In the Limelight with Clarissa Burt interviews Peter Persoon: Founder of Natural Fragrance Rose
Here In the Limelight, we have another extraordinary guest coming in from Quito, Ecuador but he is originally from Holland. Gorgeous place and it's the home of flowers. Not only, but flowers for the most part. Peter Persoon, the founder and CEO of Natural Fragrance Rose, white being my favorite color. We have this beautiful pink rose in the studio and ever since I've opened it up, it has changed my idea about what home fragrance should be about. Tell us how the idea came about, what it's all about and how it's changing fragrance for the home.
Peter Persoon: The rose you have there is a Taif rose and major fragrance houses use that rose as a basis for perfumes. You could never find them at your florist. The basic idea was to find out why that is. My family has been in flowers for generations, especially growing. On the farms of my grandfather and father, we used to have fragrance flowers. The problem with fragrance flowers is they don't last. The best fragrance flowers only last one day. For instance, these roses take 120 days to grow and it blooms in one day, then the fragrance is gone.
The basics of that are simple because nature is very efficient. Either plan to invest in a flower that lasts very long so a butterfly or bee flies by and does it's magic or it lures them from far with a nice fragrance. That flower with the most fragrance only has to live one day. We were thinking why can we not bring them to market? Because the Taif Rose commonly produced only for major fragrance houses, we wanted to bring that to the floral departments, gift shops or to your home. Instead of squeezing these flowers and putting their essentials in a diffuser or a candle, we thought let's make the flower live longer. We found a way to make this flower last three to five months depending on the humidity of your home.
Clarissa: They arrived at my home before I even knew about you and this interview, I was getting these lovely flowers, I thought I had an admirer somewhere. Then I found out I was going to be interviewing you. I kept them in the refrigerator because I wanted them to be beautifully ready for today. I don't think I even had to, they look as though they were cut this morning.
Peter Persoon: They come with a biodegradable cap. You just take the cap off and you place it. As long as you keep the cap closed, keep them in the dark and you can store them for quite a while. You can store them a month, take the cap off, place them somewhere in your house, and they bring their fragrance. They are real flowers so after a while, they start to disintegrate, losing their fragrance, their color and it's beauty. It's not an artificial flower, it's a real flower we grew ourselves.
Clarissa: They're extraordinary. For me, one of the most worrying things about home fragrance is a lot of them are toxic and come with chemicals. I got into essential oils and diffusing a long time ago, and I love that. The thing about that is you'll find a layer of that diffused oil all over your furniture. I have glass tabletops which I constantly have to be cleaning. I took this cap off 20 minutes ago, went out, came back into the studio and it wasn't overpowering. I want to get into the how of this and you know the ins and outs of every flower, if not botanical on the planet. Is that right?
Peter Persoon: Not every but our family is generations in flowers and we're well educated in that, too.
Clarissa: How did this idea come about? Where were you when the light bulb went on?
Peter Persoon: The idea was in our family for a long time. We like to bring something special with niches and flowers. We did it with orchids but we have the most knowledge in roses, that's why we started with roses. Especially the Taif Rose. Actually, since 1993 I've been with this so it's a development. We had a breakthrough a couple of years ago.
Clarissa: With the research and development, studies and a right or wrong way to do it, was there a moment behind this idea that you went, “Forget it. Not going to work.”?
Peter Persoon: In 1997, I just threw the whole idea away. At that moment I had a farm of premium flowers in Holland and my partner had a farm in Santa Barbara. We just focused on real flowers and growing them as premium as possible so we threw away the idea.
Clarissa: Why? What happened?
Peter Persoon: First of all, you have to grow certain parts of the flowers. At that moment, it was so new to start and bring this into the market. You couldn't sell in this format. You needed to have an outlet for your flowers, not just throw them away. The market didn't want to take it. They know it is a good flower but it's already bloomed out before it reaches the home so we could not make this commercial. The cost was way too high and, personally, a very important thing to move forward, it was not sustainable. We used chemicals to produce that. I wanted to do this completely natural ingredients. That was the big thing, why I said, “I cannot go forward with this.”
