Home Fragrance: Homier than Ever

November 11, 2005

Though candle sales are flat, diffusers and other innovations are sparking interest.

Consumers today really like the idea of home sweet-smelling home. This is partly due to the traumatic events of Sept. 11, and it is also indicative of the American home today. Candles and room sprays are not only part of the décor, but they also serve as relaxing pleasures while entertaining, cooking or working from home.

The $2.3 billion home fragrance market, which includes items such as candles, room sprays and potpourri, experienced only a 4% increase in 2001 due to the slowdown of mass market candle sales that began in 2000, according to Kline & Company, Little Falls, NJ. The low digit sales don't mean consumers have stopped buying candles cold turkey. However, marketers are scurrying to find ways to recapture consumers' attention and boost growth.

Diffuser sales jumped 21% in 2001. Reckitt Benckiser, which more than doubled its sales in 2001, outspent S.C. Johnson and gained shelf space for its diffusers. As a result of the new emphasis on diffusers, candle sales are suffering in the mass market. Private label entries and foreign imports have also disrupted longstanding retail partners. Private label sales were up nearly 20% in 2001, according to Kline.

In specialty stores, sales softness was common in 2001. Experts said too many new stores opened in a short period of time and there was not enough product freshness. There was also a lack of consumer traffic in malls, Kline & Company reported.

Not All Is Lost
But here's the good news. Consumer interest in home fragrance products did pick up at the end of 2001, helping candle sales and other product categories. This can be attributed in part to the "nesting" trend, stated Kline & Company's group director Lenka Contreras. "While nesting has affected growth of the home fragrance market for several years, it became a larger factor after 9-11," she said.

In fact, candle usage rose 17% from September to May, according to a study by PKS Research, Washington, D.C. for the National Candle Association. The study also revealed 67% of candle buyers burn candles to put them in a good mood and 54% use candles to relieve the effects of stress.

The National Candle Association noted demand is increasing for sophisticated, complex scents for candles. Popular scents now include fruity, vanilla, amber and woody fragrances. There is also an increased demand for floral fragrances such as daffodil, violet and tulips, as well as spicy scents such as ginger, cardamom and ginseng. Seventy-five percent of consumers said fragrance is extremely important when purchasing a candle, while others said cost (42%), color (43%) and size (37%) were extremely important.

The personal care market is also starting to rub off on the environmental fragrance market with the trend toward natural, if not organic, ingredients. Another trend to watch for, according to Kline's Ms. Contreras, is the resurgence of potpourri. Potpourri has been on the decline for many years; however, new trendy products are set to hit shelves.

"Potpourri is very giftable, and we sell blends around the holidays," said Elizabeth Marrone, vice president of fragrance innovations, White Barn Candle and Bath & Body Works. "We are always looking at new forms and how to create the best diffusions."

The Yankee Candle Co. will launch several new potpourri mixes for the holidays: McIntosh, Sage & Citrus, Home Sweet Home and Mistletoe. They cost $11.99 each. Also new are sachet packets in Mistletoe and Home Sweet Home fragrances.

Yankee Candle’s Christmas Berries fragrance reminds folks of times of yore.

Let's Make a Deal
To stimulate its already strong sales, the $379.8 million Yankee Candle Company expanded its distribution greatly in 2001 by forging new retail partnerships with large chain stores such as Linens 'N Things and Bed, Bath & Beyond.

In May, Yankee Candle introduced several additions to its wholesale business. The new Housewarmer fragrances include Banana Cream Pie, Lemongrass & Orange, Citrus Spice, Maple Walnut and Cranberry Chutney. They are available in smooth-sided pillars, votive candles, scented tea lights and wax potpourri. Halloween treats are also available in such choices as Black Licorice, Trick or Treat (candy corn) and Halloween tea light holders shaped like black cats and orange pumpkins.

