Entering the European market for candles
The European market for candles offers opportunities, but competition is strong. As mass-producing countries dominate the lower ends of the market, the mid- to high-end segments are your best options. To compete, you need to add value to your products. Entering the European market means you must comply with the European Union’s mandatory legal (and other) requirements, as well as any additional or niche requirements your buyers may have.
Contents of this page
1. What requirements must candles comply with to be allowed on the European market?
The following requirements apply to candles on the European market. For a more detailed overview, see our study on buyer requirements for Home Decorations and Home Textiles (HDHT).
What are mandatory requirements?
General Product Safety Directive
Europe’s General Product Safety Directive (2001/95/EC) is a framework legislation, stating that all products marketed in the European Union (EU) must be safe to use. Unsafe products are rejected at the European border or withdrawn from the market. The EU uses the Safety Gate system to list and share information about such products.
To help you meet the requirements, the European Committee for Standardisation (CEN) has five candle standards:
- EN 15426:2018 Candles – Specification for sooting behaviour;
- EN 15493:2019 Candles – Specification for fire safety;
- EN 15494:2019 Candles – Product safety labels;
- EN 17616:2022 Outdoor candles – Specification for fire safety;
- EN 17617:2022 Outdoor candles – Product safety labels.
There are also three CEN standards for combustible air fresheners, which apply to scented candles:
- EN 16738:2015 Emission safety of combustible air fresheners – Test methods;
- EN 16739:2015 Emission safety of combustible air fresheners – Methodology for the assessment of test results and application of recommended emission limits;
- EN 16740:2015 Emission safety of combustible air fresheners – User safety information.
In 2021 the European Commission adopted a proposal for a General Product Safety Regulation, to replace the current directive. When approved, this new regulation will apply across the EU.
- Read more about the General Product Safety Directive and stay up to date on the proposed rollout of a new General Product Safety Regulation.
- Use your common sense to ensure that normal use of your product does not cause any danger.
- Search the Safety Gate alerts for candles for an idea of what issues may arise.
Restricted chemicals: REACH
The REACH regulation (EC 1907/2006) lists restricted chemicals in products that are marketed in Europe. Because candles are a combination of a carrier article (the wick) and a mixture (the wax, fragrance, colouring and other additives), REACH also applies to candles. They are considered to be articles that intentionally release a substance during use. Although the waxes used to make candles are generally not harmful, the additives may be.
Restricted chemicals in the production of candles include:
- Lead in wicks; and
- Phthalates in scented candles.
- Make sure you comply with the restrictions for the use of chemicals as laid down in REACH.
- Familiarise yourself with the full list of restricted substances in products marketed in Europe via the Access2Markets platform.
- For information and tips from the European Chemical Agency (ECHA), see for instance REACH Annex XVII (a list of all restricted chemicals), information for non-EU companies and questions & answers.
Does it look like food?
Some decorative items look so much like food, that consumers could mistake them for real food products. For example, candles that look like candy canes. Because children could be tempted to eat them, these food-imitating products pose a choking hazard. The European Union’s Council Directive 89/357/EEC on dangerous products resembling foodstuffs bans these items from the European market. Keep this in mind when designing your candles. Make sure that they do not resemble food too closely in characteristics such as:
- Scent; or
- Search the Safety Gate alerts for candles that pose a choking hazard. This gives you an idea of the designs to avoid.
The Packaging Directive (94/62/EC) aims to prevent or reduce the impact of packaging and packaging waste on the environment. Buyers may therefore ask you to minimise the use of packaging and/or to use sustainable recycled (and other) materials. The EU’s new Circular Economy Action Plan identifies packaging as a sector that uses most resources, with high potential for circularity. By 2030 all packaging on the European market should be reusable or recyclable in an economically-viable way. To help achieve this, the Packaging Directive is under review.
Europe also has requirements for wood packaging materials (WPM) used for transport, such as packing cases and pallets. The goal is to prevent organisms that are harmful to plants or plant products from entering and spreading within the EU.
What additional requirements do buyers often have?
RAL Quality Mark for Candles
The European Quality Association for Candles has a RAL Quality Mark for Candles. This voluntary Quality Mark has standards for burning duration, raw material and burning behaviour. It also guarantees a limited use of azo dyes in the production process.
