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Sales of organic sanitary pads shoot up

As toxic material scare continues, consumers look for alternatives
Sept 07,2017
A 25-year old teacher surnamed Choi had been using Lilian sanitary pads for around a year when news broke that the product contained more volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, than other local best sellers. Shortly after the brand’s name appeared in local media, she went to a nearby discount chain and purchased organic sanitary pads to stack on her shelves.

“I used to have rashes, itches and sometimes even wounds while using the product but I simply thought it was because I wasn’t changing them more often,” she said. “The symptoms vanished after switching to organic ones, but I try not to waste them because they’re not easy to find these days.”

Apart from Lilian, which female consumers questioned the safety of online, other industry big names like Yuhan-Kimberly, P&G and LG Unicharm were also revealed to have sold products containing potentially harmful VOCs by the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety on Monday.

Worried consumers are hurriedly looking for alternatives. The top two options are cotton and organic sanitary pads. Their popularity has risen so fast in the last two weeks since the news broke that it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find them in shops.

For two weeks between Aug. 20 and Sept. 4, the number of cotton sanitary pads sold at discount chain Emart jumped 385 percent compared to the last two weeks of July, whereas sales of sanitary pads in general retreated 34 percent.

Health & Beauty store Olive Young also reported that products from its “premium” sanitary pad corner - which includes cotton and organic sanitary pads - sold seven times more year on year between Aug. 21 and 30.

“The entire sales from our sanitary pads sector hardly changed, so we can interpret that the gap from declined major domestic brands was filled by premium products,” said an Olive Young spokesman.

Online sales are booming too. E-commerce giant Auction said that cotton sanitary pads sales shot up 671 percent between Aug. 23 and Sept. 5 compared to the previous year. The same product category at WeMakePrice sold 338.6 percent more between Aug. 21 and Sept. 3 compared to the previous two weeks.

Natracare, the market leader for disposable organic sanitary pads imported from the U.K., charges nearly three times more than local manufacturers for its products. It is experiencing a shortage of stock after the sudden increase in demand, and hopes to normalize its supply by mid-October.

Hannahpad, the top Korean manufacturer for reusable cotton sanitary pads, is also struggling to keep up with demand. “Every manufacturing process is done by hand and, at the moment, the number of orders has surpassed our daily capacity,” said the company on its website, adding that orders made after Sept. 1 will start delivery in December.

Menstrual cups, relatively uncommon in Korea, also saw demand increase. All menstrual cups in Korea are imported and sold exclusively online at several direct purchase sites, as they are not yet officially permitted for sale in Korea. Online retailer eNuri said that sales of menstrual cups between Aug. 21 and 25 rose on a daily basis at an average rate of 287 percent.


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