25 Oct Philippine Daily Inquirer: And now, soy candles
By Marge C. Enriquez
Philippine Daily Inquirer
They burn cleanly and slowly, are biodegradable?and cheaper
IN TIMES OF EMERGENCY, candles are in the must-have list, along with matches, batteries, flashlight, bottled water, toiletries, canned food and cleaning aids.
Soy candles should be well-received by the environmentally conscious. These candles use vegetable wax made from soybean oil. After the soybeans are removed from their shell and turned into flakes, oil is drawn and hydrogenated, a process that transforms the melting oil into a solid mass at room temperature.
In the United States, where soy wax is produced, the residual hulls are used as animal feed.
It was the renewable aspect of soy that attracted Tisha Gonzalez and Vencer Viray to venture into soy candle-making. Paraffin, the material commonly used for candles, comes from crude oil. Research has shown that paraffin candles with synthetic fragrances and wicks that are chemically bleached contain metal, lead or carcinogenic compounds and contribute to indoor pollution.
With the surging prices in oil and its endangered supply, the business partners thought plant wax was the way to go in candle-making. It takes a year for soybean to be re-harvested. Soy wax is biodegradable, making it easier to clean from surfaces.
Gonzalez, managing director, and, Viray, managing partner, established Alice Blue Candle Inc. in 2005, way before the green lifestyle and eco-friendly products became a major trend. With a lean staff of four, the two personally work on their products.
?We don?t use machines. Tish and I are hands-on. We?re also cooking and pouring. We want to make sure quality is very good. We have people melting the wax, mixing it by hand and pouring it into the glass. People like handmade products,? says Viray. The candles use renewable wicks made from organic cotton, paper or hemp, instead of nylon. Aside from their sustainability, soy candles burn cleanly and slowly, leaving very little soot to darken surfaces. Since soy candles are carbon-neutral, they are non-toxic and don?t pollute the air.A six-ounce candle costs P415 and burns for 30 to 40 hours. Its paraffin wax counterpart burns for 15 to 20 hours. The cheapest is a 1.75 ounce votive priced at P175.The soy candles are targeted for a niche market, particularly collectors of home products and those allergic to paraffin. Soy wax lasts 50-percent longer than paraffin, says Viray.
Alice Blue started selling in bazaars until it found its way into the pay lounges of Ayala Malls. The company also acquired kiosks in Glorietta 3, Podium and Trinoma. Many local customers were impressed with the packaging and the quality, more so when they discovered that Alice Blue candles were cheaper than imported luxury ones.
Alice Blue also produces candle melters for hotels that ban votives. Electrical light heats up the ceramic and soy wax. The melting diffuses the fragrance. The company has exported to Hong Kong and Australia. Among its popular scents are white tea and ginger, artichoke-ginger and lingonberry. For Christmas, Alice Blue will offer red currant and the refreshing winter village scents. In keeping with the sustainable aspect of the business, the company has been helping communities that provide raw materials for such scents as pomelo, ylang-ylang, lemon grass and citronella. Alice Blue Inc. is also launching its essential oils, which are harvested by farmers in Bacolod.
The concept of our business is that as the company grows, the community grows. We rely on the communities for labor and raw materials. The more we buy, the more the community will thrive,? says Viray.