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Points of light: candle makers are stepping up efforts to move more of their products through more locations in the supermarket.

SUPPLIERS ARE BECOMING MORE AGGRESSIVE IN PROMOTING CANDLES, hoping to give the category a push and build sales momentum for the future. Many say that new colors and fragrances, containers that bring additional design solutions for home decorating, seasonal products, licensing programs and eco-friendly products are expanding the potential shopper audience for candles, while also creating opportunities for impulse purchases and cross-merchandising programs with other departments.

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Some of what's happening in the category: scores of individual colors, fragrances and container designs; dramatic increases in the number of soy-based candles; candles positioned for special occasions; a renewed emphasis on the status of "Made in the USA;" the star power of Kathy Ireland; and a new line of candles with moisturizing oils that soften dry, cracked skin and offer an at-home spa treatment.

Suppliers say they are encouraging grocery retailers to give seasonal and everyday candles more space, and they are asking them to give the category locations throughout their stores. Candles, suppliers say, can produce margins in excess of 50% and help build sales of other home-related products.

Of course, retailers may have to increase their space for candles just to handle the new products entering the marketplace. As a remedy for flat or flagging category sales, marketers with such companies as Hanna's Candles in Fayetteville, Ark., Soy Basics in New Hampton, Iowa and Village Candle in Topsham, Maine say their firms are emphasizing broad assortments that feature product innovations designed to have multi-faceted appeal to consumers.

"The category is definitely evolving, with more consumers across the board looking for environmentally friendly products, the Made in the USA label and products that are safe for their home," says Annett Davidson, director of marketing for Hanna's Candles. She adds that the company has a broad assortment of products with an equally broad range of features and benefits.

Through Hanna's Candles' brand partnership with Kathy Ireland, for example, there are 12 individual collections with appropriate fragrances for: Harvest Home; Home for the Holidays; the ACafe line, with fragrances of home-baked and homemade preserves and appropriate containers; the J du J with colors, fragrances and containers offering the splendor of the garden; and Kathy Ireland Angels, which combine Scriptural messages with the candles.

"The Kathy Ireland Candle Collection is a brand partnership with Hanna's Candles. We also have many products under our own HCC brand, and we do a lot of private label," Davidson says.

'JEWELRY FOR THE HOME'

While the various collections connect with a variety of shoppers' preferences for colors, fragrances, container designs and particular sentiments, she says, "The Kathy Ireland line is based on offering solutions for women, especially busy moms." Davidson refers to candles as "Jewelry for the home," because, she says, "lighting a candle can change the entire atmosphere."

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Officials at Soy Basics say they have made a strong commitment to soy-based candles with their Soy Inspirations line, which includes multiple collections with names like Indulging Treats, Day Dreams, Orchard Farms and Garden Walks, as well as a fall and holiday collection. All are available in four sizes, from 18.5 ounces to 1.9 ounces. In March, the company will introduce a Soy Inspirations shipper containing 30 products in three seasonal versions for spring, summer and fall holidays. The promotional text describes the products' earth-friendly design, recyclable jars and Made in the USA feature.

"In general, the entire candle category has been flat," says Peggy Stover, director of marketing and sales. "But within certain subcategories such as soy, candles are doing very well. Shoppers are learning that traditional paraffin wax is a petroleum byproduct. Needless to say, paraffin wax is not earth-friendly. As such, consumers are demanding more green candle products such as soy wax candles, which are biodegradable, clean-burning and environmentally friendly."

During 2007, soy wax candles accounted for just 1.8% of all candles sold in the U.S., she reports, citing data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Soy 20/20 Project, but by 2012 that figure is expected to increase to 13.7%.

"Soy wax can be cleaned up with soap and water, and soy candles are providing a much needed shot of innovation to the stagnant candle category," says Stover.

Soy Basics is backing up its commitment to soy wax candles with a "train the trainer" store program that educates sales associates on the benefits of soy and how to sell a soy wax product. The program, she says, has resulted in increased retailer loyalty toward the company and "proves we are committed to both them and their shoppers."

Speaking of the broader movement toward organic and green products, Stover cites industry statistics showing such products are averaging 20% annual growth.

CHANGING LIFESTYLES

"This phenomenal growth rate is a result of consumers demanding more socially responsible products," she says. "Today's green consumers are very savvy and highly educated. To these consumers, going green is not a fad; it is a lifestyle change that indicates their dedication to the environment."

Hanna's Candles cites its own commitment to environmentally friendly soy wax candles, which are offered under the Kathy Ireland and HCC brands, as well as the company's licensed programs with Hershey's and Cinnabon.

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"Our customers want to know are you using suppliers that are also eco-friendly, and our vendors have green initiatives--from the fragrance to the box vendors," says Davidson. "Almost all of our container candles are soy-based."

Village Candle's newest product lines are Natural Home Soy Candles, Kitchen Collection and Chick Wicks, along with new fragrances and accessories that feature handcrafted designs and the company's signature, heavy, square, glass jar, and the marbling technique that gives distinction to its candles.

The company's most recent soy candles have product names such as Ceylon Tea & Lemon, Cranberry & Yuzu, Pear & Anise and Water Lily. The Village Kitchen Collection offers such fragrances as Apple Cobbler, Banana Nut Bread, Cinnamon Stick and Pumpkin Pie, for example, while the Chick Wicks line takes what Village Candle calls a "sassy, humorous" approach, with individual products dubbed Domestic Diva, PMS Mood Tamer and Snag-a-man, that encourage women to "Lighten Up!"

With the prime selling seasons coinciding with the major holidays in the fourth quarter, as well as Valentines Day, Mothers Day and Halloween, candle makers continue to create products that capitalize on those key sales periods while also offering decorating solutions and concepts that encourage impulse purchases.

"I think POP displays, promos, half pallets and pallets are ways that retailers can sustain good sales growth outside of peak seasons," says Davidson.

SENTIMENT CANDLES

"We have lots of products that are solution-based, with colors and fragrances, and containers that are reusable and stackable. Our products are appropriate for impulse purchases at the checkout and elsewhere--like our license with Hershey's, a candle with a cocoa mug or a recipe. Our Cinnabon licensed candle has that wonderful smell of warm, freshly baked cinnamon buns. It smells like a bun, and the candle looks like a bun with vanilla icing on top. And the lid has a Cinnabon picture. We will work with retailers to create sentiment candles, a gift with a sentiment that is appropriate for the greeting card section. And soft goods is another area where retailers can connect candles with shoppers who have an eye for decorating," she adds.

Hanna's newest product, HCC Soy Cream Lotion Candles, will be formally introduced to grocers at the International Housewares Show in March. The line, which contains essential oils, has four fragrances: Healing Amber with Cedar Jasmine, Calming Water, Relaxing Lavender and Rejuvenating Escape. Consumers can moisturize hands, feet and elbows from the wax pool. The candles are made of all-natural wax, with no dyes or fillers and with no animal testing.

"It's an aromatherapy-type of product, and it will attract cosmetics customers to the candle section" Davidson says.
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Title Annotation:nonfoods for profit
Author:Hartnett, Michael
Publication:Grocery Headquarters
Date:Jan 1, 2008
Words:1307
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