The main users of essential oils are the fine perfumery, cosmetics (soaps, shampoos, shower gels, creams...) and cleaning industries (they mask the unpleasant odours of washing powder and detergents). They make it possible to add odours without leaving greasy traces. In recent years, essential oils have appeared in the food industry. They are used as flavour enhancers and fragrances in various products (coffee, tea, tobacco, wine, yoghurt, ready meals in particular).
Sales of essential oils in France increased by 13.2% between 2011 and 2012 and represented approximately 123 million euros of sales in 2012. The market has grown further since then and today represents more than 180 million euros in turnover and grew by 16% between 2015 and 2016. The essential oil manufacturing sector comprises 123 establishments and around 4,800 employees. Today, about 150 different oils are available on the market, compared to 300 50 years ago. The world production of essential oils is around 110.000 tons, the three most sold oils represent 90% of this volume: Orange (51.000 tons), Mint Arvensis (32.000 tons), Lemon (9200 tons).
Technicality, standardisation efforts and organisation are the main characteristics of the French essential oils sector. Small enterprises (less than 20 employees) are numerous and represent one third of the sector. France has significant expertise in the field enabling it to export its products throughout the world. Activity is concentrated in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region, which accounts for 58% of jobs in the sector.
Essential oils are used in three different fields: the food market (mainly citrus and mint), the cosmetics and perfumes market (l'Occitane in Provence) and the aromatherapy market (2% of the essential oils market and it is growing in value).
The growing French interest in organic health and well-being is a positive factor for the sector. Manufacturers must constantly adapt to their customers' needs. The disappearance of clary sage is due to the drop in demand for perfumery and aromas while the essential oil of fennel has beautiful days ahead. Competition has increased in recent years and the trade balance is slightly in deficit.
Brazil is the largest producer of essential oils, followed by India and China. Aside from France, Ireland, Switzerland, Croatia, Bulgaria and Morocco are the most active countries in this field.
The market leaders are Mane, Givaudan, Robertet, Charabot and IFF. The market leader is Pure Essentiel, which markets its products in over 40 countries.
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