For the holidays, Yankee Candle will introduce Housewarmer candle fragrances Christmas Berries (fresh pine and sweet berries), Snow Angels (sweet and sparkly) and Yuletide Bayberry (woodsy and brisk).

Limited Brands, the Columbus, OH-based parent company of The White Barn Candle Company, is implementing new merchandising measures in 2002 to jumpstart sales for its newest specialty stores format. According to its 2001 annual report, Bath & Body Works (BBW) home fragrance sales increased 12-13% in the past few years. BBW has introduced a wellness concept to stores, while White Barn Candle Company is gradually adding more home décor items to provide a unified look in consumers' homes.

White Barn recently introduced a new filled candle called Real Essence, which has become an instant success, according to executives. "It has a special, vegetable-based formula," said Ms. Marrone. "The wax was developed to have no base odor, so when fragrance is added to the candle, the result is a clear, airy fragrance without any interference from the base."

Other recent innovations have come from anything that could elicit an emotional response from nature to music to color. "Sometimes fragrances are created around a color," said Ms. Marrone. "For example, we wanted a blue candle and came up with Mediterranean Waters, which is like a walk on the beach. It creates a total sensorial experience."

The National Candle Association said colors and scents are driving candle growth, as opposed to new product forms, finishes or technology.

White Barn is also looking at new tea blends that remind consumers of teashops and other welcoming scents. "The restaurant business is down in New York, which is an indication that people have been spending more time at home and entertaining more often," insisted Ms. Marrone. "They want to create a welcoming fragrance environment that adds to the ambiance and beauty of the home."

For the fall, White Barn is focusing on a theme celebrating nature and harvesting. Stores will feature products and décor in burnt oranges, browns and khaki greens. The new candle scents include Blissful Blackberry, Sweet Cinnamon Pumpkin, Ginger & Bergamot, Kitchen Spice, Fig & Amber and Basil & Thyme.

PartyLite’s Spiced Cookie pillar is an example of the popularity of “edible” fragrances.

Home Cookin'
Looking at Yankee Candle's and White Barn Candle's new candle scents, it is clear that edible fragrances still remain popular with consumers. PartyLite, a direct-selling division of Blyth Inc., also has new food-like candle entries such as Warm Cookies and Banana Bread.

"People are looking for comfort," explained Brenda Austin, associate editor, PartyLite's training magazine. "The biggest trend since Sept. 11 has been anything that is old-fashioned, comfortable and nostalgic and reminds us of better times, such as yummy sweets from childhood."

For the holidays, PartyLite will offer new forms of its Whipped wax candle, such as the Peppermint Snow pillar. A red and white striped Candy Cane pillar is another new holiday treat. Pomander, a scented disc of wax placed in a porcelain ball, now comes in the Spiced Cookies fragrance. PartyLite has also extended its Scent Plus super votive line to deliver a stronger aroma. The new scents for the holiday season include Holiday Spices, Cranberry, Balsam Pine and Cinnamon Sticks.

An interest in making homes cozier is good news for PartyLite. Ms. Austin suggested a reason behind this movement. "There is a focus on family and togetherness, especially around the holidays," she said. "People are also spending more time than ever at home and are buying from their homes."

Desserts and Delicacies
Innovative Garden Grove, CA-based candle and soap company Primal Elements is never one to follow in the footsteps of others. For example, the company is aware of the edible fragrance trend, but offers candles with interesting food combinations.

"Our customers are more interested in the traditional approach to scenting a room, although we make them quite unconventional," insisted Faith Freeman, chief executive officer of Primal Elements.

Lavender Lemon Poundcake was one of the most recent additions to the company's square Mystic candles line, with notes of buttery cake, lavender and lemon. Another new and yummy Mystic scent is Malted Amber, a blend of brown sugar, caramel, ginger, nutmeg and hops. Cranberry Apple Tart and Gingerbread Crème were recent additions to Primal Elements' Color Bowl collection.

"We are still seeing food-inspired candles as quite strong," said Ms. Freeman, noting that the Cupcake candle is a best seller.