Clarissa: Was it a hard sell? Was it hard to say, “No. This flower is going to last four to five weeks.” Did people look at you cross-eyed?
Peter Persoon: That's the difficult thing of bringing this to market. What we realized in the last year is the most common thing was, “Let's go and start to build a brand online,” but then people say, “We've seen a lot of beautiful pictures of a lot of beautiful things.” Then when it comes, it's probably some Chinese artificial product. No, you have to see it to believe it.
Clarissa: You do have to see it to believe it. I was going to ask you, but I'm sure that's part of your magic that you don't tell the recipe about how you do this. Are you doing these in the States or Holland?
Peter Persoon: Most of the things happen in the States. The roses we grow on a farm here in Ecuador. We want to keep the varieties a secret which is easier here than in the States. We grow them on a 10,000 feet elevation, that's how these flowers grow very slow but with the maximum amount of sunlight. We are on the equator, these are the best growing grounds for premium flowers.
Clarissa: You don't have trouble sometimes with pests?
Peter Persoon: No because it's so cold here we don't have pests.
Clarissa: You're growing them in Ecuador. Then you have to cut them, ship them quickly I'm assuming?
Peter Persoon: No. We prescreen them then ship them by ocean freight. Normal flowers are shipped by airfreight, which gives you very big what you call carbon footprints in English.
Clarissa: This is a great self-care thing to buy. This is a great hostess gift. Great for any time or any holiday. Instead of cutting flowers and feeling bad about throwing them after three to four days. I want to know how you do it.
Peter Persoon: First, another thing is we all have people with this hay fever who cannot stand flowers. These flowers don't pollinate and pollen is the origin of a lot of allergies. These are allergy resistant cells. No reason to not buy these things. I will tell you a little secret about how we do this. Every cell, human or plant, contains a lot of water and water is what makes them start to rot eventually but they need water to stay alive. What we do is we take a big amount of water from each cell, not everything, and we infuse that with a moisturizing cream. Same as the high-level creams you put on your hands or face. We use the same basis and we infused them into cells of the flower. These flowers can take up moisture from the air to feed themselves or to stay very soft. These creams come from the petrochemical industry. A certain part of them is made out of nature and we use those. Our creams derive from molasses, a waste product in sugar cane production. It's a waste product that turned into a high-level cream that we use to infuse in the flowers to stay alive.
Clarissa: Are you going to be doing this same concept with other flowers?
Peter Persoon: We're already doing that but not bringing it to the market yet.
Clarissa: I knew there was something else on the way. That's awesome. Can you say what flowers?
Peter Persoon: We'll keep surprising you. We are bringing out 8 flowers and you would be amazed by how different these fragrances are. People think rose smells like a rose but each rose is completely different. There is a whole range of them but we are bringing the eight roses that are the most distinct. Then we will move on to something else and that I'll keep secret.
Clarissa: I was very surprised at the price point, I would have expected more, you want to talk about that?
Peter Persoon: We can do that because we have commercial farms. We tend to grow eco-friendly. We're a part of one of the biggest orchid grower groups in the US and our families are in Europe and in the US who are also rose growers. These roses are going to be within 2-3 weeks in safe waste.
Clarissa: I read a price point, is it 19.99 USD?
Peter Persoon: It differs a little bit. In Gelson's, they're 24 USD so it ranges. I cannot exactly tell you because we leave this up to our customers, the retailers, they set their price.
Clarissa: Around 20-25 USD is affordable, super sustainable, non-toxic and the perfect gift. Can you tell everybody how we can find you and your product sites?
Peter Persoon: We will be in Texas with HEP so we're spreading out pretty quick. You can look at our website www.NaturalFragranceRose.com or www.FrangranceFlower.com because there's more coming. Social media is @NaturalFragranceRose and we will teach you everything, you can reach out to us for questions. And you don't need to store them in the refrigerator just on your table. We have one ourselves next to our bed so I always wake up with a fresh flower.
Clarissa: That is wonderful. It's been lovely speaking with you, Peter, and thank you so much for taking the time.
Peter Persoon: Bye-bye! ✧