If you are a Korean citizen the word “Nitrogen Snack” will be quite familiar. The name nitrogen snack comes from the excessive amount of nitrogen contained inside snack packagings for protection against and prevention of oxidation. Of course, snack boxes are not much different. Although, there are snacks that are plentiful of what can be “eaten,” in most cases, it is the opposite. In fact, the steady-seller “Kukudas” is 77.1% empty, with Market O’s “Real Brownie” being 83.2% non-food (according to a research study reported on www.consumerresearch.co.kr). What is worse is that prices are gradually climbing over understandable boundaries. Although some respond by saying “If it is expensive, just do not buy it,” unless it is an extensive boycott, this cannot be a solution to the current situation.
To everyone’s surprise, there is actually a law regulating excessive packaging of snacks. This law, legislated in 2013, imposes a maximum three million won fine to the manufacturer if empty spaces take up more than 35% of the entire volume. But why so much nitrogen, then? It is because the companies abuse the law’s loophole which allows the inflation of snack packaging if the purpose is to prevent crumbling and spoiling. Moreover, such buffer is included as part of the contents of the snack! Therefore, in the name of “snack protection”, companies inject more-than-necessary amounts of nitrogen, accounting for almost 80% of empty space in severe cases. Furthermore, these confectionary industries consistently raise prices, making excuses such as “rising raw material prices.” But contrary to common belief, snack ingredients such as milk products, sugar, and flour have been becoming cheaper ever since 2014. As the increasing demand for foreign brands that boast both quality and quantity threatens the sales of domestic ones, innocent consumers are burdened.
Thankfully, there seems to be a small wave of change against the trend of “excessive packaging.” Recently E-Mart signed an agreement with the Ministry of Environment to regulate the packaging of its own products, including No-brand. According to the agreement, a maximum of three million won is penalized if E-Mart violates the rule for keeping empty spaces in product packages under 35%. This may bring concerns, considering its similarity with the aforementioned law, but at least E-Mart seems to be strict on such regulations. Especially, the No-brand snacks are gaining popularity among consumers for its price-efficiency. In addition, the Ministry of Environment is known to regularly inspect E-Mart in case of excessive packaging. It would be better if such movement could be expanded to the confectionary industries as well. < 저작권자 © 중앙헤럴드 무단전재 및 재배포금지 >