- Study and meet the quality specifications of the RAL Quality Mark for Candles.
Social and environmental sustainability are becoming more and more common requirements on the European market. Think of sustainable raw materials and production processes, as well as the impact your company has on the environment, the wellbeing of your workers and the community. You can use these topics in the “story” behind your product and company. Buyers appreciate good storytelling to create an emotional connection with their customers.
Consumers value sustainability
The increasing importance of sustainability is reflected in a recent Maison&Objet Barometer, where 62% of HDHT retailers have noticed growing interest in ethical products. They indicate that 92% of their customers think natural materials are important, 77% value socially responsible production methods and 71% care about recyclable/recycled materials.
A growing number of European buyers would like you to comply with the following schemes:
- Business Social Compliance Initiative (BSCI): An initiative of European retailers to improve social conditions in sourcing countries. They expect their suppliers to comply with the BSCI Code of Conduct.
- Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI): An alliance of companies, trade unions and voluntary organisations. ETI aims to improve the working conditions in global supply chains via their ETI Base Code of labour practice.
- Sedex: A membership organisation striving to improve working conditions in global sourcing chains. The Sedex Advance platform lets you share your sustainable performance, based on a self-assessment.
Greenwashing – be honest about your sustainability
Half of green claims lack evidence, according to a recent screening of websites by the European Commission and national consumer authorities. Via this so-called ‘greenwashing', companies pretend to be doing more for the environment than they really are. In 42% of cases the claims were believed to be exaggerated, false or deceptive and could potentially qualify as unfair commercial practices under EU rules. Unsurprisingly, many consumers (and importers) do not trust generic sustainability claims. In a 2021 study, only 20% of Western European respondents had a great deal/a lot of trust in claims about sustainable business practices.
Clearly, being honest yet effective is key. For help with communicating your sustainable performance, you can use the guidelines sustainability claims by the Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets. The British Competition and Markets Authority’s guidance for businesses on making environmental claims also lists six principles to follow.
- Optimise your sustainability performance. Study the issues included in initiatives such as BSCI and ETI to learn what to focus on.
- If you can show your sustainability performance, this may give you a competitive advantage. You can use self-assessments like the BSCI Producer Self-Assessment and Sedex’ Self-Assessment Questionnaire, or a code of conduct such as the ETI Base Code of labour practice.
- For more information, see our special study on sustainability in HDHT.
- See the ITC Standards Map for more information on BSCI, ETI, Sedex and SA8000.
- For more information on European developments in the field of human rights and sustainability, see the proposal for a Directive on corporate sustainability due diligence. This Directive requires larger companies to identify and – where necessary – prevent, end or reduce, the negative impacts of their activities on human rights and the environment.
The information on the outer packaging should correspond with the packing list sent to the importer.
External packaging labels should include:
- Producer name;
- Consignee name;
- Volume; and
- Caution signs.
Your buyer will specify what information they need on the product labels or on the item itself, such as logos or 'made in' information. This is part of the order specifications. In Europe it is common to use EAN or barcodes on the product label.
You should pack candles according to the importer’s instructions. They have their own specific requirements for packaging materials, filling boxes, palletisation and stowing containers. Always ask for the importer’s order specifications. These are part of the purchase order.
Proper packaging minimises the risk of damage caused by shocks. How an item is packaged for export depends on how easily it can be damaged. Packaging should ensure that the items inside a cardboard box cannot damage each other. It should also prevent damage to the boxes when they are stacked inside the container. Packaging therefore usually consists of outer and inner cardboard boxes. The inner boxes are filled with protective materials like bubble wrap or paper.
Dimensions and weight
Packaging must be easy to handle in terms of size and weight. Standards are often related to labour regulations at the point of destination and must be specified by the buyer.
Boxes are usually palletised for air or sea transport, and you have to maximise pallet space. Consider this when designing your products.
Packaging must provide maximum protection, but you must also avoid using excess materials or shipping ‘air’. Waste removal is a cost for buyers.
You can reduce the amount and diversity of packing materials by:
- Partitioning inside the boxes, using folded cardboard;
- Matching inner and outer boxes by using standard sizes;
- Considering packing and logistical requirements when designing your products; and
- Asking your buyer for alternatives.