The inspiration for these candles came from the culinary industry's idea of fusion foods, which are strange yet delicious combinations, according to Ms. Freeman. She also noted sophisticated fragrances have entered the candle market.

Some examples include new Mystic scents Amethyst (lemon, grapefruit, citron, cypress and ylang ylang), Citrine (amber, moss and citrus floral) and Rose Quartz (woods, musk, pineapple and peach).

Primal Elements is also very interested in aromatherapy. In July, Primal Elements added two new fragrances to its year-old Aromatherapy candle collection: SubLime and Ylang Ylang. SubLime features a clean citrus aroma, while Ylang Ylang spotlights sensual ylang ylang blossoms.

Primal Elements mixes paragel stained glass technology with waxes. Pictured: SubLime.

The National Candle Association said younger consumers, ages 18-24, burn candles in the bedroom and 92% of those respondents said they light candles to be romantic.

"We have seen a lot of interest in the aromatherapy segments and we have added products in response," said Ms. Freeman. "More and more people are spending time at home with friends and family and cocooning. They understand aromatherapy's abilities for mental transport."

The two-wicked Aromatherapy candles are hand-poured using all essential oils and have a burn time of 35-40 hours. The smaller votive candles provide 15-20 hours of light.

Also new are glass-encased Paragel candles called Better than Tea Lights. Paragel is a clear, scented gel technology that radiates light and is mixed with refined candle waxes to create a stained-glass effect. The four-pack candles are available in Pink Lemonade, Rain Scent, Cherish, Lavender and Tahitian Vanilla.

Essential Oils Are Essential
Irvine, CA-based Aroma Naturals executives insist most industries are leaning toward improved health. This month, Aroma Naturals will launch a Spa collection, that includes bath and body products as well as all-natural fragrance sprays and home aroma mists that are water-based. The company previously introduced room fresheners solely made of essential oils. These new mists contain essential oils, herbs and water, instead of alcohol and artificial fragrances.

"What we are breathing has become important these days," said Tina Rocca-Lundstrom, president, Aroma Naturals. "There are studies that suggest anything with artificial fragrance could have phthalates, which are questionable. We are going to see a lot less alcohol-based and artificial room sprays. People will become more and more conscious and want alternatives to what they spray in the air."

Tranquility, from Aroma Naturals, spotlights the relaxing oil of lavender.

Aroma Naturals also recently introduced four new aromatherapy candles: Tranquility (wildcrafted lavender), Spontaneity (grapefruit and petit grain), Harmony (basil and lime) and Synergy (rose geranium and ginger grass). Lavender, a personal favorite of Ms. Rocca-Lundstrom, was a scent she wanted to stand alone in a candle. The result was the periwinkle-colored Tranquility candle.

After Sept. 11, the holidays last year were very candle-intensive, according to Ms. Rocca-Lundstrom. The company de-colorized its popular Peace candle into a pearl color, which is a blend of cinnamon, orange and clove. It is now one of the company's best-sellers. "People are wishing and hoping for peace in the world and in their own environment," she explained. "It is a universal wish."

In other news, Aroma Naturals is currently working to produce a 100% soy-based wax. It has been in development for two years, but Ms. Rocca-Lundstrom said vegetable wax burns differently and more inconsistently than combination waxes. "Safe burning is key to good candle release," noted Ms. Rocca-Lundstrom.

Aura Cacia, a division of Frontier Natural Brands, Boulder, CO, recently introduced three aromatherapy candles: Passion (exotic ylang ylang), Delight (rich cherry almond) and Elevate (sweet orange spice). The candles contain essential oils and natural, hand-poured wax with non-metal wicks. Sizes include 3-inch, 5-inch and 3-pack votives with glass holders. Aura Cacia has been on the forefront of the aromatherapy boom, which has translated into candles.

