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Keeping Candles Lit

By: Jeff Falk
Posted: August 26, 2008, from the October 2007 issue of GCI Magazine.

Despite the march of technology pushing fragrant options for air care, there is still exceptional power in putting a flame to a simple wick. Candles have held their own in the global air care market against competition from sprays, electronic devices and passive delivery systems.

According to Euromonitor International, the global air care market has been the most dynamic sector in the household care arena since 2001. In 2006, revenues from air care products had increased by more than 35%, reaching $7 billion, and the global air care market is expected to grow to $7.6 billion by 2011.

At a 2006 value of $606 million, candles are the fourth largest global home air care category. Yet, of the seven air care categories considered by Euromonitor, candles had, by far, the largest growth at 13% from 2004–05. The National Candle Association (NCA) estimates annual U.S. retail sales of candles to be $2 billion, excluding candle accessories, a number that includes candles outside of the air care market.

While candles are clearly at home in the air care category, the reasons for their continuing success may lie with elements that are inherent in candles but can’t truly be judged as facets of the category—decor elements, visual and ambient mood enhancers. The performance of candles as a segment, in fact, may be better judged by considering markets other than air care. To illustrate: Blyth, Inc.’s second-quarter 2007 financial release cited weak performance in the U.S. market by its PartyLite division, which markets premium fragranced candles. Blyth board chairman and CEO Robert B. Goergen explained the performance, in part, by noting “the effects of continued weakness in the housing sector, resulting in softness in home decor purchases.”

However, scent is a leading driver of sales, and both manufacturers and consumers tend to be bolder and more experimental with candle fragrances—the tether to the air care category—than with room sprays.