Importers are increasingly banning wooden crating and packaging. Economical and sustainable packaging materials are more popular. Using biodegradable packing materials can be a market opportunity. For some buyers, it can even be a demand.
Candles are often gifts, which consumers prefer to receive in boxes. The gift box can be the original export packaging, or a box provided by the importer-wholesaler or retailer with their branding or messaging on it. Candles in glass containers are always labelled to tell the brand story and product features such as special ingredients, scents or origin. These candles are then often also packed in a branded box to add consumer value.
- Always ask for the importer’s order specifications, including their packaging and labelling requirements.
- See Packaging Europe for more information on the latest packaging developments, including regular news articles about biodegradable packaging.
Payment and delivery terms
Payment terms are usually agreed upon with the buyer in the order contract. They vary from buyer to buyer and are related to the volume and value of the order, the type of distribution partner, whether or not an agent is involved, and what delivery terms apply.
Delivery terms, known as Incoterms, depend on the type of distribution partner and their preferences regarding physical distribution. Importers generally prefer Free On Board (FOB) or Free Carrier (FCA) arrangements.
- See our tips to organise your export for more information on payment and delivery terms.
- Study the different types of Incoterms, including what your and your buyer’s rights and obligations are.
- For a more elaborate overview of the various terms and conditions, how to work with them and the benefits of having your own, see our study on terms & conditions.
What are the requirements for niche markets?
Ecocert natural origin certification
Ecocert candles and home fragrances certification provides a voluntary standard for natural or organic candles (and home fragrances). It applies to both scented and non-scented candles. To qualify, 100% of the candles’ ingredients must be made from natural products. For organic candles, at least 95% of plant ingredients (excluding alcohol) must come from organic farming.
The certification also guarantees:
- Environmentally-friendly production and processing;
- Responsible management of natural resources; and
- Prohibition of most petrochemical ingredients.
- For more information, see the Ecocert natural origin and organic candles and home fragrances standard.
- Use the standard in your production process. Even if you do not apply for certification, being informed about sustainability standards is useful.
According to the World Economic Forum, 86% of people want significant change to make the world fairer and more sustainable after COVID-19. The concept of fair trade supports fair pricing and improved social conditions for producers and their communities. Especially if the production of your items is labour intensive, fair-trade certification can give you a competitive advantage. This certification often includes aspects of environmental sustainability as well.
Common fair-trade certifications are issued by the World Fair Trade Organisation (WFTO) and Fair For Life. For most fair-trade oriented buyers in Europe however, simply complying with WFTO’s fair trade principles is enough.
- Ask buyers what they are looking for. Especially in the fair-trade sector, you can use the story behind your product for marketing purposes.
- Determine which certification programme would be the best fit for you and apply for it if you can.
- If certification is not feasible, work according to fair-trade principles without being officially guaranteed or certified. Carefully document your company processes so you can support your story.
- Check the ITC Standards Map database for more information on Fair for Life.
2. Through what channels can you get candles on the European market?
The candle market is segmented into low-, mid- and high-end (premium) market segments. Candles are put on the market through the traditional channels: importers/wholesalers that supply to retailers, as well as retailers that buy directly from suppliers.
How is the end-market segmented?
Figure 1: Candle market segmentation in Europe
Source: Globally Cool, GO! GoodOpportunity & Remco Kemper
In the low-end segment the focus is on functionality, such as burning hours and a stable flame. The candles often come in sets and at a low price. Typical retailers include hypermarkets such as Carrefour, as well as garden centres. Because this segment is dominated by low-cost and mass-produced items, opportunities are limited for smaller manufacturers. Instead, the mid- to high-end markets offer the most opportunities to you, as a small or medium-sized enterprise (SME) from a developing country.
The mid-end segment follows trends, mainly through decoration and colour. Fancy candles are part of this segment. Prices are reasonable and the candles are often gift packed. Anthropologie and Rituals are examples of players in the mid-end market. Craftsmanship, natural or sustainable values and branding play a role in the mid-high segment. Candles do not usually exceed this level, where prices remain affordable.
