For many environmentally-conscious consumers, finding a clean and sustainable way of washing clothes is a huge challenge. While many detergent products aim to be friendly to the environment, these cleaning products often consist of powders or liquids in plastic containers.
Around 12.7 million tonnes of waste plastic is flushed into the oceans every year, according to the campaign group Greenpeace. Meanwhile, liquid detergents which contain phosphates have been shown to pollute waters by encouraging the build-up of algae, depriving marine life of oxygen.
For one Japanese company, the answer to help address these problems and cut costs for consumers came from magnesium.
The Terra Wash MG+ laundry sachet comes filled with specially processed magnesium, for a fragrance-free, textile friendly and antibacterial cleaning product without the use of synthetic chemicals. It aims to leave no traces of toxic substances that harm water or the environment.
Each sachet is designed to be reusable for up to 365 loads of clothes. The product comes in a small box made from recycled cardboard.
The product, which first hit the Japanese market in 2010, is soon to reach sales of 1 million units in its home market. The product retails in Japan at a price point of around 40 US Dollars.
Takuto Kobayashi, Executive Director of MK Enterprise Inc, the company which distributes and markets Terra Wash MG+, reflects on how the product came into being and the initial challenges they faced when selling it.
“I was introduced to Terra Wash+Mg from my partner, Miyamoto, who has been dealing with magnesium for years here in Japan. He is obsessed with magnesium,” says Takuto.
“When Miyamoto showed me a prototype of Terra Wash+Mg, I was amazed and moved by his passion to change the world by magnesium. Since he was more of a research type of person, we decided to work together to spread this amazing product in Japan.”
After difficulties gaining interest from wholesalers and retailers Takuto and his team decided to go directly to consumers.
“We thought we had a revolutionary product, so we thought it surely should be so easy to sell. However, the concept was too new that no one in the distribution channels was willing to try [it] due to a lack of sales data,” says Takuto.
His team created opportunities by attending trade shows open to the public, finding particular interest from consumers with allergies. Takuto explains: “We approached potential consumers who are in the more need of my product, such as people with sensitive skin, children, or eco-conscious customers – In the case of Japan, there is not much organic products market.
“Unlike in distribution channels, consumers with sensitive skin welcomed Terra Wash+Mg so much by saying ‘Oh, this is something I’ve been waiting for all my life! Although it took us years, after attending several shows, the word started to spread by consumers and slowly we’ve got into distributions as well.”
Terra Wash+Mg has been popular among Japanese customers, many of whom dry their clothes outdoors in order not to waste power. During the country’s rainy season (May to June), many Japanese people air dry their clothes indoors without using a machine. This situation presents a problem which Terra Wash+Mg has been able to address.
“When air drying the clothes inside the house, it is a suitable environment for bacteria to grow back again on clothes if they were not disinfected during the washing, which often happens when they are just masked by fragrance,” explains Takuto.
“We figured that Terra Wash+Mg could also solve this problem, too, because it is the best at disinfecting and deodorizing clothes due to magnesium’s natural characteristics. Therefore, in the case of Japan, we say ‘No more worries on the smell when air drying inside the room’ as a ‘catch copy’ so that it can also [appeal] to those consumers in such needs, not people with sensitive skin, babies or the eco-conscious.”
After the success of Terra Wash MG + in Japan, MK Enterprise Inc. embarked on a mission to bring the product to other parts of the world. Terra Wash MG+ is now available for distribution in some other Asian countries, and in Germany, France, Italy, the UK, Canada and the United States.
Takuto notes that the market for organic and eco-conscious products across the USA and Europe is more significant that in Japan.
“The biggest difference in the conversation that I noticed in the US and Europe was that people are very much into organic/natural products that they do have some space to welcome my product from the beginning unlike in Japan where the market for organic/natural is quite small,” explains Takuto.