Sunlight dishwashing liquid has a massive 79% share of the market, according to the global market research firm AC Nielsen.
Launched in South Africa in 1957, it has been one of those rare brands that has maintained loyalty over the decades – despite plenty of new, often much-cheaper entrants.
Key to its success is the cleaning power it packs in every drop: Sunlight is famous for being economical. A small amount of liquid delivers a satisfying amount of soapy foam which cuts through grease.
“I have tried many other dishwashing liquids, but find myself returning to Sunlight. I use half the amount than other detergents and it is very effective,” according to a customer review on the Clicks website.
“It is cost effective and cleans up to ten times better than other dishwashing liquids. Has a lemon smell and makes the kitchen smell fresh, just a few drops of sunlight liquid and you will be pleased, best product ever, never disappointed,” reads another.
So it was with some trepidation that we saw that Unilever launched two new versions called “Sunlight Extra”: an anti-bacterial version, which aims to kill 99.9% of germs, and a “natural” liquid, which supposedly should be softer on your hands.
For starters, new versions of beloved classics have not been an unqualified success in South Africa of late. The most disastrous was Kellogg’s new Rice Krispies, Coco Pops and Strawberry Pops cereals, which were met with a wall of hatred last year. Business Insider SA was also not overly impressed with the new Aromat, which doesn’t contain monosodium glutamate (MSG), but is pricier and sugary.
Also, crucially, the Sunlight Extra Natural looked lightweight. The liquid is almost translucent and looks anaemic against the green machine that is Sunlight liquid.
According to the ingredients list on the Sunlight website, the new version contains anionic detergents (a scientific soap concoction) and perfume like the original Sunlight liquid – but not the solubilisers (substances which helps to dissolve fats in water) and colourants of the traditional version.
Instead, the only other ingredient listed is aloe vera, although in promotional material, the company claims mineral salts are also included.
Using a teaspoon of each, and adding the same amount of water at the same tap pressure, we pit the two liquids against each other.
The result was impressive – the see-through new “natural version” delivered exactly the same foam punch than the 60-year old version:
Reassuringly, we also couldn't find any discernible difference in its cleaning power. And it smelled different, but nice.
The company says that new version should help prevent your hands feeling “coarse and dry” as normal dishwashing does.
We can’t know for sure whether this is the case, but instinctively it felt lighter and not as harsh as the traditional product.
At a recommended retail price of R32.99, it’s R3 more expensive than the traditional Sunlight Liquid, which currently retails at R29.99 at Pick n Pay.
You also can’t get refills for the new Sunlight Extra products. Currently, you can buy a 750ml Sunlight Liquid refill for R23.99 at Pick n Pay, which is R6 cheaper than the 750ml container.
Nobuhle Ngubane, brand building manager of Sunlight dishwashing liquid, says the company is exploring the option of introducing refills.
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