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HomeEditor's PicksInstead of classic scents, this M’sian sells candles like… nasi lemak, Tiger...

Instead of classic scents, this M’sian sells candles like… nasi lemak, Tiger Balm & tomyum?

Candles have become an everyday luxury in recent years, with many Malaysians making it a staple piece in their households. Candle-making brands have also sprouted around Malaysia, some offering more than just scents. 

For example, each scent at Complemen+ Candles provides customers with an exclusive Spotify playlist, while JUU’s hyper-realistic candles double as decorative pieces.

But at Asian Scents Co., the brand lets its Asian-inspired scents do all the talking. And no, I’m not just referring to the smell of lemongrass or coconut.

I’m talking about candles that smell like Boba Milk Tea, White Rabbit, and the cult favourite pain relief rub, Tiger Balm.

A scent-imental affair

It all started when Audrey Hon was homesick. Being based in Melbourne meant that she was far from her Malaysian roots. And when the pandemic happened, like many others, she couldn’t visit her home country for months on end.

So she resorted to making scented candles as a hobby during the lockdowns. It was a therapeutic pastime and helped alleviate some sense of longing.

“That was when I started to make Asian-inspired scented candles,” Audrey shared. In true Malaysian fashion, the first candles she made smelled of food. “Boba Milk Tea and White Rabbit Candy were one of the first scents I created.”

Sharing her creations, Audrey gave some to her friends who were also living away from home and family. Impressed by the wave of nostalgia it brought about, a couple of them gave her the idea to start the business.

“A couple of my friends suggested to me that I should sell them online. It hit me, ‘Why not?’, so I sold them online as a side hustle initially while working full-time in a corporate job.”

A total of RM100,000 was invested into the startup capital, sourced from both her personal savings and with the help of her family.

Not long after, sales began to pick up and Asian Scents Co. began receiving orders from outside of Australia, including Europe and the US. Realising the business’s potential, Audrey decided to quit her career in marketing and sales to fully focus on the brand.

“There is a saying, ‘Start now or feel regret later’,” the 37-year-old explained. “It took guts, [but] I resigned from my stable job to do my own thing that I had always dreamt of before I turned 40.”

And at the time, Melbourne was undergoing one of the longest lockdowns in the world. The Australian city reportedly had been under six lockdowns which totalled to 262 days since March 2020.

“That tells how much I miss home, family, and friends who live in Malaysia,” she confessed. “To create Asian-inspired (Malaysian-inspired specifically) scents that we are familiar with and grew up with, it helped to make us feel closer to home.”

It just makes scents

When international travel was permitted again, Audrey was beyond excited to bring the brand into Malaysia. 

Her long experience in the marketing and sales industry taught her to conduct market research before that. And what she found only encouraged her to bring the business back home.

You see, while Malaysia does have plenty of established candle brands like Lilin+Co and ANBO, none of them specialise in Asian-inspired scents the way Asian Scents Co. does.

Aside from the aforementioned scents, the Melbourne-based brand has a wide range of quirky options to tease your olfactory senses.

Some of them include Hawthorn Flakes, Ice Kacang, Sticky Mango Rice, Nasi Lemak, Ondeh-Ondeh, and Teh O’ Ais Limau. 

Each scent comes in the form of candles, air fresheners, reed diffusers, and linen sprays. The price ranges from RM15 to RM80.

As for the candles, customers have the option to choose between travel-sized (RM35 for 80g) and full-sized (RM75 for 160g) ones. The brand also offers gift sets that include three full-sized candles for RM105.

Some of the more limited edition ones are only offered in one form and priced slightly higher than the others. For example, the candles made in partnership with Loka Made can go up to RM38 for 80g.

Audrey shared that the brand’s candles are made using premium natural coconut soy wax, wooden wicks, and high-quality fragrance oils. “It burns cleaner, longer, and is toxin-free.”

“The candles we sell in Melbourne are all hand-poured in Melbourne, whereas the candles we sell in Malaysia are hand-poured in Malaysia for cost-efficiency. But the ingredients are imported from Melbourne,” she shared.

Not-so-common scents

At this point, you’re probably noticing a foodie pattern in the scents and wondering what the demand is like. Are Australians and other international clients (apart from Malaysians) actually interested in these smells?

Audrey explained that the demand differs from country to country, so Asian Scents Co. ensures there’s a good mix of specific and more general smells.

For instance, the scents marketed in Australia are more general, like Boba Milk Tea as everyone is familiar with the beverage. But Ondeh-Ondeh on the other hand, would be marketed more to the Malaysian and Singaporean markets.

Considering that most of the brand’s products smell like food, I figured it would be more appealing to businesses instead of the everyday user. After all, a scent like Nasi Lemak would seem to be perfect for an establishment like Village Park Restaurant, and the Tom Yum candle would be ideal for a Thai restaurant.

But Audrey explained that this was not the case at all. “There is a large demand in B2C for food-scented products simply because we, as Malaysians, love food in general.”

This sentiment seems to be quite global as well, with brands like EMME and Mochiglow in the US offering similar products. Though, it’s interesting to note that the founders of these brands all have Asian roots.

Currently, Malaysians can find Asian Scents Co.’s products at their 17 partnering distributor’s stores. This includes APOM, Ilham Gallery, Stickerrific, and Tsutaya Bookstore at Pavilion. They’re looking out for more distributors to collaborate with too.

If you’re a Malaysian in Australia and wish to get a whiff of home as well, the brand’s products can be found at QVWC SHOP!, Grandpa Chen, and Thai Kee IGA Supermarket.

According to research, the global scented candles market was valued at US$8.1 billion last year. This number is expected to continue growing until it reaches a value of US$9.5 billion by 2028.

With that in mind, it seems that candle-making might be an industry to keep an eye on in the coming years.

Standing out from other candlemakers may not be as simple as before with more competition mushrooming though, so brands might have to start looking into offering added value with their candles, or come up with scents unique enough to command interest.

Learn more about Asian Scents Co. here.Read articles we’ve written about Malaysian startups here.

Also ReadEarly-stage startups, here’s how you can get a cut of RM36K from Sidec’s 2023 accelerator

Featured Image Credit: Asian Scents Co.

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