Yummi Candles – a bright example of North American manufacturing
Yummi Candles, a North American brand currently holding the largest range and selection of unscented candles, found its roots in the age-old adage that necessity is the mother of invention. And nearly 40 years later, it’s holding true to that philosophy by continually re-inventing and improving its unmatched collection of product offerings.
When company co-founder, Steve Stratakos, was cutting his teeth in the working world as a maître d’ in a high-end seafood company, he didn’t necessarily fit the mold of your average Joe foodservice staff. Beyond the expected duties of welcoming guests and taking reservations, he was constantly looking for ways to improve the diners’ experience.
“He was intrigued by the butter warmers that guests used to dip their lobster into,” explained Sokratis Antonopoulos, senior director of eCommerce and marketing at Neo-Image Candlelight Ltd., the parent company to the Yummi Candles brand. “He noticed that the candles didn’t get to a decent temperature and that the warmers weren’t built properly. And he decided to do something about it.”
But instead of looking elsewhere for a solution, he took the need on as a personal challenge. During his off hours, he worked to design and build a better butter warmer, submitted a patent for it and began selling the new-and-improved product to local restaurateurs. As demand grew, he discovered that the repeat business wasn’t in the butter warmers but in the tea light candles that rested below the device.
“To keep up with demand, he brought his brother, George, into the business and opened a small retail and wholesale operation with a storefront,” Antonopolous said. “At that time they were selling other manufacturers’ candles, but as was their nature, Steve and George saw a need for change. They responded to the growing demand and bought a machine to make their own tea lights.”
As one machine led to the next, a viable company quickly emerged. That was in 1976, and soon thereafter, the two brothers were garnering bigger accounts and more opportunities. From the exclusive food-service focus, they soon migrated into other categories, like retail and floral. And they haven’t stopped since.
Made in North America
Today, Neo-Image is the largest manufacturer of tea lights in North America with its core business still residing in the direct to wholesale and retail distribution markets. During its four decades, the Yummi Candles brand evolved significantly to a full range of candles in more than 50 colors and finishes, like high gloss and pearlescent.
“That segment is heavily dominated by brides to be,” said Antonopoulos. “They make up 50 percent of that audience. As for geographies, we do 50 percent of our sales in Canada and 50 percent in the United States. We almost don’t see a border.”
The Yummi Candles brand is manufactured exclusively in Canada, but a lot of its components, like glass jars, wicks and fragrances, are sourced from within the United States. The brand also has a heavy supply chain in the United States, making that border even more negligible.
A bright future
“We’re starting to see a shift in sales channels,” explained Antonopoulos. “And we’re seeing more customers coming in through the online channel. They’re coming to us for a more unique offering – one that retail can’t fulfill. That’s when we decided to take our product line and create an online presence.”
The fact that the Yummi Candles brand doesn’t make a distinction between Canada and the United States widened their options when it came to choosing a technology partner. And once they settled on NetSphere Strategies, the possibilities for the company as a whole were expanded.
“Having our new online store allows us to do things that we would never be able to do through typical channels,” Antonopolous explained. “You would have to have a minimum square footage to properly display everything, whereas, with an online store, that limitation isn’t there. We basically have unlimited square footage.”
Antonopoulos continued to explain that the partnership with NetSphere Strategies is indirectly related to the company’s sales because it frees up the team at Yummi Candles to focus on the customer side and the logistics side without worrying about technical issues, like if the site went down.
“I’ve seen the competence that NetSphere Strategies has regarding our platform for WebSphere Commerce,” he said. “That’s hard to find – a competent firm that understands its intricacies. I like that it’s a boutique firm and I can talk to the founders directly. Having a technology partner that’s there for you, looking out for your best interests and looking out for your technology is incredibly valuable. It’s almost like an insurance policy.”
For more information about B2B microsites, contact the team of eCommerce experts at NetSphere Strategies.