As Yankee Candle knows all too well, one of the greatest staples of the holiday season — or any season, for that matter — is candles. When it comes to getting in the holiday mood, few things work better than yummy, spicy scents filling the air. Yankee Candle is the one of the biggest and most popular candle companies in the whole United States, as its website notes. You’ve likely seen them in the candle aisle at Target, Bed Bath & Beyond, and many other nationwide stores. Yankee Candle has been a household staple for many for years, and that doesn’t seem to be changing anytime soon. After all, it’s always the perfect time to make our homes as cozy, welcoming, and enjoyable as possible.
But, despite its widespread popularity, most of us know very little about America’s favorite candle-making company. Read on to find out the lesser known facts of the Yankee Candle business.
Yankee Candle started with a teenage boy
Believe it or not, but a teenager founded Yankee Candle. When he was 16, Michael Kittredge II started making candles, according to Yankee Candle’s website. As told on the Yankee Candle site, he needed a Christmas present for his mom, so he decided to try to make a candle. He melted together some crayons and used a milk carton as a mold. The gift to his mom was a success, and since he had crayons left over, he sold one of his homemade candles to a neighbor. And Yankee Candle was born.
Kittredge passed away in 2019, 50 years after making that first candle, as CNN reported. Kittredge had sold Yankee Candle in 1998, but in the 2000s, he helped his own son (Michael Kittredge III, of course!) found Kringle Candle, which became a successful company in its own right and allowed his son to follow in his footsteps. Kringle Candle is located just 20 miles down the road from Yankee Candle.
Kittredge ultimately left behind the legacy of creating a wildly successful candle empire, and it all started with a sweet, simple gift for his mom.
Where are Yankee Candles made?
Ever heard of a “chandler”? Well, it’s an old-fashioned term for a candlemaker. In the Middle Ages, chandlers would often travel from house to house, using the residents’ saved kitchen fats to make candles. Alternatively, they would sell candles from their own candle shop (also known as a “chandlery”). But the candle-making process at Yankee Candle’s factory undoubtedly looks different than candle-making used to, not least because of the sheer number of candles the company produces every year.
Yankee Candles are made by master chandlers in Massachusetts, where Michael Kittredge II founded the company and where it’s still run, as noted on the Yankee Candle website. While Yankee Candle first opened shop in Holyoke, Mass., the business later moved to South Deerfield, “the busy crossroads for most auto traffic between New York and Vermont,” in 1983.
This is how Yankee Candles are produced
We’ve all seen those mesmerizing videos on Facebook or YouTube. They’re the ones of candy being made or machines rapidly producing identical product after identical product. They’re bizarrely calming, and they also always give some insight into how everyday items or food products are made. Thankfully, MassLive went to the Yankee Candle factory and filmed to give us an inside peek at how the candles are made.
As explained in the video, in 2018, they made 51 million jar candles! They also explain the jar-filling process: first, they mix the wax with additives and fragrance; next, they add wicks in each jar and glue them to keep them in place; then, they fill the jars with the wax mixture; finally, the candles are cooled on conveyor belts, “topped off,” checked for quality, packaged up, and sent off to stores. It’s not often that we get to see candles being made, and this video is an awesome and soothing insight into how Yankee Candle cranks out enough candles for the whole country.
Yankee Candles are even more popular than you might think
It’s a little mind-boggling when you find out just how huge and popular Yankee Candle is. Aside from being in common stores like Bed Bath & Beyond and Walmart, Yankee Candle also has 585 retail locations of its own, all spread out across the country, according to Racked. Incredibly, the company as a whole is responsible for almost half of the candle sales in the entire United States.
What many don’t know is that Yankee Candle even has its own Yankee Candle Village in its home state of Massachusetts. According to the website, there’s a restaurant, a museum, a store, toy trains, a year-round Bavarian Christmas village (complete with Santa and fake snow), a Ben & Jerry’s counter, a make-your-own candle space, and a Build-A-Bear Workshop.
