on the product,'' Landau said.
ScentSational has partnered with some of the largest food and fragrance companies, such as Givaudan and Firmenich, and large plastics processors, according to Landau. The firm has ``a team of flavorists, food scientists and plastics engineers,'' he said.
Food, beverage, pharmaceutical and consumer-product brands drive business for ScentSational. ``We start with a product and go to a processor,'' he said. ``We can take our process into any [converting or processing] plant.''
ScentSational's technology ``is much greener than using concentrates,'' Landau said. ``Typically, the large majority of our applications do not use compounded concentrates.''
ScentSational's patents on using scented plastics were obtained after many years of trial and error and failed plant runs.
Landau developed a technology to take flavors and make them stable for the process.
``Flavors are more delicate [than fragrances] to make a proper formulation because of the high heat of plastics processing,'' he said. ``After the burn-off, you are left with ... a far cry from what you want.''
Use of flavor concentrates requires two heat processes — one for compounding the scent and resin into pellets, and the other for molding the scented part. ``We use a single heat history and are left with a more stable material.''
For a multifacility plastics processor, ``usually a specific plant makes a specific component for a specific product,'' Landau said.
Working with a film manufacturer might be the hardest of all practices because a processing error can bring the bubble down, he said. But ``if a processor does something wrong in injection molding — maybe a mold won't release — it is an easy fix.''
Typically, ScentSational recommends polyolefins for injection molding applications.
ScentSational, founded in 1997, moved to commercialization in late 2003. The effort received recognition recently when Vogt's Scent Marketing Institute gave out three inaugural SMItty awards.
Landau received the Best New Proven Technology award for ScentSational's work on scented and flavored packaging technologies for food, beverage, pharmaceutical and other consumer products.
Vogt sees major potential for scent technology, but he believes more market-related efforts are needed to grow the industry niche.
``The engineers have to talk to the marketers and explain what they have,'' Vogt said. ``Then the marketers can go out and sell it. Now, that is not happening to a sufficient degree in Europe or the United States.''