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Have you ever noticed a fragrant or even offensive odour that brought back a memory or emotional response? It's a well-documented phenomenon. Of the five senses, smell has the best memory and recall of long-forgotten events, images, and feelings. Certain aromas can evoke a sense of home, family, or a favourite activity. Others can create a powerful, negative response. This very much holds true for disposable hygiene products and their odour before, during, and after use of the article.

“Whether purchasing, using, or disposing of an absorbent hygiene article, consumers experience the product emotionally through their sense of smell,” says Bostik odour expert and R&D engineer Laurianne Libralesso. 

With this as a driving factor in mind, we set out to take an in-depth look into the science of odour. In particular, we wanted to know how manufacturers of disposable hygiene products could improve the consumer’s olfactory experience. The result was our whitepaper “Product Odour in Disposable Hygiene.” 

“Odour is linked to perception and human emotion, so it’s not an easy science,” Libralesso notes. “Also, there are cultural and regional components. Certain scents can bring about either positive or negative feelings depending on an individual’s culture or the region of the world in which they live.” 

Christophe Morel, Bostik Nonwoven’s Global Marketing Manager for Market Insights and Sustainable Innovation, elaborates, “It is a fact, we can’t eliminate or control consumer perception of odour, so when we do our tests, we have to look at two specific factors in the most objective way possible: 

1.  What is the intensity of the odour?
2.  What is the odour type (using our internal odour description system)?

And we will leave to the customer to determine whether the consumers will like the odour or not.”

Bostik recommends the use of a sensory panel, trained to take an objective approach to identifying odours. This takes personal impressions out of the equation. Instead, they learn to categorise odours and use standardised terminology.

“They do their best to remove the question of ‘Do I like this or not?’ and just stick to ideas of intensity and quality,” Libralesso says. “We can speak objectively about those things.”

Not all market segments are equal where odour is concerned

For each of the three disposable hygiene market segments, odour has a different level of significance. With baby care, for example, some odour is a given, during use.

“We expect baby diapers to have some kind of odour [after insult], but what we don’t want is for the product itself to have an odour,” says Libralesso. 

However, she is quick to point out that this is not the case for other disposable hygiene segments.

“For feminine care, users of the product don’t want other people to know they are menstruating,” she explains.


“Same with adult incontinence consumers; they don’t want their family and friends to know they need that type of product.”

It all comes down to the personal impact the odour has on the consumer.

“That’s why taking an in-depth look at odour is so important,” she says.

Want to learn more about the science behind odour in a disposable hygiene product?

Request our whitepaper “Product Odour in Disposable Hygiene.” 

See also

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What Will Adult Incontinence Consumers Say About Your Products?

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Bostik launches new podcast, 'Attached to Hygiene', for the Disposable Hygiene Industry

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Episode 9 - Softness in Nonwovens with Morten-Rise Hansen and Nicolas Leulier - Attached to Hygiene