You might be wondering how a candle village manages to survive, but apparently the village gets somewhere around 2 million visitors per year, making it a sizable Massachusetts tourist destination. It’s the perfect place to go for Christmas lovers, especially those who wish it were Christmas all the time.
Yankee Candle used to have less competition than it has today
In the 1970s and ’80s, there was a big decrease in the number of candle producers in the United States. In 1986, there were approximately 100 candle companies in the U.S., according to The New York Times, whereas a decade earlier, there had been 275. A big factor in this shift was the increased popularity of cheaper, imported candles from countries overseas, such as China. These imports cut particularly into the Christmas candle market, a notable portion of the overall candle business.
But this all started turning around in the 1990s, when candles became a more central part of home decor and the industry spiked, peaking around 2000, as noted by Chron.com. This popularity has continued into the 21st century, with social media being used as an effective tool for the home fragrance industry. Fortunately for candle lovers, Yankee Candle has managed to stay afloat through all of these ups and downs. The company appears to be doing just fine all these years later, and it doesn’t seem like that’s going to be changing any time soon.
Yankee Candle creates 20 new fragrances every year
One of the most remarkable things about Yankee Candle is the sheer number of candle fragrances that they’ve created. According to a former CEO of Yankee Candle, as reported by The New York Times, they create around 20 new fragrances every single year.
There are around 250 fragrances in the Yankee Candle collection at a given time, according to an interview with Yankee Candles exec Clive Harper in Beauty and Lace. They do often discontinue fragrances if they’re not popular enough or aren’t measuring up to the other fragrances, which he says makes him “the most hated man in the world sometimes.” There are four main collections or types that make up the Yankee Candle collection as a whole: fruits, florals, food and spice, and festive.
In terms of individual candles, Yankee Candle produces over 200 million candles a year, as noted on their website, with more than 6,000 worldwide employees making it all happen. That’s a lot of people and a lot of candles.
Yankee Candle doesn't just sell candles
Though Yankee Candle is best known for its candles and has always been primarily a candle company, that’s not all they sell.
Over the years, they’ve expanded into other forms of home fragrance, as seen on their website. They sell oil diffusers, ultrasonic aroma diffusers, room sprays, Fragrance Spheres, wax warmers, and more. Wax warmers are basically candles without the wick. The wax melts are slowly warmed, either electrically or with a tea candle, so that they give off scent much like a candle does. Fragrance Spheres are small jars filled with beads that continuously give off a yummy scent — for a full month! They’re about as easy as it gets when it comes to home fragrance, since you can just open them, leave them out, forget about them, and let them scent your rooms for you!
In addition to these different forms of home fragrance, Yankee Candle produces and sells car fragrances. These include vent clips and Car Jars. Basically, whatever (and wherever) your fragrance needs, Yankee Candle has got you covered.
They have to do a cross-cultural check for every single candle
Creating and producing fragrances and the candles they turn into involves more than you might think. One of the biggest parts of the candle invention process is coming up with a name for each fragrance. While part of that is, of course, creating a name that is fitting for the scent and catchy to possible customers, there’s also an international component that most of us likely don’t even think about.
Because Yankee Candles are sold all around the world, the company has to make sure that each name will work in other languages. To do so, they check with contacts overseas to find out if the names they select have other meanings in other languages, as Yankee Candle exec Clive Harper told Beauty and Lace. They also need to ensure that the name reflects the same tone and idea in the other languages as it does in English. He noted they must “ensure the name of the fragrance doesn’t translate into another meaning in a foreign language.”
One other interesting component of their cross-cultural marketing that Harper mentions is that different types of fragrances are popular in different cultures. For example, food fragrances are popular in the United States market; Italian, German, and French markets favor floral notes; and Arabian countries like the fruity scents. Apparently, candles are not a one-size-fits-all international product.
Yankee Candle designs all of their fragrances for "Lisa"
As is common in many industries, Yankee Candle has had to come to understand who their “target” customer is. Who’s most likely to buy candles? Who’s most likely to buy Yankee Candles in particular? Who are they creating scents for and marketing their candles to?