"Candles have a lot to do with emotion and mood, and essential oils allow a more therapeutic experience," said Kristine Carey, creative services director, Frontier Natural Brands. "The focus of life used to be on careers and moving fast. Since Sept. 11, people have realized that they need a balance and need to think of wellness too, which includes the foods you eat and the environment you put yourself in."

Indigo Wild, a Kansas City, MO-based company that offers natural, homemade essential oil products, offers the Zum Glow line of candles that incorporate vegetable and soy waxes and a lead-free wick. Owner and entrepreneur Emily Voth said the vegetable wax-based candle burns at a low temperature to provide maximum aromatherapy benefits. Zum Glow candle scents include Geranium, Sandalwood Citrus, Lavender, Frankincense & Myrrh, Almond, Grapefruit, Lavender Mint and Patchouli.

Indigo Wild plans to introduce a Ylang Ylang Zum Glow candle this month and the Holiday Confetti candle, an essential oil blend of fir needles, orange and peppermint, for the holidays. The company's best-selling candle is Lavender Mint. Ms. Voth noted her company utilizes a Bulgarian lavender oil that is much softer than other lavender oils. "There are certain fragrances that are universally appealing," explained Ms. Voth. "People are also drawn to lavender for its intense aromatherapeutic, relaxing and de-stressing effects."

For most other candles, fragrance blends are harder to figure out, and sometimes happen by chance. "Some of our candles were actually mistakes, and the employees took them home and asked for more," said Ms. Voth. "We also find inspiration from our customers."

Indigo Wild also offers Zum Mists, a line of alcohol-free all-purpose fragrance sprays using purified water, essential oils, aloe and vegetable glycerin. Zum Mists are available in Lavender Lemon, Patchouli, Rosemary Mint and Sandalwood Citrus. Indigo Wild products are sold online at www.indigowild.com and in specialty boutiques and natural food stores nationwide.

The Road Less Traveled
Mad Gab's of Maine, Newcastle, ME, recently launched Clean Candles, an extension of the company's popular body care line. Clean Candles are made from soy wax and burn for 35 hours, which executives said is 25% longer than paraffin candles. Various scents are available, including Geranium Grapefruit, Clove Almond Orange, Lavender and unscented.

Veronique Debroise, a prominent perfumist in Paris, has created a line of scented candles and room scents. Each Veronique Debroise Perfumed candle and room scent is made with a subtle mix of rare essential oils, with a focus on one main aroma. Her scents include Venetian Amber (labdanum and benjoin), Green Lilly (a fresh lily of the valley), Celestial Blackberry (cassis and fir balsam), Wild Fig (figs with green, milky and woodsy accents), Peony (fruity and fresh), Jungle Lilac (freshly cut lilacs), Sweet Pea (multi-colored flowers and herbs) and Fleur de Acacia (fresh, powdery, floral scent). Each candle is sold with an elegant golden garland holder. The room sprays are housed in a glass spray bottle with a tassel on top.

Diffusers Take Center Stage
As previously mentioned, several mass and mid-tier environmental fragrance companies are focusing much of their attention on the rising diffuser category. Colonial Candle, Des Plaines, IL, launched Kate's Bloomin' Essence, a wall plug with a floral design that is available in the 10 most popular Kate's candle fragrances, such as Mulberry, Rain and Honeydew Melon.

"This is the first electrical plug-in the company has introduced," said Tyler Schuessler, director of investor relations at parent company Blyth Inc., Greenwich, CT. "It has been quite a while in development because we wanted a plug-in that can be used on a horizontal or vertical outlet and does not cover the second outlet."

Executives said Kate's Bloomin' Essence lasts six to eight weeks and emits a soft light much like a night light. A warmer unit with a fragrance vase and refill two-pack costs $12.

Mia Rose’s Airoma-Mister uses a natural spray.

