The next time a crowded journey on public transport thrusts you too close to a malodorous armpit, take heart. Help will soon be just a boiled sweet away. Deo Perfume Candy, sweets that release a lingering rose scent through the pores of your skin, will be launched in the UK early next year. Just one serving is said to "fragrance" a 10-stone adult for up to six hours with a delicious floral aroma. Willy Wonka eat your heart out.
US company Beneo, which has developed the spooky-sounding sweet with Bulgarian confectioner Alpi, says the product is perfectly safe and, in principle, works the same way as garlic. Both the sweets and garlic contain compounds that can't be broken down by the body, and so are excreted through the skin. In the sweets, the key ingredient is geraniol, a naturally occurring compound found in plants such as roses, lavender and vanilla. Munching on the sugar-free tangerine-flavoured candy will, apparently, turn you into a living perfume atomiser.
US consumers have been snapping up the sweets since they first went on sale online in August, despite their bizarre packaging (more reminiscent of feminine hygiene products than snacks) and hefty price tag ($10 for a small bag). The sweets are expected to be sold in shops in the US soon and are already available in Spain, Germany, China, Korea and Armenia. The UK distributor is currently working with a major high street retailer to prepare the product, appealingly repackaged, for sale in time for next Valentine's Day. Matching flowers and body odour for your special someone. How romantic.
But like it or not, Deo sweets appear to be the thin end of a fragrant wedge. Dutch company Swallowable Parfum is developing a similar concept, although not so much a sweet as an edible cosmetic. It plans to produce capsules that excrete a "genetically unique" scent through perspiration. Co-founders Lucy McRae and synthetic biologist Sharef Mansy believe it might be ready for market in three to five years.
Ingestible perfume isn't a new concept. Japanese researchers were the first to confirm the link between eating geraniol and smelling sweet. Otoko Kaoru chewing gum (translated as "man scent") was launched several years ago but only kept chewers floral fresh for an hour or two. This might explain why the gum was discontinued, or perhaps the manufacturers got the wrong target market; 20- to 40-year-old Japanese men might not have fancied smelling like potpourri.
We all know there's a connection - often less than ambrosial - between food and body odour. Cumin and asparagus, along with garlic of course, are prime offenders. Cumin contains volatile aromatic compounds that are excreted in sweat, especially when consumed in large quantities. And asparagus produces a smelly chemical called methyl mercaptan which passes into urine as well perspiration. Although food-related body odour isn't always funky - fenugreek can evoke a maple syrup note in some of us, for example - it can be problematic. In a 2006 study researchers from the Czech Republic found that male meat eaters have a stronger, more unpleasant smell than vegetarians and are, apparently, less appealing to women.
But somehow, despite the occasional embarrassment, the odoriferous side effects of a hearty meal seem perfectly normal. Popping deodorant just seems wrong. And while I'm all in favour of smelling delicious, I'd prefer to stink of last night's curry than reek from within like I've swallowed an air freshener.
Of course, I might be swimming against the tide. "Body fragrancing functional candy" as marketeers refer to it, has the sorry whiff of the Next Big Thing. It's part of a new wave of edible skincare known as nutricosmetics that includes suntan enhancers in pill form and chocolate-flavoured beauty bars.
What next? Chanel N°5 gummy bears? Eau de cologne through a straw? I think I'd rather pong. What about you?
In Picture: A woman smelling rose flowers. Photograph: ONOKY - Photononstop/Alamy