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Soy wax history

Invention of soy wax

Soy wax is quite a recent invention. It was only in 1991, when Michael Richards, when looking for a cheaper alternative for beeswax, that he developed soy wax. There was a big demand for natural wax candles, but beeswax was about 10 times more expensive than paraffin. As he entered the candle industry with beeswax products he realized there was a growing demand for natural wax candles. Micheal Richard tested different natural plant waxes and finally ended up with a vegetable wax which was made with partially hydrogenated soy oil, coconut oil and palm oil. He also blended beeswax with soy wax to make an economical natural wax candle.

Commercialisation of soy wax

In 1995, the Body Shop, a national chain of stores, was the first to offer soy candles to the general public. The first natural wax candles which were delivered to the Body Shop were a mixture of beeswax and almond oil. Later this almond oil was completely replaced with soy wax.
In 1996 Michael succeeded in replacing the expensive beeswax with soy wax. The candle wax then mainly consisted of hydrogenated soybean oil. He developed different mixtures of soy wax for container candles and free standing candles, which needed a higher melting point. The soy wax producer Candleworks negotiated in 1997 a research project with the University of Iowa which resulted in the study: "Increasing the Use of Soybeans in the Manufacturing of Candles".

In 1998 The Indiana Soybean Board unveiled at the Farm Progress Show special patented soy wax, Harvest Lights, which was developed by a farmer-funded group.

Since 1999 a lot of research was done to proof the benefits of soy wax. This resulted in 2 scientific publications:
  • Rezaei, K., T. Wang, and L. A. Johnson. Hydrogenated vegetable oils as candle wax. J. Am. Oil Chem. Soc. 79: 1241-1247 (2002).
  • Rezaei, K, T. Wang, and L.A. Johnson. Combustion characteristics of candles made from hydrogenated soybean oil. J. Am. Oil Chem. Soc. 79: 803-808 (2002).
Cargill bought in 2001 the patent of Michael's soy wax innovation. Now Cargill manufactures soybean wax, which is supplied to soy wax candle producers.

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