According to Yankee Candle exec Clive Harper in his interview with Beauty and Lace, in order to help them with these questions, Yankee Candle created a prototypical fake customer. Her name is “Lisa,” and she has a range of characteristics that are most common to Yankee Candle customers. This includes being a woman, somewhere between the ages of 25 and 54, having an above average household income, and having pets and kids at home. This “Lisa” customer helps to guide them in selecting scents, names, and even colors of candles.
So, while many different kinds of people buy and enjoy Yankee Candles, the company is definitely the most popular with a certain demographic, and that’s helped them shape their brand over the years.
Yankee Candle used to have a "men's" candle collection
Even though “Lisa” defines their key target audience (and as much as 80 percent of their customers are women), Yankee Candle has made efforts to cater to populations who don’t fit the “Lisa” mold at all. One such attempt has been the “men’s” candles that they’ve created over the years.
According to Racked, in 2012, Yankee Candle created a men’s collection, including scents such as 2×4, Man Town, and Riding Mower. Though they discontinued the men’s collection, some of the “man-scents” did manage to stick around, including Mountain Lodge, which is still sold today and is described as “a luxurious retreat in front of a cozy hearth, warm with the aroma of cedarwood and sage.” In stores, they marketed it as a candle “that smells like the perfect lumberjack boyfriend.” So even that candle seems to ultimately be aimed at women.
Yankee Candle has helped some people grieve loved ones
One of the more unexpected ways that Yankee Candles have been used is to help people grieve their lost loved ones, as told by Yankee Candle CEO Harlan Kent in The New York Times. For some, that means buying a loved one’s favorite Yankee Candle scent after they’re gone and burning it as a way of remembering and honoring them.
One such instance was a man whose mother loved the butter cream fragrance, so he’d light butter cream candles after she passed to be fondly reminded of her. According to BuzzFeed, another man melted down all of his late wife’s leftover candles that she had never finished burning and combined them all to create one candle. He layered them all together and put them in a True Rose candle jar, which was her absolute favorite scent. “This project was a way to help me and my kids cope with our loss. It is a part of our grieving process,” he noted in a Reddit post.
Though maybe unexpected, a candle makes perfect sense as a way to remember loved ones. Scents have a strong connection with memory, so a candle might actually be the best way to be reminded of someone we’ve lost.
There are three fragrance notes in every Yankee Candle
Creating a candle fragrance is far from as simple as choosing a scent and then manufacturing it. There’s actually a lot more nuance and thought that goes into creating each fragrance and its components.
As told in Yankee Candle exec Clive Harper’s interview with Beauty and Lace, every Yankee Candle product scent is composed of three different fragrance notes: top, middle, and base. The top note is the part of the scent that we pick up on right away. It’s the strongest immediate scent. The middle and base notes are “undertones of the fragrance which are longer lasting and provide the heart of the fragrance.”
These three different notes also presumably interact to create the complexity of each candle scent. Getting each of them right is also key to producing candles that will sell well and be fully enjoyed by consumers.
Yankee Candle sometimes makes candles for a good cause
One of the most admirable aspects of the Yankee Candle company is the acts of kindness that they’ve done over the years.
As noted on their website, after September 11, 2001, Yankee Candle donated thousands of candles to memorial services all across the United States for the victims of the terrorist attacks.
In 2013, when the Boston Marathon bombing happened, killing three people and injuring hundreds, Yankee Candle created a “Boston Strong” candle, as reported by the New York Daily News. The candle’s proceeds went to the charity The One Fund, which was created to help out the victims of the attack. The candle was described as a “heartwarming blend of cinnamon, baking spices, and a hint of freshly poured tea,” and features an image of the Boston skyline in front of the American flag. The tragedy of the Boston Marathon bombings was likely particularly close to home for Yankee Candle and its employees, since Yankee Candle is based out of Massachusetts.
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