Making Sense of Scents

December 9, 2005

Sales of home fragrances continue to burn brightly. Here's why.

Home fragrance marketers are breathing easier. Home fragrance sales have maintained a strong growth trajectory since 2000 and are projected to continue to grow at a steady pace through 2010, according to the Home Fragrances and Candle Report 2005 published by Unity Marketing, a marketing consulting firm based in Stevens, PA. In 2004, the total market rose 14.1% to reach $8.3 billion. Continued consumer interest is expected to spur overall market growth through the rest of the decade, with total consumer sales projected to reach $12.6 billion in 2010.

Light My Fire

According to Unity Market, more than 80% of U.S. consumers purchased home fragrance products in the past year. At 68%, candles remained the primary choice.

In mass markets, Information Resources Inc. (IRI), Chicago, recorded candle sales increased from about $247 million to over $448 million for the year ended July 10.

In addition, the National Candle Association (NCA), Washington, DC, reports that candles are used in seven out of 10 households.

Recently, Primal Elements introduced its new Primal Elementini collection, which includes an assortment of candles in re-useable Martini containers.

Yankee Candle's new home line disinfects as it freshens the air.

"Consumers like to have something different that expresses themselves," said Faith Freeman, chief creative officer of Primal Elements, Garden Grove, CA. "They are willing to purchase products that create a specific mood or feeling and conveys their personality."

In fact, according to the NCA, nine out of 10 candle users say they use candles to make a room feel comfortable or cozy.

"Consumers will spend money on a candle because it's an inexpensive way for them to change the mood in their home," added Ms. Freeman.

Each Primal Elements container is decorated differently and each candle has a special fragrance to fit the theme on the container. Bikinitini features beach graphics with a pineapple, coconut and banana scent; Celebratini is an explosion of stars and vanilla; Flirtini displays silhouettes of pin-ups and martini glasses with the scent of apples and champagne; Luckatini includes a gambling theme and offers a sparkling effervescence; Romanceatini displays hearts and a floral fragrance; and Shopatini includes shoes and handbags with a sweet and tart aroma.

Some candles are so good you can eat them-really. Er'go candles are made with 100% natural, all vegetable soy wax. But while they are edible, Er'go suggests consumers burn them.

Early next year, the company will launch their new line of soy candles, Paris in Spring, the company's first line based on a theme rather than a new fragrance technology.

Because soy candles are not made from petroleum, they are soot-free, biodegradable, and nontoxic. They burn at a lower temperature, allowing the fragrance to quickly spread through the air.

The candles are provided in a glass cylinder with Louvre-inspired designs, and come in four scents. Verte represents the smell of grass; Currant smells like the fruit; Citron is pink grapefruit; and Fleur Blanc mixes jasmine with subtle undertones.


Fragrances directly affect a person's mood or attitude. Instantly, a scent can take you back to your childhood, a day in the park, a snowy evening by the fire, even your summer vacation in the Caribbean. People have strong associations with scents, which explains why scent is the main criteria customers consider when buying a home fragrance.

The NCA notes that 75% of candle purchasers said that scent was "extremely important" or "very important" in their selection of a candle for the home.

"In home fragrance, the pace of innovation around the sense of smell is finally starting to catch up to the other senses," explained John Sebastian, brand manager for Febreze Scentstories, Cincinnati, OH. "There is definitely a trend toward more fruity scents, like tropical, and fresh scents, such as linen. Fruity scents are very stimulating and exciting, and fresh scents are comforting."

According to the Home Fragrances and Candle Report 2005, baking scents (including vanilla, apple pie, and cinnamon) were the No. 1 purchase at 56%. Fresh nature scents such as seashore, mountain, rain shower and meadow scents came in at 49%, and floral scents came in third at 47%.

Whispers of the Forest, a new decorative fragrance line from Aromatique, Inc., Heber Springs AR, combines sandalwood, cedar and musk with a touch of tangerine and jasmine.

Primal Elements' Color Bowls were created to reflect the scents of the winter holiday seasons.

"As time has progressed, the public, as well as the creators of decorative fragrances have become more adventuresome by blending various scents to create a certain mood," said Peggy Harris, director of publicity. "Studies have proven that some aromas soothe and relax, while others may energize and stimulate."

The line includes potpourri, candle, fragrance spray and refresher oil.

Executives of Erbaviva, Los Angeles, noted that many medical professionals insist essential oils that enter the body through the respiratory system and skin function in the same manner as herbal medicine. Based on that notion, the company has introduced four new room and body sprays.

"The room and body sprays were created as an easy way to bring aromatherapy into any environment," said Robin Brown, president. "The scents were developed from our existing aromatherapy line, where we took the four best scents and names that described the moods or conditions they address."

Made from essential oils and pure organic grain alcohol, once sprayed, the alcohol evaporates instantly to leave behind the scent.

"The sprays are organic, appealing to people who are sensitive to synthetic fragrances," added Ms. Brown. "You can use them on yourself, on upholstery, in the car, anywhere you want to bring true aromatherapy into your life."

Relax infuses organic lavender, rose and neroli and Embrace features the scents of organic grapefruit, orange, and jasmine. To revitalize the mind and body, Awaken blends melissa, lemongrass, and rose. Breathe helps you do just that with organic eucalyptus, spruce and cedar scents.

Don't Say it, Spray it

Your home is your place of refuge, so it should look, and smell, however you want. According to Little Falls, NJ-based Kline & Company's Home Fragrances USA 2004 report, diffuser products brought the home fragrances market for 2004 to a five-year high. According to the study, diffusers and room sprays outperformed all other categories in terms of growth from 2003 to 2004. Room spray sales were up by more than 15% in 2003 and diffusers had record-breaking sales in 2004, representing an increase of nearly 25% from 2003.