Occasionally candles move into the high-end/premium direction. For example, candles in containers or holders produced from precious materials or with superb craftsmanship. In this case the container is often what adds value, rather than the candle inside. Luxury department stores such as Harrods play an important role in the high-end market. Consumers in this segment often buy candles from a well-known luxury brand such as Diptyque (France) or Jo Malone (United Kingdom).
Through what channels do candles end up on the end-market?
The channels through which candles are put on the market follow the traditional patterns: import takes place via importers/wholesalers that supply to retailers. Larger retail chains often bypass the importers/wholesalers and import themselves, while more and more smaller retailers have also started buying directly from the supplier. In some cases, buying agents play a role.
Figure 2: Trade channels for candles in Europe
Source: Globally Cool, GO! GoodOpportunity & Remco Kemper
Importers/wholesalers sell products to retailers in their own country or region, or re-export across Europe. Some European markets are therefore supplied by wholesalers/importers from other European countries (intra-European trade). Supplying to buyers in the project market (such as hotels and spas) can be considered as a secondary distribution flow for them.
These importers/wholesalers handle the import procedures. They take ownership of the goods when they buy from you (as opposed to agents), taking on the risk of the onward sale of the products. Developing a long-term relationship can lead to a high level of cooperation on appropriate designs for the market, new trends, use of materials, types of finishing and quality requirements.
Retailers come in many sizes: large and part of a chain, or small and independent. Especially larger retail chains often import directly from their suppliers in developing countries. Many even have their own buying offices in developing countries. Others, mainly the smaller independent stores, order in Europe from wholesalers.
There is a tendency towards consolidation in European retail. Large retail brands are becoming more widespread and more ‘lifestyle-centred’, offering home decoration and textiles as well as fashion accessories and furniture.
Buying agents, buying houses and sales agents
You can encounter several types of intermediaries when doing business with European buyers. In your own country there may be buying houses, and in Europe there are both buying agents and sales agents.
- European buying agents represent European buyers in sourcing countries. They act as intermediaries, meaning they do not import products themselves. Sometimes they have a more limited role, such as checking the quality of the products. They can work individually or as part of a purchasing company.
- Buying houses are comparable to buying agents, but they are based in your country and usually offer more services, ranging from raw material sourcing to design and sampling services.
- European sales agents can help you find European buyers. However, you should be careful before entering into agreements with commercial agents, because European legislation protects their position.
Agents and buying houses mostly work on commission. They may approach you directly, or your buyer may indicate that they prefer to use an intermediary. However, you should always try to work directly with your buyer. This saves on commission and allows you to communicate with your buyer directly.
E-commerce is growing, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic. Your best way to benefit from this, is by supplying to a European wholesaler or retailer with a strong online presence. For most producers, this is not a separate channel. Catering to buyers that sell online does not differ from your regular business. Retailers often combine online and offline channels, but the way of supplying to them is the same. Companies that only sell online also need to take stock before they can sell.
Direct business-to-consumer (B2C) sales
Selling directly to European consumers via your own website can be complicated and costly. You are responsible for factors like aftersales obligations and payment systems for consumer use. For most exporters from developing countries this is not feasible. In addition, according to Dutch consumer association Consumentenbond Dutch consumers buy less from non-EU web shops since new EU VAT rules were rolled out in July 2021. This makes direct online sales even less attractive.
- To find potential buyers, search the list of exhibitors or attend the main trade fairs in Europe: Ambiente and Christmasworld (February) in Frankfurt, Maison&Objet (January and September) in Paris and spoga + gafa (August) in Cologne.
- Search the member lists of candle associations to find potential buyers, such as the Association of European Candle Makers (AECM), the European Candle Manufacturers Association (ECMA), European Quality Association for Candles (RAL Quality Mark for Candles).
- See our tips for finding buyers in the European HDHT market.
- For more information about trading directly with smaller retailers and e-commerce, see our study about alternative distribution channels.
What is the most interesting channel for you?
Importers/wholesalers are the main channel between exporters in developing countries and European retailers. They are interesting if you want to develop a long-term relationship. These importers usually know the European market well, so they can provide you with valuable information and guidance on market preferences.
However, as the market is becoming more and more competitive, large retailers are increasingly importing themselves instead of through importers/wholesalers. The obvious advantages are cutting out the margins of the wholesaler and reducing delivery time to the market. In the lower-end market segments, self-importing retailers might want to drive a much harder bargain with you. However, price is a bit less sensitive in the mid- to high-end segment, which offers you the most opportunities.
