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Just add water

Updated on: 21 August,2022 08:06 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Heena Khandelwal |

As the hand hygiene market grows, so does the number of innovative solutions. Among them are concentrated capsules and powders, which experts say, are here to stay

Just add water

In 2018, Godrej launched concentrated powder. The kit containing a bottle and refill pouch costs Rs 40, and the refill comes for R15. The 9 gm sachet of powder transforms into 200 ml of handwash. Pic/Nimesh Dave

Even as government and NGO campaigns were stressing about the need to wash hands frequently, COVID-19 gave the hand hygiene market a further boost. Now, a report by ResearchAndMarkets says India’s hand hygiene market is expected to reach R2,159.5 crore by 2025. With hand hygiene in the spotlight, green solutions to cut the packaging waste generated by bottles and refill packs follow.

The most promising one is the dissolvable capsule. Delhi-based homecare brand Reflekt, makes one that transforms into foaming hand-wash when dissolved in 
250 ml of water.

Delhi-based homecare brand Reflekt offers a dissolvable capsule, which transforms into foaming hand-washDelhi-based homecare brand Reflekt offers a dissolvable capsule, which transforms into foaming hand-wash

“During the lockdown,” says Shray Anand, the co-founder of Reflekt, “I realised the amount of plastic coming out of our bathrooms and kitchen. Upon research, I learnt that an average household discards about 30 to 40 plastic bottles a year.”

Launched in May, the starter kit is priced at R599, and comes with four tablets plus a reusable frosted glass bottle. “Each concentrated tablet, which costs as low as R70, produces hand wash that lasts for 30 to 45 days,” he says. “All one needs to do  is wait for 30 minutes for the tablet to dissolve in water.” Reflekt also claims to be free from single-use plastic, from production to packaging. “We rely on biodegradable recycled paper,” Anand says. Besides hand wash, Reflekt makes tablets for surface cleaners, and dissolvable sheets for clothes detergents and floor cleaners.

Rishi Aggarwal and Somasree Bose  AwasthiRishi Aggarwal and Somasree Bose Awasthi

“A traditional product carries about 90 per cent water and 10 per cent concentrate. By selling only the concentrate, us and the consumer, both save space. As a result, a truck can accommodate up to eight times more products, cutting down on air pollution,” says Anand with pride.

Another player to enter this segment just last month is Bengaluru-based lifestyle brand, Bare Necessities. It currently offers hand wash and dishwashing powder in sachets. Priced at R130 and R140 respectively, the 16 gm refill pack makes 250 ml of solution. The company claims that the products are made using earth-friendly ingredients and the packaging is sustainable. “Living in Bangalore, we see Varthur and Bellandur Lakes frothing repeatedly,” says founder Sahar Mansoor, adding, “Chemical-based surfactants and detergents are a prime cause of this.”

Mansoor also takes pride in the planet-friendly packaging. “Our cork-sealed repurposed jars, with metal pumps, can last a lifetime. By recycling glass, we’ve avoided virgin glass. Our sachets are not only compostable, but are also made using vegetable dyes and not digital ink [which is non-compostable].”

“COVID-19 churned the whole hygiene space,” says Mumbai-based Aniket Parekh, whose brand Itti has capsules for kitchen counter, bathroom floor and window pane cleaners. “People want to live more responsibly. Besides, for those who live in small rented spaces, these capsules save shelf space.”

Even established big brands, such as Savlon and Godrej, are foraying into the green handwash market.  “We launched the Magic Handwash in 2018,” says Somasree Bose Awasthi, Chief Marketing Officer, Godrej Consumer Products Ltd. The kit containing a bottle and refill pouch costs R40, and the refill comes for R15. The 9 gm of powder transforms into 200 ml of handwash.  In four years, Awasthi claims that Godrej has “taken over 1/5th of the Indian market by volume”. Emboldened, they launched the Ready-to-Mix Body Wash—36 ml gel sachet makes 200 ml of liquid body wash.

“Consumers always want to buy responsibly, but price can be a barrier,” says Awasthi. “Hence, we price new products close to what they are already paying. Bathing soap is a necessity anyway, so why not make an aspirational product at the same price point?”

Awasthi is not dismissive of the environmental benefits. “The huge potential to save plastic, fuel, and energy appealed to us,” he says. The lighter and smaller sachets have allegedly cut plastic consumption by more than half. They can also transport four times the volume per truck, bringing fuel usage down to one-fourth of the earlier volume.

All this is good news for the planet and its people, but Rishi Aggarwal, the Director of Mumbai Sustainability Centre, is not entirely convinced of long term gains. “When you look at the numbers,” he says, “yes, the volume of packaging waste generated is reduced; but sachets are much more difficult to collect and divert from dumping grounds. These products will generate a lot of them. Companies should share sale numbers to [realistically] calculate the packaging waste produced.” Aggarwal suggests refill stations as an alternative to refills. “It should be mandatory for all large FMCG brands to sell 50 per cent of handwash, dishwash and detergent through such stations,” he says.

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