Mia Rose Products, a Newport Beach, CA-based 21-year veteran of the natural products industry, recently introduced the Airoma-Mister, a wall-mounted dispenser that sends an electronically timed mist of a 7.5-oz. can of Air Therapy, an essential oil spray derived from citrus peels, into the air. Air Therapy has a non-VOC repellent and has no artificial fragrances. Executives said the spray is effective against certain airborne bacteria and keeping most fleas, flies, ants and crickets away.

"This has been in the works since the late 1980s," said chief executive officer Mia Rose. "Because we only use pure, distilled oils, we needed specific plastic parts that would not clog."

Ms. Rose also worked with California's Air Quality Control board to overcome several obstacles along the way. But in the end, Ms. Rose believes this innovative product's time is due. "It's time to make a difference in the air we breathe," insisted Ms. Rose.

Though Ms. Rose plans to target the industrial and hospitality markets, consumers may also purchase Airoma-Mister online at www.miarose.com.

Always the Innovators
Some environmental fragrance marketers dance to the beat of a different drummer. For Every Body, Provo, UT, is combining the fun of candles with the poignancy of greeting cards. The company, well-known for its true-to-life wax candle toppings, has added 10 new candles to its Greeting Card candle collection in glass jars such as Friendship, Don't Look Back, Cheer Up, New Baby, Mother and I'm Sorry.

For Every Body's Home Baked candle line also introduced dessert inspired fragrances including White Cake Donut, Vanilla Pound Cake, Tiramisu, Bundt Cake, Pecan Cheesecake, Maple Bar, English Toffee Mocha, Chocolate Lovers Cookie and Poppyseed Muffin. Also new is the company's Sentiment collection featuring two expressions: Follow Your Heart and Live, Laugh, Love.

Some consumers like the ambiance candles create, but not the hazards that may ensue if they are left alone. Inglow Candle Company, Albert Lea, MN, has introduced a line of patent-pending, wickless and flameless candles. Inglow candles are made of a high quality blended wax in unscented or vanilla options. The patent-pending Inglow insert, a battery-operated device, lights and scents the candles from the inside out. The candle glows for 50 hours before batteries need replacement, and it will never burn down, melt or need replacing, according to executives. Inglow candles are available in gift and department stores and on the company's website www.inglowcandles.com.

Another idea for the fire phobic is Paint Pourri, a new product developed by Scentco, Thomasville, GA. This paint additive enables consumers to "turn their paint into a long-lasting air freshener." According to Scentco, the product can be used to freshen rooms, help eliminate odors and create fragrant moods throughout the home. Treated paints can release a pleasant fragrance for a year or more after application, executives said.

Kate’s Bloomin’ Essence features the brand’s 10 most popular fragrances.
Remembering Sept. 11
Several home fragrance companies are commemorating 9-11 with fragrance products. On Sept. 11, Tarte launched its New York Candle collection, two candles encased in sleek rectangular boxes with Tarte's signature purple leather. The box top can also serve as a candle holder. Tribeca combines citrus, jasmine, warm milk and powder. The second candle, Battery Park, is a blend of apple leaf, raspberry, freesia and sandalwood. Both candles retail for $38 and a portion of the proceeds will go to The Gift of New York, a non-profit initiative that gives Sept. 11 victims' families access to sport and art activities in New York City.

Last September, Aroma Naturals donated 1000 Personal Air Purifiers featuring an aromatherapeutic blend of 10 essential oils such as lavender, rosemary, eucalyptus, pine and tea tree, to World Trade Center rescuers to help ease the effort.

"We were so happy to contribute in some way," said Ms. Rocca-Lundstrom. "Through smell we made a connection."

Aroma Naturals plans to introduce larger-sized Personal Air Purifier later this year.

Looking Forward
Though the most common candle purchase is tea candles, among consumers who purchase candles, 33%, spend between $25-50 each year on all types of candles, according to the National Candle Association. The bottom line is consumers are glad to escape, if only temporarily, from the stresses of daily life. And the environmental fragrance market offers several solutions.

"People haven't given up on the little luxuries," insisted Indigo Wild's Ms. Voth, mother of pampering items.