If you live in one of the 77 of percent American households putting up a Christmas tree this holiday season, chances are you’ve confronted this evergreen question at least once before: real, or artificial?
Natural tree devotees are willing to wrangle with the cyclical expense, scratchy needles, and continuous upkeep in the name of authenticity and the fresh, room-permeating piney scent that defines the season. Proponents of artificial trees -- which make up the vast majority of Christmas trees in the US -- must typically sacrifice aromatic ambiance in favor of cost efficiency, fire safety, and easy setup and tear-down.
How are Thy Leaves So Fragrant?
For some consumers, the convenience of a fake tree is enough that they’ll accept some substitutes when it comes to reproducing the smell of natural pine. According to a study by The Freedonia Group, demand for natural flavors and fragrances -- pure unblended products, and complex essential oil-based chemical mixtures -- is projected to grow 4.0 percent annually to just under $3 billion in 2020.
Among these natural flavors and fragrances are benzenoid chemicals, which are common constituents of essential oils, including balsam. Balsam and other fir-based essential oils can be used to replicate pine scents in candles, air fresheners, soaps, and colognes, as well as in aromatic ornaments and sprays used on artificial trees. Demand for benzenoids is expected to rise just under three percent through 2020.
The Great Debate Over Naturals or Synthetics Branches Out
While consumers may not want the hassle of dealing with a real tree, they may be willing to go the extra mile for scents that give the impression of authenticity. Though natural oils and blends are typically more expensive than their synthetic counterparts, increasing public preference for “clean” labels citing natural or all-natural ingredients will act as a particular driver of interest for natural benzenoid aroma chemicals.
However, the price gap between natural and synthetic fragrances is such that, for a significant portion of cost-conscious holiday shoppers, the health and environmental concerns of manufacturing products with synthetic aroma chemicals are not enough to outweigh concerns over their bank accounts. This will constrain sales growth for natural aroma chemicals in particular.
But cost- and health-conscious artificial tree enthusiasts can take heart -- initiatives like the US Environmental Protection Agency’s Sustainable Futures program are in place to expand the production of new chemicals -- including natural flavors and fragrances - that are cheaper, safer, and more quickly manufactured.
A tannen-balm for the soul, if you will.
For More Information:
To learn more, check out Natural Flavors and Fragrances, a new comprehensive industry study from The Freedonia Group, which provides analysis on the following:
- Historical demand data and forecasts
- Market environment factors
- Industry structure
- Company market share
- US industry competitors
About the Author:
Alecia Mouhanna is a Corporate Analyst at The Freedonia Group, where she researches and writes about a diverse range of topics, including construction and building materials, chemicals, packaging, and more.