Smaller, independent European retailers continue to buy mainly from domestic importers/wholesalers. As in other sectors, independent HDHT retailers struggle to compete with retail chains. They need to differentiate on value-added service, specialised offers and authenticity. These buyers typically prefer small order quantities per item, small total order volumes and delivery to their doorstep, with a limited likelihood of repeat orders. You need to calculate if this is cost-effective for you.
The trend of direct sourcing is expected to continue and may create more opportunities for you. The pool of buyers grows if more retailers become importers, which could improve your bargaining position. Importing retailers order for their own shops and can therefore place orders much more quickly than some importers/wholesalers, who may need to show samples to their retailers before ordering.
- Consider targeting retailers directly to improve your bargaining position and potentially close deals faster.
- Relate your offer and terms to the targeted retailer (large/small). Ask your existing buyers how they operate if you are unsure. The better informed you are, the better you will be able to set prices
- Build a relationship based on mutual benefits by offering services such as fast delivery and after-sales support.
- If you are interested in selling to small independent retailers, make sure to have a policy for them when you participate in international trade fairs. You must have appropriate terms of trading, such as low minimum order quantities or pre-stocking.
3. What competition do you face on the European candle market?
Poland and China supply nearly half of Europe’s candle imports. These countries mainly provide mass-produced, low-cost items. As a result, your best opportunities are in the mid- to high-end market, where you compete with manufacturers from countries such as India.
Poland is Europe’s main candle supplier with 28% of the imports, followed by China (17%), Germany (7.5%), the Netherlands (6.9%), the Czech Republic (6.1%) and the United States (5.2%).
Re-exporters or producers
Be aware that European countries have different roles in the HDHT market. Some are mainly importers and others are mainly manufacturers. Western European countries are mainly importers (and re-exporters). Most Western European importers do not just sell their products in their own country, but they distribute them across the continent.
European production mainly takes place in Eastern Europe, mostly because of relatively low transport and labour costs. This can make these countries a good alternative for European buyers to source low- to mid-end products. Western and Southern Europe also produce some high-end products from well-known premium brands with a long history.
Mass-produced candles are segmented in the lower ends of the market and produced in the most cost-effective country. You do not compete with these countries, as your best chances are in the mid- to high-end market.
Which countries are you competing with?
Source: UN Comtrade
Poland is Europe’s leading candle supplier
With 28% of the import market, Poland is Europe’s main candle supplier. Its candle exports to other European countries grew from €465 million in 2017 to €615 million in 2021, at an average annual rate of 7.2%. This includes 6.6% growth in 2020, and 20% in 2021.
As an Eastern-European country, Poland benefits from its closeness to the Western-European market. This allows suppliers to offer short delivery times. At the same time, labour is relatively affordable compared to Western Europe. Suppliers have a good understanding of the European consumer and have well-established and efficient production lines. In addition, products that are ‘Made in Europe’ are increasingly popular.
To compete with Poland’s relatively cheap production, you should focus on design, branding, material use and handmade candles. Make sure that you offer a high level of service to build strong relationships.
China provides low-cost mass production
Chinese candle supplies to Europe grew from €270 million in 2017 to €368 million in 2021. Because they dropped back to €274 million in 2020, the 2021 exports probably include delayed shipments from 2020.
China is a competitive supplier because of its low-cost workforce, availability of raw materials and efficient shipping to Europe (compared to other Asian countries). However, the country’s rising labour costs in the last ten years have affected its price competitiveness. In the coming years, disruptions following China’s trade war with the United States and the COVID-19 pandemic may negatively impact the country’s trade performance. This could benefit companies from other developing countries.
Chinese producers mainly supply the lower ends of the market with low-priced products, as product development and creativity are not their core strengths. To avoid having to compete with Chinese suppliers on costs, you should stay away from mass-produced candles. Focus more on products with high emotional value that are sustainable and have a story behind the product. This allows you to enter the mid- and higher-end markets, where your best opportunities are.
