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Why consumers dump detergent for baking soda

Mar 21,2017
Natural detergents such as baking soda are rising as popular items as consumers frantically search for non-hazardous products after toxic humidifier sterilizers killed and sickened thousands in 2011.

After a public trial and a report on a local news magazine show in 2015, mothers flooded online communities with information and tips on natural ingredients that could be used as detergents. Baking soda is the most widely known natural detergent.

Originally used as a rising agent for bread, its usage for both cooking and cleaning has not only been cost-effective, but a factor that strengthened its credibility as a harmless substance.

According to market research firm Nielsen Korea, the domestic market for baking soda reached 10 billion won ($ 8.9 million) in 2014 and sales grew 17.1 percent year on year in 2015 and 32.2 percent last year.

E-commerce site Auction also reported a similar uplift: Between January and March 19, sales of baking soda rose 28 percent compared to last year. In 2016, the growth rate was 25 percent year on year and 4 percent in 2015.

The increase in demand was prominent in the individual sales figures of baking soda released for cleaning.

Aekyung was one of the earliest major retailers to release a baking soda product for cleaning. Aekyung’s Mom’s Choice 100% Baking Soda sold 60 percent more in the first quarter compared to last year. Its sales rose 35.6 percent year on year in 2016 and 123.6 percent in 2015. The product was released in 2014. This year, Aekyung added other versions of its brand sodium percarbonate and citric acid.

Both substances are also frequently mentioned as eco-friendly cleaners, but their functions are slightly different from baking soda, as sodium percarbonate is more of a bleaching agent and citric acid can be used as a softener.

“We noticed an increase in consumer needs for eco-friendly, natural detergents,” the company said in a statement. “Our guess is that the concern on chemical detergents used in daily lives shifted consumers’ focus rapidly to this product sector,” the company said.

Other major companies like Ottogi and CJ also jumped in profit last year. Food manufacturer Ottogi released Ottogi Baking Soda in October. It emphasized the product’s safety by touting the company’s expertise in food and promoting the product as safe for both cooking and cleaning. Household goods company CJ Lion released its Pure Baking Soda in November. The product is comprised exclusively of baking soda.

Smaller companies have long been selling natural detergents, which are more widely known among conscious consumers concerned about chemicals in their detergent.

Rainbow Shop sells powder and liquid versions of detergents made of baking soda, sodium percarbonate and citric acid.

Rainbow Shop products made it onto the shelves of E-Mart in December, its first brick-and-mortar sales channel. Before then, products were sold on e-commerce sites and home shopping channels. The company has grown by word of mouth as it has released publications and social media postings on how to use effectively use natural detergents since it began selling products in 2011.

I-Maman, another well-known company, manufactures natural detergents for clothes and milk bottles, and cleaning products such as non-fluorescent dish-washing sponges. Last year, all the company’s products were selected as high-quality in preventing atopy by the Corporation Aggregate Korea Atopy Association.


BY SONG KYOUNG-SON [song.kyoungson@joongang.co.kr]