This article first appeared in our ‘Love is all we need’ issue of My Green Pod Magazine, published on 14 February 2022. Click here to subscribe to our digital edition and get each issue delivered straight to your inbox
In Roman times, humans used dipped candles made from animal fat and twine.
In China the preference was for whale fat while in ancient India, the use of boiled cinnamon and yak butter gave rise to the first scented candles.
By the 19th century candles made from inexpensive paraffin wax were being mass produced to supply huge demand.
Many candles today are still made using paraffin, which is distilled from coal and oil shales, and most others are made using genetically modified soy wax.
‘The toxicity of burning paraffin within the home is a big concern’, says Fraser Malyk of Yorkshire-based Skär Organics. ‘Genetically modified ingredients present many other issues at source – and most candles will also use bleached, GM cotton wicks.’
The opportunity to create and launch a product that would disrupt a long-established industry appealed to Fraser; before founding Skär Organics his family had, for several years, been making beeswax candles for family and friends as a way to control the ingredients and ensure that they were natural.
‘We landed on a product that we love, where there was also a great opportunity to add value to an industry riddled with poor ingredients and false claims’, Fraser explains.
While many candles are advertised as organic, Skär – which is Old Norse for ‘clean’ or ‘pure’ – is the UK’s first manufacturer of organic candles, certified by the Soil Association.
‘I think we are possibly the first manufacturer within Europe’, Fraser says. ‘We have only noticed two or three smaller manufacturers with certification internationally.’
Given the use of candles for wellbeing and their history of pure ingredients, it’s surprising that other manufacturers aren’t lining up to achieve organic certification.
As part of Skär’s Soil Association certification, all its suppliers must be approved and Skär’s processes and records
are reviewed in annual inspections.
For Fraser, the lack of competition is down to insufficient public demand; he feels there’s still a big education job to do as many people still understand ‘organic’ to mean ‘natural’, so there’s no incentive for larger candle manufacturers to invest in organic ingredients and processes.
‘The cost of the ingredients and the lack of access to suitable wicks have been our main hurdles’, Fraser explains. ‘It has also been challenging to achieve the right blends to deliver a competitively priced candles. Our ingredients will likely cost up to five times more than the typical ‘essential oil candle’ – and organic beeswax can be up to 10
times more expensive than normal beeswax.’
Opting for candles made from organic beeswax protects the beekeepers and the bees from exposure to pesticides and fertilisers; the standards for organic beeswax cover the management of the hive to ensure the bees flourish.
‘With certified organic beeswax candles comes the confidence of knowing exactly what is in the candle’, Fraser explains – ‘plus the knowledge that the story of these candles benefits the rivers, farmers and soil at source.’