The Czech Republic’s candle supplies to Europe are booming
The Czech Republic’s candle supplies to Europe rose sharply between 2017 and 2021. With an average growth rate of 55% per year, Czech candle exports increased from €23 million to €134 million. A lot of these exports are likely to be Yankee Candle products, produced locally for the European market. The American candle brand opened its first European production plant in the Czech Republic in 2016. Before that, the Czech Republic just played a modest role on the European candle market.
The United States exports high-end brands
The United States is home to well-known candle brands like Yankee Candle, Capri Blue and White Barn by Bath & Body Works. These brands have considerable marketing power, and they usually target the upper ends of the market. They offer an expressive range of candles, often combined with fragrance, soap and body care. Such brands are normally beyond the reach of a small manufacturer from a developing country, but they are good to follow and learn from.
European imports of candles from the United States fell between 2017 and 2021. They dropped with an average of -11% per year, from €183 million to €114 million. This is probably related to Yankee Candle’s production moving to the Czech Republic in 2016.
Vietnam is a low-cost producer
Between 2017 and 2020, Vietnamese candle exports to Europe were about €34 million. In 2021, they nearly doubled to €67 million. This resulted in an average annual growth of 19% and a direct European import market share of 3.1%.
Like producers from China, Vietnamese suppliers are very productive and can produce at low cost. These suppliers generally have a good idea of what is commercial and trendy. They effectively combine handmade and mechanised production and can cater to a wide range of lower and mid-end markets. As such, they can be an effective alternative to China.
In the higher segments of the market, cooperation with European brands may be needed. For example, Dutch luxury lifestyle brand WOO produces its candles in Vietnam through co-creation, with a strong focus on sustainable values.
India mainly exports candles to the United Kingdom
India directly supplies about 1% of European candle imports. Its candle exports to Europe grew from €16 million in 2017 to €25 million in 2021, at an average rate of 12% per year. This was mainly due to a strong performance in 2021. Most of these candles were destined for the British market.
With skilled labour and transportation at competitive costs, India could be well-positioned to take a bigger share of the market. Indian producers have easy access to natural materials and specialise in craftsmanship. This allows them to target higher market segments than the mass-produced products from China.
Which companies are you competing with?
WOO (World of Opportunities), the Netherlands/Vietnam
WOO is a Dutch social enterprise that produces candles in Vietnam within a community-based concept. They partner with, educate and employ disadvantaged people. The brand ‘seeks to bring about a positive social and sustainable impact’ throughout its value chain. Woo mainly offers candles and home fragrances, made from upcycled materials and natural ingredients. Their scented candles come in upcycled bottles and are packaged in cotton pouches.
Figure 4: WOO – Introduction to WOO and its guiding principles
Source: WOO @Youtube
Positioning as a ‘premium lifestyle brand that gives back’, WOO offers a socially sustainable alternative to the existing high-end segments in candles.
KOBO is an example of an American company that serves the European market. They make scented candles from environmentally sustainable soybeans. The candles are hand-poured into glass containers in KOBO’s family-run facility. Some come with accessories such as lids and matches, and gift packaging. The scents are created using ‘complex, blended layers of high-grade oils in collaboration with the finest boutique fragrance houses in the U.S.’. This premium offer with ‘bold pricing’ brings wellness and sustainability to the higher-end market segments.
KOBO’s Plant the Box collection takes things one step further. These soy candles come in plantable, seed-infused packaging that will grow the scent of the candle. The biodegradable box is FSC-certified, made of 100% post-consumer-waste recycled packaging and printed with vegetable-based inks.
The MUNIO, Latvia
Latvian brand the MUNIO is an artisanal candle, home fragrance and organic skincare studio. The family business is inspired by its Northern nature. They use locally picked flowers and herbs, which are showcased in the design of their pillar candles. Their branding invites people to connect with the Nordic wilderness and meadows. This is a good example of using what you have available locally to add value, and it fits in perfectly with the wellness trend. Take a look at MUNIO's production process.
The MUNIO also values sustainability. Their candles are handmade of soy wax and scented with natural fragrances and essential oils. Most of their ingredients are COSMOS-certified, a natural and organic standard for cosmetics. The company uses biodegradable, reusable and/or recyclable packaging. The pillar candles are wrapped in a cotton cloth and placed in a recycled unbleached cardboard box. The MUNIO’s votive candles come in a glass jar and hand-sewn fabric pouch.
