The sailing hasn’t always been smooth, but Shabondama Soap Co. has produced soaps for nearly four decades that don’t contain additives such as perfumes and artificial colors.
The company based in Kitakyushu doesn’t use any chemically synthesized ingredients and only uses animal and plant oils such as beef fat and palm oil.
The naturally derived soaps are not only good for the skin but also for the environment because they dissolve easily in water and any residue can be broken down by microorganisms.
Over the past several years, Shabondama Soap has expanded its additive-free product lineup to more than 150 items, ranging from shampoo and toothpaste to soap for babies.
But it had to overcome adversity before achieving success.
Founded in 1949, the firm grew steadily during the 1960s on the back of robust sales of synthetic detergents, which were less costly to produce and more effective than natural soaps.
But in 1974, then-President Mitsunori Morita switched to producing additive-free soaps after a skin rash disappeared when he began using them.
Although he faced opposition from employees who argued that natural soaps would not be profitable, Morita decided he could not allow his company to sell products that he believed were harmful, according to company officials.
As the employees foretold, the firm fell into the red due to plunging sales and the number of workers dropped to as low as five during the darkest days.
In the 1990s, however, the desire to protect the environment found new life and a book in which Morita wrote about additive-free soaps received a great reaction. The company’s sales began to take off.
At Shabondama Soap, workers create soaps through repeated heating and ripening for about a week to 10 days in a traditional, time-consuming method using an oven.
The craftsmen not only look at the soaps but also check their smell and even their sound and taste to confirm their quality.
The process generates moisturizing effects that are not possible using mass production methods, according to the company.
In recent years, Shabondama Soap has also been producing and selling products for use in hospitals and nursing care homes.
The company has even developed fire extinguishers that can reduce the amount of water employed and have little impact on the environment.
Third-generation President Hayato Morita said, “Regardless of the trend, we will continue to promote the benefits of additive-free soaps not only at home but also overseas.”