Magic in the Air

September 4, 2007

Home fresheners lead the market, while candles try to keep up.

 Fragrance themes often tie into the holiday season.
Magic in the Air

Home fresheners lead the market, while candles try to keep up.

Melissa Meisel
Associate Editor

With the flick of a match or a click of a spray, home fragrance products are an easy way to quell pesky odors or revitalize a room. However, add a cornucopia of scent selections and the competitive edge of modern marketing innovations, and suddenly the simple world of home fragrance becomes a lot more complicated. After all, how does a consumer ultimately decide on a home freshener with so many choices in the market?

With a bountiful selection at hand, the air care category still has plenty of room to grow, notes Cynthia Milgroom, vice president of marketing air care at the Dial Corporation, especially as manufacturers develop better fragrance delivery systems. “Consumers have demonstrated a strong willingness to trade up to devices that offer new and meaningful benefits,” she said.

According to Information Resources Inc. (IRI), there are many options out there, and the proof is in the figures. IRI reports the total sales for the air fresheners category for the year ending June 17, 2007 was around $1 billion—with home fresheners at $918 million.

In the Mass Market

Glade topped the air freshener segment with $185 million for its plug-in home fresheners; Airwick by Wizard followed at $82 million, then Renuzit Longlast Adjustable products at $70.5 million, Febreze Noticables at $70 million and Febreze Air Effects at $69 million.  Potpourri and sachets were also a big segment at $35 million in sales, according to IRI.

In the category of candles, a total of $743 million was sold in the past year, according to IRI. Private label candles led the way at $153 million, followed by Glade candles at $144 million.

According to The Nielsen Company, Nielsen Strategic Planner data shows that the total candles, incense and accessories category accounted for $767 million in sales in U.S. food, drug and mass merchandiser stores (excluding Wal-Mart) during the period ending June 16, 2007; down 1.2% from the same period a year ago.

However, the sales of fresheners and deodorizers are up, confirms Nielsen. The Nielsen Strategic Planner data shows that the total fresheners/deodorizers category accounted for $1.1 billion in sales in U.S. food, drug, and mass merchandiser stores (excluding Wal-Mart) during the period ending June 16, 2007; up 3.2% from last year.

Hot or Not?

According to a 2007 U.S. report by Mintel, the candle market expanded in the 1990s, but it had difficulties between 2001-06, with sales of $2.34 billion in 2006, which is 7% below the 2001 level of $2.51 billion. Yet, while overall sales may be relatively flat, definite shifts are occurring within the market. Plus, the price of petroleum—an important raw material for candle wax—has doubled between 2002-06, leading to increased pressure on profitability for many key players.

 Banana Republic's Chilled Sangria Candle earned a Fifi Award earlier this year.
However, Rick Ruffolo, senior vice president of brand, marketing and innovation for The Yankee Candle Company, offers a contradictory statement—that the biggest news for the candle market in 2007 was confirmation that the premium candle business continues to grow.

“There have been reports from Mintel, Euromonitor and Unity Marketing indicating that candle sales were in decline…which some took as a definitive perspective on the total market.   However, when one looks at the total market, and includes both the mass and the premium/specialty channels, the candle market actually is quite healthy growing—up 4% last year, according to Kline & Company Research,” Mr. Ruffolo told Happi.

“Unlike many product categories where the mass channels represent the majority of sales volume, premium distribution channels (defined as specialty store, gift store, home
 specialty and department stores) actually account for the largest portion of the candle market,” continues Mr. Ruffolo. “This dynamic is due to the discretionary nature of the
category, as well as its inherent giftability. The fact is the premium channels offer a much greater product assortment, higher service levels, more knowledgeable associates and better quality. As such, the premium candle market grew 6% in 2006.”

Odor Control

Candles or other household gadgets aside, the key term in the air fresheners category is just that—freshener. According to Ms. Milgroom, odor control products continue to drive the growth of the air care category. For 2007, Renuzit successfully expanded its Super Odor Neutralizer sub-brand into new air care segments including a new “Pure Breeze” trigger spray, plug-in oils, fabric refresher and roller scents. Renuzit’s Super Odor Neutralizer trigger increased double digits in the first half of 2007 driven by the company’s “360 Marketing” program tied into Donald Trump’s Apprentice reality TV show.   

Ms. Milgroom notes that in the second half of 2007, Renuzit is continuing to expand the Super Odor Neutralizer sub-brand with the launch of Pearl Scents—a decorative continuous action air freshener with patented odor control technology to neutralize and leave a fresh scent.  She also notes that  “clean, fresh fragrances” continue to be on trend, citing Renuzit’s Pure Breeze and Sunny Laundry scents that were both launched within the last year as doing well. 

After nearly a 90-year absence from the candle industry, Procter & Gamble introduced the Febreze Candle this year, which it bills as the first scented candle on the market with an advanced odor-eliminating core. As the Febreze Candle burns, it uses a patented technology to remove unpleasant odors from the air while simultaneously filling a room with scent.