In a fun addition to their candle range, the MUNIO offers a ‘DIY candle making kit’. Playing into the home sweet home trend, they market this as an opportunity to spend quality time together or a gift for a crafting enthusiast.
Which products are you competing with?
Like candles, electric lighting also creates ambience. As such, candles compete with smart lighting concepts. Scented candles also compete with a more industrial variety – diffusers and liquid-based home fragrances. Where scented candles are more tactile and authentic, diffusers are ‘cleaner’ and offer a perfectly adjustable scent experience. It is tradition versus modern, and the choice is up to the consumer to say what style suits their cocooning experience best. In hospitality settings, the industrial variety often wins.
- Compare your products and company to the competition. You can use ITC Trade Map to find exporters per country and compare on market segment, price, quality and target countries.
- Focus on design, quality, branding and handmade candles to stand out from your competitors.
4. What are the prices for candles on the European market?
Prices for candles vary across market segments, ranging from low- to high-end. After adding logistics costs, wholesaler and retail margins, and Value Added Tax (VAT), European consumer prices amount to about 4-6.5 times your selling price.
Table 1 gives an overview of the prices of candles in the low-, mid- and high-end market segments.
Table 1: Indicative consumer prices of candles in Europe
Basic candle (taper)
about €5 for a set of 20
about €7 for a set of 15
about €10 for a set of 12
up to €5
€30 or more
Scented candle (in container)
up to €7
€15 or more
Consumer prices depend on the value perception of your product in a particular segment. This is influenced by your marketing mix.
Figure 5: Marketing mix – the four Ps
Source: Globally Cool, GO! GoodOpportunity & Remco Kemper
The European consumer price of your candles is about 4-6.5 times your selling price (Free on Board - FOB). In addition to energy, labour and transport costs, FOB prices depend heavily on the availability and cost of raw materials. Occasional cost increases are not directly passed on to the consumer, so they put pressure on exporters’, importers’ and retailers’ margins. Current pandemic-related disruptions have resulted in longer-term cost increases. Because of this continuing pressure, some European retailers have now decided to increase their consumer prices.
Consumer prices generally consist of:
- Your FOB price;
- Shipping, import, handling costs;
- Wholesaler margins;
- Retail margins; and
- VAT – varies per country, about 20% on average.
Figure 6: Price breakdown indication for candles in the supply chain
Source: Globally Cool, GO! GoodOpportunity & Remco Kemper
For example, in Table 2 the FOB price is set at €10. Depending on the market segment your product is designed for, the consumer price ranges from €41 in the low-end market to €65.50 in the high-end market.
Table 2: Example of the price breakdown per market segment
Your FOB price
Transport, handling charges, transport insurance, banking services (20/15/15%)
Landed price for the wholesale importer
Wholesalers' margins (50/75/90%)
Selling price from the wholesale importer to the retailer
Retailers' margins (90/110/150%)
Selling price excluding VAT from the retailer to the end consumer
Selling price incl. VAT (20%)
Selling price including VAT from the retailer to the end consumer
The FOB price of €10 includes your own margins as a producer. These margins depend on your efficiency and price setting. Generally, margins in the lower segment, that deals with high volumes for low prices, are smaller than those in the middle and higher segments.
Examples of candle prices across Europe are:
- Rustic square paraffin wax candle, Kerzenwelt (Germany), €3.50;
- Scented soy wax candle in a glass jar, MOKOSH (Poland), €19;
- Double-ended paraffin “Twist Candle”, Lex Pott (the Netherlands), €28;
- Scented coconut wax and beeswax candle in a jar, The Wick & Wax (the United Kingdom), about €33
- Study consumer prices in your target segment to determine your price and adjust your cost accordingly. Your candles’ quality and price must match what is expected in your chosen target segment.
- Calculate your prices regularly and carefully, especially if the prices of your raw materials fluctuate. When raw material prices pressure your margin for a longer period, consider increasing your price or finding an alternative.
- Understand your segment. Offer a correct marketing mix to meet consumer expectations. Adapt your business model to your position in the market.
Globally Cool B.V. carried out this study for CBI in collaboration with GO! GoodOpportunity.
Please review our market information disclaimer.