Aroma Naturals Inc., maker of scented candles and body care products, has filed a lawsuit accusing competitor Our Secret Ltd. of waging a misleading marketing campaign.
The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in federal court in Santa Ana, highlights the growing controversy over the marketing of products used in "aromatherapy," a quasi-science of smells that purportedly enhance health, mood and brain function. Irvine-based Aroma contends that it makes its products with "pure essential oils" and extracts. While Our Secret claims to sell candles with similar ingredients for a lower price, the lawsuit says most of the Albuquerque, N.M., company's candles are actually made of synthetic fragrances and additives.
Aroma is asking the court to halt the allegedly misleading advertising and seeks damages of at least $15 million.
Our Secret could not be reached for comment.
The claims of unfair competition point up the rift between two camps that manufacture aromatherapy products, such as candles, oils and lotions.
Initially, these products were made by purists, who insist that great care must be taken in preparing the scented ingredients. But as more consumers began snapping up such goods, cosmetic giants entered the fray, creating tough competition for the smaller players that had staked out the turf.