Ancient Syrian industry confronts the threat of imitators
ALEPPO, Syria – The strong perfume of olive oil and laurel hangs in the air in Aleppo, home of the ancient soap industry that is enjoying an emerging rebirth ever since the government has lifted commercial prohibitions over the last five years.
But the guardians of ancient traditions confirm that greedy imitators have begun to commercialize cheap industrial soap under their same name, threatening to undermine the brand in lucrative European markets where it is exported.
“European consumers are very demanding. They could fork out lots of euros for a bar of soap with the Aleppo brand, but they won’t buy the Syrian soap if it doesn’t do their skin any good”, explained one manufacturer.
The real soap, nicknamed “Aleppo green gold” is made with olive and laurel oils, water, and vegetable-based sodium, a natural ingredient that solidifies the mixture.
The purity and simplicity of this soap – olive oil is a natural moisturizer and laurel is a cleanser – they contrast with modern soaps that use all sorts of ingredients, from pig fat to ground horse bone. They also use “less noble” oils, like palm oil and oil from other seeds.
The five established producing families for this soap are – Zanabili, Najjar, Fansa, Jbeili and Sabouni. They export the majority of their production to Europe, South Korea, and Japan, especially the higher quality products that contain between 12 -45% laurel oil.
Marhaf Sabouni, whose family legacy has been manufacturing soap for 600 years, said that buying one of the established brands is the safest way of doing so, as these have not jeopardized the quality of their soap or their reputation.