In a partnership with French start-up, Jungle, fragrance giant Firmenich has announced Muguet Firgood, the world’s first-ever sustainably sourced and true commercial extract from the coveted lily of the valley flower.
Fragrance brands have been attempting to replicate the distinct scent of the lily of the valley flower for decades. Dior attempted it in 1956 with the Edmond Roudnitska formulation for Diorissimo. It was as close as any perfume had come—still a classic today—but by no means the real thing. Others have tried, too, including offerings from Penhaligon, Annick Goutal, Estée Lauder, and Frédéric Malle.
According to Firmenich, not only does the launch of Muguet Firgood mark the first true lily of the valley extract, but it sets new standards for clean fragrance, by prioritizing sustainability. The extract comes through a unique vertical farming process that reduces both land and water usage.
Vertical farming fragrances
Firmenich partnered with Jungle, a French start-up that grows plants for food, cosmetics, and fragrance through its vertical farms. According to the brand, it pairs research and development of plant growth along with technology aimed at revealing active flavor and fragrance compounds. Last February, Jungle secured €7 million in a Series A.
“Jungle is thrilled to successfully break into the perfume industry. This project with Firmenich has strengthened our protocols and expertise in cultivating plants, in our vertical farms, for their enhanced biological activity,” Gilles Dreyfus, President and Co-founder of Jungle said in a statement. “We are now well positioned to support the cosmetics and nutraceutical industries by providing safe, local and reproductible plant extracts.”
Firmenich is the world’s largest privately-owned fragrance and taste company. The family-owned business-to-business company was founded in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1895.
Since its start, Firmenich has been focused on research and development through a sustainability lens. The company says its superior innovation and broad range of quality ingredients has helped it become the market leader in fragrances, with annual revenue of more than 4 billion Swiss Francs.
“Our strategic partnership and joint expertise with Jungle on sustainable technologies now makes it possible for our perfumers to capture and harness the genuine natural scent of this exquisite flower to the benefit of our customers and of consumers,” Julien Firmenich, Vice President Product Strategy and Promotion, said in a statement. “Muguet Firgood is a truly rare and precious ingredient.”
Jungle estimates that of the more than one thousand plants in the Firmenich library, it could reproduce at least 20 percent of them in its sustainable vertical farms.
“When you have the controlled environment of the vertical farm, you can impact how plants are going to express themselves,” Dreyfus said last year.
According to Firmenich and Jungle, the Muguet Firgood is 100 percent natural and delivers “authentic notes” that have never before been obtained.
Lily of the valley
According to the Perfume Society, lily of the valley has a long history, dating back to 1561 when Charles IX inaugurated it.
“Regarded as a lucky charm ever since its first introduction from Japan to Europe in the Middle Ages, lily of the valley has become synonymous with the month of May and ‘the return of happiness’. For the French, May 1st traditionally represents the start of gifting bouquets of ‘muguet’ to loved ones to signify the regard in which they’re held and as a token of prosperity for the year ahead.”
In Europe, “bals de muguet” were held at lily of the valley-themed dances.
“Since then, lily of the valley has also made its way into countless bridal bouquets (including that of Kate Middleton for her wedding to Prince Willliam); in many countries, it’s linked to this day with tenderness, love, faith, happiness and purity,” says the Perfume Society.
As a fragrance, lily of the valley flowers are a bit spicy, with a verdant, sweet scent punctuated with hints of lemon. But as fragrant as the flowers are when fresh, they are considered “silent” flowers, meaning they don’t express an oil or essence that can be extracted for use in fragrances. Traditionally, synthetics including Lilial, Lyral, and hydroxycitronellal have been used to mimic the scent.
One of the biggest challenges in the extraction of lily of the valley fragrance is the time needed for the process, says Dreyfus.
“It’s a flower that flourishes for seven to ten days a year, once a year. But to extract from it takes two to three months, so you don’t have enough biomass to make the essential oil to create a natural compound of lily of the valley to use in perfume,” he said.
The new Muguet Firgood, a captive ingredient for the fragrance market, will be part of Firmenich’s Naturals Together platform. The companies say the lily of the valley fragrance is the first of what they hope are additional innovative and sustainable fragrance collaborations.