IRI reports that mass market sales of home air fresheners grew 20.2% to more than $662 million during the year ended July 10. These results don't include Wal-Mart.

Reckitt Benckiser, Parsippany, NJ, recently introduced The Air Wick FreshMatic, an automatic freshness spray that includes a battery-powered timer switch to automatically release the refillable Air Wick fresh scent. Consumers set the device in 9-, 18-, or 36-minute intervals.

"A fresh smelling home is a sign of a well-kept home," said Christopher Marshall, senior brand manager. He noted that with today's busy lifestyle, people don't want to worry about how to keep their houses smelling fresh.

The FreshMatic starter kit contains one automatic unit, one fragrance spray, and two AA batteries, and is available in Harvest Spice, Lavender, and Sparkling Citrus scents.

Erbaviva room and body sprays come in Relax, Awaken, Embrace and Breathe.

P&G's Febreze Scentstories is a quiet fan that offers a collection of scents. At the touch of a button, the consumer can fragrance their home.

"Consumers love the high-quality scent of candles but with their busy lives they aren't always convenient to use," expressed Mr. Sebastian. "Scentstories delivers against this unmet need because there is no flame and it has the features of auto shut off and a fan for quick room fill. And each disc has a 50-hour collection of candle-like scents. So, Scentstories lets consumers enjoy great candle-like scents without striking a match."

The themed disks include Strolling Through the Garden, Wandering Barefoot on the Shore, Exploring a Mountain Trail, Relaxing in the Hammock, Shades of Vanilla, On a Tropical Island and a holiday line.

Many diffusers and room sprays just mask odors, as opposed to eliminating them. However, Yankee Candle has introduced Clean Scents, a new line of home care products made with Yankee Candle scents that not only smell great, but banish malodors smells with a special odor-eliminating agent.

"This line is special because it enables consumers who love Yankee Candle fragrances to use cleaning products with scents they love," replied Susan Stockman, director of public relations for Yankee Candle Co. "People with active households, including pets, will be particularly interested in this home care line."

The new line includes cleaning, laundry, and air fragrance products available in MacIntosh, Juicy Grapefruit, Clean Cotton, Lavender, Sage & Citrus and Sunwashed Linen fragrances.

It's the Most Wonderful Time

Scent sales are also influenced by the time of year, depending on a particular season or holiday.

Ms. Stockman stated, "For fall, scents like Mandarin Cranberry, MacIntosh, Autumn Wreath, Pumpkin Pie and Harvest are popular. During winter holidays, Home for the Holidays, Christmas Cookie and Christmas Wreath are popular. Spring brings floral scents and clean outdoors fragrances like Clean Cotton and Sunwashed Linen, and summer's favorites are often fruit or floral fragrances such as Lemon Zest, Lilac Blossoms, and Sweet Strawberry."

The NCA states that candle shipments increase substantially during the third quarter of the year because of the seasonal nature of candle sales during the end-of-year holiday celebrations (e.g., Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa), since candles play a large role in religious celebrations and gift-giving.

Primal Elements created the Color Bowl Candle Collection for upcoming winter holiday seasons. The candles mix wax with colorful translucent gel pieces to create a stained-glass effect while burning.

"Our goal is for the fragrance and the design to complement each other," said Ms. Freeman. "Decadent and edibles remain in our line of products. People seem to like certain categories but with a creative new twist on a familiar theme."

The Air Wick FreshMatic is pre-set to deliver continuous room-freshening for up to 60 days.

Popular holiday scents include Chocolate Covered Cherries, Eggnog, Peppermint Cocoa and Wine and Roses.

"We've found that consumers like to change the scent of their home with the season," she added.

Procter & Gamble has launched new holiday scents for Febreze products such as Scentstories, Air Effects, and Fabric Refresher.

"We know that consumer scent tastes change over time and throughout the year," said Mr. Sebastian. "At the holidays, there is a huge spike in the sales of holiday-related scents, such as evergreen or gourmand (berry/vanilla) as more people look to create a traditional inviting holiday environment."

Febreze Scentstories offers Celebrate the Holidays, Mulling Cranberry Cider, Baking Holiday Pies, Lighting a Mulberry Candle, Making a Gingerbread House and Cookies Warm from the Oven scents. Febreze Air Effects include fragrances entitled Fresh Evergreen & Snow and Apple Spice & Delight. Fresh Evergreen & Snow is also offered with the Febreze Fabric Refresher. In addition to the popular candles, air fresheners and potpourri, new innovative products are hitting the shelves.

New Products

Lafco NY/Santa Maria Novella, New York, NY, has reintroduced a 16th century remedy used to dispel malodors in the home. The company's Fragrant Burning Papers are folded accordion style, lit at one end and blown out. They are then placed standing up on a glass or ceramic surface to burn.

"What makes the Fragrant Burning Papers different from other fresheners is that they are natural and do not contain harsh chemicals that other room fragrances may have," said Jon Bresler, company president. "People are definitely more sophisticated and are looking for less synthetic fragrances and opting for fragrances that are more natural, unique, and that play along well with their own body chemistry."

The burning papers come in frankincense and myrrh.

The Future of Fragrance

The home fragrance market, which includes, but is not limited to, candles and accessories, sprays, plug-ins, room and air fresheners, potpourris, and air purifiers, is expanding.

According to Unity Marketing, about 80% of all adult Americans bought some kind of home fragrance product in the past year. How a product makes a customer feel is a big factor in its development because the accomplishments of this market are based upon the emotions of its customers.

Unity Marketing states that marketers and retailers need to address new trends and the changing ways consumers are using and shopping for natural fragrance products. Marketing success will come to companies that identify shifts and turns in the consumer market before everyone else.