Good enough to eat: why are food-inspired perfumes so hot right now?

food inspired perfume trend
Good enough to eat: best food-inspired perfumes Getty Images

While my youth was spent queuing to get into clubs, now I’m lining up at my local bakery to get fresh sourdough. Everyone’s a ‘foodie’ these days – your IG timeline says as much.

‘TikTok famous’ restaurants and viral food trends mean we’re all searching for the next best thing to hit our stomachs. While our lifestyles have become more centred around fine food and sweet treats, our noses have followed suit. Instead of rich exotic ouds or flirty florals, perfume tastes are evoking more mouth-watering aromas. It’s no surprise that the exclusive worlds of food and fragrance seem to be intertwining to deliver a ‘feast for the senses’ – quite literally.

A colleague saying “you smell great, what are you wearing?” sparks the same sense of secrecy and possessiveness we feel when someone comments on your #foodgram from your beloved, ‘if you know you know’ local asking ”OMG, where is this?!". You wanna gatekeep your fave spots for fear of never scoring a reservation not made three months in advance again. So it makes sense that the perfume industry is catering to our new fixations. Perfume snobs, food snobs – we’re one in the same.

And while these fragrances might not seem all that sophisticated at first glance, their individuality is what’s set them apart, and that has spurred on a foodie fragrance revolution.

Smells like a Michelin Star

A bakery in a bottle seems to be the main thread through this sensory trend, and they're selling like hot cakes (pun intended). Take’s “Crumb Couture” fragrance, which features notes of toasted vanilla, wild berry jam and the brand's unique “croissant accord” – which, you guessed it, aims to recall the flakey, golden, buttery French pastry. It sold out within hours of its first launch.

Then there’s OVEROSE’s “Bakery collection”, which features a “Pain au Chocolat” candle and has a waitlist for restocks. We’ve gone from being terrified to eat carbs, to wanting to smell like them. A positive evolution, if you ask me.

From breakfast straight to dessert, there’s fragrances for the sweet-toothed. Plur’s zesty “Tangerine Boy", with notes of lemon, apples and tangerines, recalls a fresh sorbet that ends a sumptuous meal. The festive favourite fruit cake-esque "Marble Fruit" from Boy Smells has notes of warm pears and nectarines.

On the high-fash end, Maison Margiela’s aromatic "Coffee Break" wouldn’t go amiss in a tiramisu, and then there’s Sol de Janeiro's iconic "Brazilian Crush Cheirosa 62" perfume mist that incorporates notes of salted caramel.

“My earliest feel-good moment with scent is birthday cake. The comfort of vanilla, the smell of burning wax from the candles — it just brings back beautiful, happy memories of my childhood and being surrounded by friends and family,” says Mona Kattan, founder of Kayali fragrances. The brand sells gourmand scents such as YUM Pistachio Gelato and Eden Juicy Apple.

Sweet vanilla notes feature in every fragrance from the brand in an attempt to “bottle the experience of incredible desserts”, says Kattan. She believes that these scents evoke “memories of positive times” for her consumers, which is why they’ve risen in popularity.

Food on the brain

A study found that particular fragrances influence the way we judge people – for example, a more floral smell was associated with happiness – while other studies have shown we often determine attractiveness through the sense of smell.

“Our sense of smell is absolutely critical and essential to our experience of food and eating,” says Dr. Rachel Herz, neuroscientist and author of Why You Eat What You Eat. “It gives us the anticipation of delight for what we are about to eat, and then when we do eat, it provides all the flavours of the food. Without smell, all you experience when eating are the basic sensations of salt, sour, sweet, bitter, texture and spice. For example, without smell, eating bacon would be like eating a stick of salty fat.”

Why we’re craving to smell like our favourite food isn’t just down to our stomachs. Scent also has a hefty influence on our mood. According to Mintel, 45% of UK consumers like scents to boost their mood, and expect other “emotion drivers” – which include food – to offset “mood-rich” scent experiences. Which may explain why food and scent are becoming a dynamic duo for our happiness.

There have been ‘gourmand’ sweet fragrance trends in the past, like the Thierry Mugler Angel perfume that debuted to huge success in 1992.“‘Sweet' scents tend to be appealing because of their association to sweet tastes which are innately positive,” says Dr. Herz.

That’s not the only way they affect our mood: “Sweet scents, just like sweet foods, are comforting and nostalgic. The associations elicited by the scent of croissants can be as emotionally satisfying as eating a croissant,” believes Dr. Herz.

Will this fragrance trend ultimately lead us to craving sweet treats unnecessarily? “If we’re not actually hungry, smelling a delicious scent can at times satisfy our cravings, especially if we don't want to indulge. However, they can also motivate us to eat whatever food it evokes out of pure desire.”

“We desensitise to scents very quickly and within 20 minutes – and often much less – of being constantly exposed to an aroma we barely detect it at all. Therefore, any motivational responses we have to a scent will happen within the first few minutes and are unlikely to have any long lasting effects on our appetite or cravings,” says Dr. Herz.

While there may be some dishes we’ll want to stay well clear of (no one wants to smell like they’ve just stepped out of a fish mongers, after all) my inner food lover is excited to see how this trend evolves. If I can catch a whiff of a golden croissant coming out of the oven long after my local bakery closes, then I’m on board.

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