“The Febreze brand is a pioneer in odor-elimination technology going back to when we launched Febreze as the first fabric refresher in 1997,” said David S. Taylor, group president, global home care. “We felt that it was only natural that an odor-eliminating candle be developed for Febreze given the brand’s heritage. The Febreze Candle goes a step beyond a traditional scented candle because it does more than just scent a room; it removes unpleasant odors, helping to create a pleasing environment in which consumers can relax.”

Latest Innovations

In order to create distinctive SKUs in a fiercely competitive market, the candle industry is increasingly emphasizing fragrance, design and adopting trends in beauty, fashion and home décor, says Mintel.

“In recent years, there are a number of home fragrance product forms that consumers have started to use in addition to—not as a replacement for—candles,” says Mr. Ruffolo, noting electric home fragrance products, reed diffusers, home fragrance oils and oil warmers, room spray and potpourri as popular choices to bring fragrance into a room.

One example of innovations is the release of Glade’s Flameless Candle. Starter kits include one candle, a reusable frosted glass jar, two AA batteries and a scented oil refill. It is available in Clean Linen and French Vanilla scents at food, drug and mass merchandise stores.

Reed diffusers also are a coveted home fragrance item. According to Carrie Mellage, director, consumer products, Kline & Company: “Just as diffusers began to plateau in 2006, reed diffusers, the newest product to the market, grew at a very fast rate.  The reeds started in the prestige end of the segment and now have trickled down into virtually every channel of distribution.”

Sweet Grass Farm, a marketer of natural home care products, recently released its Farmhouse Fragrance Sticks, a traditional reed diffuser set.  When the sticks are placed in the container, the oil gently evaporates into the air creating a long-lasting fragrance.  Every couple of days, if the reeds get a little dry, the consumer can simply turn the sticks upside down and a fresh wave of fragrance will waft on by. The set contains bottle, 8oz. fragrance and reeds and is available in scents such as lavender, citrus basil, coastal bay berry and top-selling lemon verbena.

The owner of Sweet Grass Farm, Debbie Ludington, said, “We find that customers love true-to-nature or nature duplicates compared to ‘fantasy’ fragrance combinations. Our customers want to experience the fragrances that they smell in nature.”

Home fragrance company Aromatique also offers diffusers, with pumpkin spice for Fall 2007.

Plug-ins remain a popular choice in home fragrance. The ScentPort, a new plug-in scented oil diffuser said to be the aromatic equivalent of an iPod, is sold at Bath & Body Works.  Former Wall Street businessman Harry Slatkin, who was convinced by fashion designer Vera Wang to take a foray into the home fragrance market, created the line. ScentPort’s latest fragrance for fall is orange nectar, as citrus is a popular scent in home fresheners.

Flavors & Fragrances

Consumers increasingly expect that unique scents, which have become popular in other arenas like aromatherapy, will quickly hit the world of candles, and that companies will constantly deliver fresh and exciting products every season, says the Mintel report. Companies that have been able to meet these expectations—including S.C. Johnson, Yankee Candle and Limited Brands, among others—have still been able to grow sales in this tough climate.

Home fragrances are even crossing over into decorating concepts. According to Barbara Miller of the National Candle Association (NCA), nearly half of all American women say they specifically use candles as part of their decorating scheme, and the
growing popularity of “scenterior” design—combining fragrance and color to create a full sensory aesthetic in the home—is a driving force in candle sales.
Mr. Ruffolo cites the new Yankee Candle World Collection—which includes oils from around the world like Tahitian Tiare Flower, Mediterranean Cypress and Vera Cruz Vanilla—as a line designed from the consumer’s desire to find innovative fragrances.

Crabtree & Evelyn also recently launched its India Hicks Island Living Home Collection of candles, diffusers and room sprays. According to the company, the line was specifically designed to capture the scent of an island breeze with notes of the Pacific’s casuarina trees, wildflowers, orange blossom, green palm and sea air accords.

Natural Elements

The green trend, of course, has permeated the home fragrance domain. From air fresheners crafted of essential oils to 100% soy candles with cotton wicks, clean and green is on the menu for many marketers angling for the affections of eco-friendly consumers.

EccoBella, a line of natural products, recently released its Ecco Mist, an all-natural air freshener that contains essential oils, emulsifier and water. Additionally, the non-aerosol bottles are recyclable aluminum.

Soy candles continue to grow in popularity as a natural alternative in candles. Soy wax is made from a 100% vegetarian renewable resource and burns 90% less soot than paraffin, according to Ari Solomon, president of A Scent of a Scandal, a soy candle company based in Los Angeles, CA.

“Soy continues to play a role in the candle category. However, it still accounts for a small percentage of overall total sales,” notes Ms. Mellage of Kline.  “As the green and natural trend grow in overall importance to the consumer package good market, the trend may pick up steam in candles to a great degree.”

But not everyone sees soy as the only way to go. According to Ms. Miller of the NCA, “Any candle, regardless of wax type and whether or not it’s scented, creates carbon dioxide and water vapor when it burns.

“Some people may prefer to buy vegetable-based waxes or beeswax because they come from renewable resources, but beyond that, there are no ‘environmental’ differences between wax types.”

Ms. Miller also says that similarly, select candle manufacturers use fragrance materials which have been approved for use in candles. All in all, “What’s important is that the candle burns cleanly and safely.”