There are few more powerful senses that retailers and marketers can use than the sense of smell, but at the same time, it is also one of the most subjective.

Part of the reason for this is that a sense of smell is the first one we develop, and is linked to memories and emotions with a particular strength even compared to taste, sight and sound.

There are many scents and fragrances that are exceptionally pleasant and evoke pleasant memories for some and can be repulsive to others, partly due to the memories and emotions connected to them.

In matters of smell, somewhat ironically, there is no accounting for taste.

This can be frustrating for some businesses who want to use a retail scent diffuser to create a journey around their stores but are not sure which fragrances will suit the ambience they want to create with their store.

With that in mind, here are a selection of the most popular fragrances according to a survey of people in the United Kingdom, what makes them appeal, and where these smells can be taken advantage of in a retail environment.

Fresh Bread

The top response in the survey, and one that is commonly used in supermarkets to lure in customers is that delightful scent of bread baking in the oven.

This is so universal that it is to the point that supermarkets have found that a bakery aisle will help people spend more on their overall shopping and can help to close the sale. Freshly baked cakes work in a very similar way.

This is probably the ultimate example of a scent triggering a form of sense memory. Fresh bread often reminds people of their childhood, with a survey by the UCD’s Institute of Food and Health finding that the first word that comes to mind when smelling fresh bread is “mum” or “mother”.

It is a welcoming aroma and one you can simulate using fragrance oils in retail situations where you do not have an actual bakery to work with.


Coffee is a smell that triggers a very different set of sensory reactions. Coffee smells evoke less of a calming, cosy, home environment and more of an invigorating scent that creates a spike of energy, a sense of belonging and the fresh scent of comfort that comes with a lot of strong brewing and cooking smells.

However, whilst coffee is very popular, it is not a universally beloved scent, in part because the delicate balance of scents associated with a rich dark roast is counterpointed by how bitter coffee tastes, and some people who cannot stand the taste of coffee may link the smell to that.


Despite unfairly being associated with the default option, there are few scents as universally beloved as vanilla, to the point that a study in Current Biology claimed that it was the most popular scent in the world irrespective of age, gender and cultural background.

Part of that is that vanilla ticks a lot of boxes when it comes to the types of smells people enjoy most. It is sweet, it has that natural nutty note, and it is powerful without becoming overbearing.

With that said, whilst the study claimed there was no cultural basis behind the universal love for vanilla, for a lot of people vanilla does have a nostalgic element, and often vanilla is part of the fragrance profile of shops that want to evoke a sense of childhood joy.

Dewy, Freshly Cut Grass

The smell perhaps most associated with the flush of spring, the dew-soaked scent of grass cuttings evokes a lot of powerful emotions to the point that it can cause an almost synaesthetic reaction in some people.

Some people associate the smell of dewy grass not only with spring, with renewal and with the great outdoors but even with the colour green.

Interestingly, the smell is not unique to grass itself but can be associated with fresh flowers, fruits and vegetables, and is typically a smell associated with ripeness, helping people know when to pick produce before it dies on the vine.


More of a contentious entry in the survey, and one that cannot be emulated by artificial fragrances, bacon more than most meat products has a particularly sharp and appealing fragrance that much like coffee and fresh bread is associated commonly with breakfast.

Part of the reason for this is due to the Maillard Reaction that causes fried foods to turn brown combining with the fats common to bacon slices melting to create strong aroma compounds.

Much like with cut grass and the smell of freshness, the smell of bacon frying is associated with safety and a source of energy-rich food.

This might be a smell to avoid diffusing if you are not offering bacon sandwiches, however.

 Sea Breeze

Many people love to be beside the seaside, and whilst there are a lot of smells associated with the halcyon days of spending time on the beach, most people have a particularly strong association with the smell of the seaside and particularly the bracing sea breeze.

In practice, the scent is caused by dimethyl sulphide, a by-product of bacteria digesting dead plankton, seaweed eggs and iodine.

This does not sound particularly glamorous, but the distinct salty sea scent immediately sticks in your mind and most people in the UK have an association between it and a childhood holiday to the beach.

It is a popular synthesised fragrance often found in oils and candles ideal for evoking summer to many people.


The first aroma that comes to mind when people think of perfumes and fragrances, lavender creates a feeling of relaxation but unlike other scents that primarily create a pleasant emotional response through their connection to other senses, lavender’s smell alone triggers relaxation.

It works through the use of the neurotransmitter inhibitors linalyl acetate and linalool, which creates a sedative effect, lowers a person’s heart rate, relieves pain and reduces anxiety, all of which not only make it a standard part of many fragrance kits but also has led to research into potential medical uses.

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Benefit from a free consultation session with no strings attached. Either choose a time slot here or submit the form below. 

Our team is here to help find the perfect scent marketing or odor control solution for your business. 

Your details: