What to Do When You Have Supply Chain Issues – Begin Making Container Candles

Empty shelves at a supermarket, picture by Philadelphia Inquirer

We’ve all seen the news. Supermarket shelves are empty just as they were at the start of this pandemic after it reached the United States early in 2020. While the supply issues two years ago were the result of hoarding as panicked customers bought up everything from hand sanitizer and toilet paper to canned beans and bread, today’s problem is largely related to a shortage of critical workers in food processing companies, factories, and the transportation industry.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, between December 29, 2021 and January 10, 2022 the recent surge of the Omicron variant has put 8.8 million Americans out of work. This is three times the number of employees who were sickened during the first two weeks of December 2021. Although Omicron has been found to be less deadly than other Covid variants, Becker’s Hospital Review has reported that 15.5% of people infected with the Omicron variant (1,364,000) have had to be hospitalized.

Another 4.4 million Americans have quit their jobs since last November in what some in the news media have dubbed, “the Great Resignation.” Citing low wages, unsafe environments, and not wanting to deal with customer service; the current job market crisis has been exacerbated by people who have left in search of new opportunities.

The current shortage of employees means that less products are being made. A nationwide shortage of 60,000 truck drivers means that factories and processing plants cannot deliver their goods to market in a quick or reliable fashion. A shortage of longshoremen at port facilities in California has caused a bottleneck of cargo freighters that can’t offload their cargos. Prices have soared as scarcity has boosted demand. Inflation has raised prices by 7% just since last year.

How has this impacted Tasty-Candles? I’m down to my last case of forty pounds of soy wax and my supplier in California cannot fill my order for five cases. They cannot even supply me with a single case. Having run out of soy wax, the only product they could offer was a paraffin blend which I refuse to use.

paraffin wax candles

Paraffin is made from petroleum, coal, or oil shale. As a petrochemical product it also contains toxic trace elements that include toluene, benzene, and formaldehyde which are all well known carcinogens. If you’ve ever burned a container candle that was made from paraffin wax, you may have noticed the black soot around the edge of the candle glass. You may even have noticed black smudges on the ceiling and walls that were nearest the candle.

This residue is the same stuff that’s found in diesel fuel. In one study by researchers at the University of Michigan, it was found that burning paraffin wax releases 11 toxic elements. These emissions were found to exceed the Environmental Protection Agency’s standards for outdoor air quality. In the issue of fairness, it should be noted that an EU commission has disputed these results and has cited their own research which says that burning paraffin wax is perfectly safe.

While I don’t know how safe the use of paraffin wax is, one reason I prefer using soy wax is that it’s plant based and all natural. Since I can’t get my inventory resupplied, I’ve decided to adapt to changing circumstances by shifting production to container candles.

an image of generic container candles that I found on the internet

Container candles are literally candles that are burnt inside a container. Pictured above are some container candles that were made using mason jars. Many candle makers also use glass containers that were specifically created for candle production. Others use metal tins. These glass containers and tins come in a variety of sizes and shapes.

One of the best known commercial manufacturers of container candles is Yankee Candles. This business evolved from a hobby in 1969 into what would become an international business. In 2013 the Jarden Corporation acquired Yankee Candles for $1.75 billion. Just four years later they sold this business to Newell Rubbermaid for $15 billion.

Most of the candlemakers turned small business owners who sell their candles on Etsy produce container candles. These candles are easy to make. All you really need is a heat resistant container, a wick, some wax, a dye, and a fragrance.

Customers like container candles because they’re easy to use. Unlike my novelty candles, you don’t need to put a container candle in a heat resistant pan prior to lighting it. These types of candles have higher burn times than my candles because the container holds the melted wax instead of allowing it spill across the surface of a pan. The burning wick efficiently recycles the melted wax thereby giving these candles a longer burn time.

About a year ago I made the mistake of ordering three cases of container wax. I had meant to order pillar wax but accidentally clicked on the wrong image. I didn’t realize my mistake until the wax arrived. Although I could have returned the wax for a refund, I was too cheap to pay the cost of shipping.

Since this wax has been sitting in my workshop, I opened a box last night and used it to produce some chili candles. To differentiate my chili container candles from the competition, I used some of my dwindling supply of pillar wax to create a topping for each candle. Pictured below are the results.

I made this first batch in two different sizes. The small container weighs 6.4 ounces. The larger one is nearly twice the size and weighs in at 11.3 ounces. The former has been topped with a jalapeno slice, ground beef, and kidney beans. The latter was topped with two jalapeno slices, a sliced tomato, ground beef, and kidney beans. Both were brushed with medium density candle gel to give the candles a moist appearance. Each candle smells just like a real cup of chili. The candle fragrances include cumin, garlic, beef, bacon, cilantro, and hot peppers.

I will upload one of each size to Made in Nevada. Since all listings have to be approved by the web master, these candles won’t be available for purchase until some time on Monday. The rest of the candles will have been added to the Etsy inventory by tomorrow.

As to how I happened to have several cases of these glass containers, I’ve been lugging them around through seven moves and four states since I first purchased them over sixteen years ago. Although I had thought about making container candles as a side business back when I owned and operated a Victorian B&B known as the (now defunct) Inn at Elizabethville, having received a job offer to work as the chef instructor of a high school Culinary Arts program instead of ever making these candles, I moved out west to begin teaching. Last year was my 15th year as a Culinary Arts instructor. Since I am a former elementary teacher, it was also my 32nd year of teaching.

It seems to me that I can do a great many things to differentiate my container candles from the competition. Pictured below are some blueberry cobbler candles that I once made just to see if I could do it.

I am now thinking of making container candles for beef stew, chicken curry, stir fried vegetables, orange chicken, and all sorts of other projects. As the old adage goes, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Although I would have preferred to continue making my novelty candles due to their complexity and the sheer creative challenge, I cannot continue making these products without continued supplies of pillar wax.

These “hybrid” candles that combine a container candle with a realistic topping will keep me busy until such time as my supplier is hopefully able to restock. Pictured below is another container candle prototype that I made when I produced the blueberry cobblers. This particular candle was an apple cobbler that I garnished with whipped cream and toasted pecans.

Since I have hundreds of candles stored in multiple locations in my home, I will have to find these particular candles to add to my virtual inventory with Shop Nevada and Etsy.

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