The Scented Candle Market - 30 years of change
For world candle day Parks founder, Carol Symons, reflects on the scented candle markets’ past and future.
Since we started in 1989 the changes across the world of scented candles have been extraordinary. Testament to that is the founding of the ECMA, Alafave and introduction of a “world candle day” just two years ago. It prompted me to think on what those changes are.
In the 80’s there was very little out there, wax was made from paraffin – we were on our own with 100% natural. And scented candles were thought of as a luxury purchase, a treat, not part of our everyday lives.
Now the market’s filled with choice, has price points from £4 to £800 and vessels that in some cases are works of art. A far cry from paraffin, the consumer now expects a natural, clean burn, amazing fragrance and wants a vessel that can be upcycled or refilled.
Vessel trends seem to have come full circle. We started off with 3 fancy silver pieces, but by the 90’s although the silver continued, the demand for glass tumblers exploded. Now we’re seeing another rise in demand for not just fancy vessels, but truly unique ones – “couture candles”.
Another change has come from science understanding how scent and our sense of smell works. That’s led to aromatherapy no longer being seen as a “new-agey” thing but the realisation that different fragrances have different physiological as well as psychological effects. Over the last decade that’s brought a general uplift in the value of fragrance - especially at home.
Lockdown obviously helped this, but the current tough times have added another dimension to the shift in customer focus that’s been really interesting. We’re seeing customer reviews with a much greater emphasis on long lasting scent and clean burn. They’re recognising that low or high price points are false economy if the scent gets weaker as it burns and doesn’t fragrance your home. So for brand loyalty and repeat purchases, there’s no choice between value or quality – you have to deliver both.
The “social currency” of a brand also seems to be shifting further towards authenticity - away from brands that “greenwash”. Customers are getting savvy to calling paraffin “mineral wax” and the irony of labelling a candle “vegan” alongside “mineral wax”. That’s the result of much better informed consumers.
In my heart I believe our industry will stay true to that honest romance in the light of a flame, but over the next decade I think change will also come from even better informed consumers. Practises like fragrance-free cores will only be accepted at the very lowest price points by ill-informed customers. The same goes for “greenwashing”. I have a lot of faith in our customers and the last 30 years have shown the market moves towards honest quality and value.