Daviess County soybeans will soon be turning up in a place farmers never dreamed of in the past — scented candles.
Owensboro Grain is moving to cash in on America’s $3.2 billion candle industry, making soy-based wax that can be used to make candles.
John Wright, the company’s executive vice president, said production of Biowax began last week with seven employees in the company’s Ewing Road glycerin refinery.
That number will grow in the future, he said.
In 2016, Owenboro Grain worked with Houston-based Accelergy Corp. to create OG&A BioSpecialties LLC, the company that is now begining to commercialize and market soy-based lubricants, solvents and waxes produced at Owensboro Grain.
A few months later, the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority approved $200,000 in incentives to bring what was described as an $8.1 million project to Owensboro.
According to the National Candle Association, major U.S. candle manufacturers typically offer between 1,000 and 2,000 varieties of candles in their product lines.
More than 1 billion pounds of wax are used in producing the candles sold each year in the U.S., the organization says.
It estimates that more than 10,000 different candle scents are available today.
Wright said the new plant can produce 150 million pounds of wax a year, using 10 million bushels of soybeans.
“One objective for this plant is to diversify our company into new markets, which hopefully would position us to pay a premium for the farmers’ soybeans that they are growing,” he said.
It also protects those 10 million bushels of soybeans from tariffs in other countries.
Soybean wax is a growing focus in the candle industry, Wright said, because paraffin wax is made from petroleum that is not as friendly to the environment as soybeans.
Companies that buy the Biowax blend it with their other ingredients to make scented candles, he said.
While candles are the main focus of the new plant, the wax can also be used to produce fluid for electrical transformers, Wright said.
“Our product doesn’t have PCBs (polychlorinated bipheny),” he said. “Ours is much better for the environment.”
It can also be used for coating cardboard boxes, among other things, Wright said.
He said the first batch of Biowax produced last week had a quality that “exceeded our expectations.”
“We sent a sample to the candle companies,” Wright said. “We have a marketing group that’s working with us on this. The companies are already familiar with us. I expect the turnaround time (to securing contracts) not to be long. This is different from anything we’ve done before.”
The National Candle Association says candles are used in 70 percent of American homes.
Retail prices “generally range from approximately $1.99 for a votive to $35 for a large pillar or jar candle,” the organization says.
“We get a very small percentage of that,” Wright said.
Keith Lawrence, 270-691-7301, firstname.lastname@example.org