Korea home to No. 1 condom manufacturerA Korean company has made an improbable leap to the top of one competitive consumer product category ― condoms.
No one may have guessed a few years ago that Unidus would become the No. 1 condom producing company in the world, maybe even less so for a company that relied on imports for its raw materials. But Unidus weathered the economic crisis which swept the country in 1997 and has since expanded.
On April 1, it completed a factory in Jiangsu, China, that can produce 520 million condoms a year.
Combined with its facility in Jeungpyeong, Chungbuk province, that can produce 630 million, the company’s total capacity is around 1.15 billion condoms per year. Until then, the top spot belonged to Karex of Malaysia, which produces one billion, followed by America’s Church & Dwight at 800 million and Japan’s Okamoto at 500 million.
Last year, Unidus had record sales of 21.7 billion won and a profit of 2.1 billion, the best result since the company’s founding in 1973.
“Half of the products that are produced in China will be sold in China, and since only around 5 percent of the population uses condoms, there are so many ways to develop,” company president Kim Duck-sung said.
Unidus is one of the leading companies supplying condoms to international organizations.
It supplies more than 500 million condoms to agencies such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Population Fund. At the end of last year, it secured a $6 million contract with the aid organization USAID.
“With condoms preventing AIDS and concerns over population growth, the demand for condoms is increasing every year.” Mr. Kim said.
“The WHO needs 24 billion condoms every year, but now the supply is only six to seven billion, so we are estimating that the supply is not satisfying the demand,” he said.
Moreover, Unidus makes not only condoms but also rubber gloves used in surgery while also exporting equipment for making condoms.
Unidus is already exporting equipment to Puerto Rico, Malaysia, Iran, and India, bringing in $1.5 to 2 million annually.
A new product, called “Long Love” is also increasing sales. After it was introduced last August, about 30,000 were sold in five months at a profit of 1 billion won.
Mr. Kim expects said he expect the condom market to expand in Korea.
“Compared with usage levels of 50 percent in Japan and 30 percent in Europe, our percentage of condom use in Korea is low at 11 percent, so the future for the condom market in Korea is very bright,” Mr. Kim said. “Because you can get condoms in convenient stores and supermarkets, the number of people using condoms will keep increasing.”
by Park Hye-min
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