History of Soy Wax Candles
Soy wax candlemakers don't advertise the fact that they add palm to make their candles burn better
In 1991 Michael Richards founded Candleworks to manufacture beeswax candles. As he entered the candle industry with beeswax products, he realized there was a growing demand for natural wax candles. However, there was a huge economic barrier, because the cost of beeswax was 10 times the cost of petroleum candle wax (paraffin). In July, Michael Richards started experimenting with a wide range of plant waxes and vegetable oils to find a natural wax that could be cost-competitive with petroleum wax. He completed thousands of hours of tests with tropical plant waxes such as carnauba and candellia waxes, plus domestic oils such as corn and soybean oil.
In 1992, this testing resulted in the first vegetable wax candle, made from a blend of vegetable oils and natural waxes. At that stage of development, the vegetable wax was hard and brittle. To obtain a softer, more pliable wax, Michael started to acquire and test a wider range of tropical and domestic plant oils. This original formula included partially hydrogenated coconut, palm and soybean oil.
It wasn't until around 1995 that Michael got the first purchase orders for a line of natural wax aromatherapy candles from the Body Shop. For the first three months, the content of the candle wax was a blend of beeswax and almond oil. Because of the increasingly high cost of almond oil, Michael then started blending soybean oil with the beeswax. He completely replaced almond oil with soybean oil in all commercial production of candles and began experimenting with various types of hydrogenated soybean oil to eliminate the costly beeswax in his natural wax formula. In May of that year, Michael's company Candleworks negotiated with the University of Iowa to provide a chemical engineering intern to test and document the new soy waxes developed by Michael. Other vegetable oils were then added in minority portions to achieve specific cosmetic characteristics, such as a smooth even surface and scent projection. By 1996 Michael created a low-melt soy wax for container candles and a high-melt point wax for freestanding pillar candles, but they still had some undesirable burning characteristics.
About a year later in 1996, The Indiana Soybean Board unveiled a brand of candles called Harvest Lights made from soybeans at the Farm Progress Show. The development of these candles was completely farmer-funded. This formula has also since been patented.
Michael documented his research process on the development of natural plant-based waxes from 1991 through 1999 and submitted this to a patent law firm in Des Moines, Iowa (Mc Kee,Vorhees &Sease) during 1999 and 2000. Formal application for patent pending status was presented to the U.S. patent office the following year.
Major soy oil producers then began developing soy blends. The convention in the industry that to be called a soy candle it only needs to contain 25% soy oil.
There are dozens of wax blenders like Golden Brands, Accublend, and Stahl & Pitch that make vegetable blends for candle wax that they call soy candles. In contacting them it's my understanding they use palm wax in their soy candle wax blends.
Even Nature's Gift Inc. who claims their Ecosoya™ brand is made from 100% soy beans now admits "some of our waxes are then enhanced with carefully selected botanical oils." I'll bet they include palm. They like others claim their wax is free of pesticides, herbicides and genetically modified materials, but I it cannot be certified organic because it is hydrogenated.
Now there are a number of different kinds of vegetable waxes for example: palm wax, carnauba, candellia, and coconut. So is it necessary to jump on the soy band wagon? We don't think so. We have been making palm wax blends for over a decade. The question then is what vegetable wax production is best for the planet, and what oil when heated is the healthiest to breathe. We are betting on waxes from tree crops that are grown without pesticides, are hydrogenated or are chemically distilled.