Surfactant Market Update

November 11, 2005

New products are promoted for their multifunctionality, mildness, ease of use and global availability.

Statistics can be misleading. After all, when one looks at the market data for personal care products or household cleaners, for example, sales increases are often in-step with the general population growth. But within these seemingly flat business segments are an array of niches that are recording strong growth. Although surfactants have applications in a huge array of products, suppliers of these materials are targeting some of these niches with mild products that perform a variety of functions in the finished formula.

Trends, Big and Small
For example, sales of household and personal care wipes continue to grow at double digit rates and new players are entering the segment on an almost weekly basis.

"More companies are entering the disposable facial cleanser cloth segment," agreed Tom Schoenberg of The McIntyre Group, University Park, IL. "The cloth is impregnated with several surfactants to provide mild cleaning and moisturize the skin. There seems to be a growing acceptance among the consumer on the concept, (although) it will take a few years before we know whether the disposable facial cloth is a fad or a read trend."

Natural-based household cleaning products continue to capture the imagination of formulators and consumers alike. As a result, products such as orange oil cleaners are gaining wide acceptance in Europe and the Americas, noted Amy Bollinger of Uniqema, New Castle, DE. She pointed out, however, that these natural-based cleaners have different formulation requirements than most inorganic cleaners.

"Uniqema is looking at ways to emulsify natural-based products with ingredients that complement an environmentally-friendly profile," said Ms. Bollinger. "The Monamulse series from Uniqema is a ready-made option for formulators. It offers easy formulation of microemulsion cleaners, reduced environmental impact and compatibility with many natural ingredients."

Ms. Bollinger said the Monamulse series of surfactants has been been proven to deliver effective degreasing and rinsability when used in formulations with natural-based products.

Executives at Rhodia, Cranbury, NJ, told Happi that unit doses continue to grow in Europe and that this trend is being tested in the U.S. And while the market share of laundry tablets has stabilized at around four points in the U.S., tablets continue to grow in Europe.

According to Luigi Cazzaniga of The Dow Chemical Company, Midland, MI, the hard surface cleaning product segment continues to show significant growth, based on new formulations that increase multi-functionality.

"We've seen a growing trend toward individual hard surface cleaning products that offer exceptional performance in multiple performance areas, such as disinfectancy, fragrance and improved surfactancy," said Dr. Cazzaniga.

The Year That Was
Following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, the travel industry suffered greatly, which, in turn, had a big impact on sales of I&I cleaners for the hospitality industry. Sales have been steadier in the household and personal care categories. Many of the suppliers who spoke to Happi pointed out that consumers need to launder clothes or wash their hair no matter what's going on in the economy. In fact, specialty surfactant suppliers insist business has been good because finished product formulators are willing to pay for a product if it truly improves performance.

"We are seeing an increase in the upmarket trend toward products that provide a therapeutic benefit," noted Mary Clarke of Uniqema. "As far as formulating ingredients are concerned, we continue to see a market that wants safe, mild, naturally-derived ingredients that at the same time offer high degrees of perceivable performance."

Going Global
Dr. Cazzaniga also noted that globalization and multifunctionality remain top trends in the household and personal care industry as marketers expand their business interests and product lines across geographic borders.

"This means surfactant manufacturers must keep pace with them by drawing upon their manufacturing and supply chain capabilities to provide uniform surfactant formulations that can be used anywhere in the world," said Dr. Cazzaniga.

The drive for globalization in the industry has also resulted in considerable merger and acquisition activity. The acquisitions of Union Carbide in 2001 and Hampshire Chemical before that, have enabled Dow Chemical to become one of the 12 largest surfactant suppliers in the world, according to Dr. Cazzaniga. "Dow customers continue to benefit from the greatly expanded line of surfactants we gained through our merger with Union Carbide and through our previous acquisition of Hampshire Chemical Corp. We have extensive global resources and expertise, particularly in the household cleaning and personal care markets," he said.

But as manufacturers and their suppliers expand throughout the world, they must be aware of the regulatory issues from country to country and region to region, cautioned Henke DeJonge of Cognis, Ambler, PA. He noted that within the household segment, the surfactant system will have to be compatible with other components. "In Europe, new legislation will become effective that will eliminate the use of surfactants that have limited biodegradability. This will indirectly affect the U.S. market as large multinationals try to harmonize/globalize formulations. The surfactant that will deliver the best primary cleaning combined with secondary benefits will be in demand."

Even well-established brands have been invigorated with the addition of personal care wipes. For example, the Old Spice brand was recently extended with the addition of new Cool Contact wipes.

What Consumers Want
Some of the key driving forces in personal care for the surfactant market are optimization and raw material sources, according to Christopher Tarletsky of Jeen Chemical, Fairfield, NJ.
"Customers are demanding highly efficient systems, particularly in cleansing based products," he noted. "They want raw materials to achieve good lathering and high density with a rich creamy after-feel.

"Of course, they also want natural-based chemistry that is cost-effective. Rich creamy after-feel is currently being achieved with select cosmetic oils. This however, does indeed impede the surfactants performance with regard to cleansing."

Mr. Tarletsky said that customers routinely ask for a cleanser that acts like a lotion when it comes to moisturization, but cleans like a traditional wash product.

Within the personal care segment, amphoteric surfactants are expected to make the biggest gains, according to Bryan Westerby of Lonza, Fair Lawn, NJ. "Amphoteric surfactants are ideal for applications where mildness is a formulation need-particularly in personal care skin care applications." Dr. Westerby said high demand for body washes and liquid soaps should also boost sales of amphoteric surfactants. For marketers interested in high-foaming systems, Lonza supplies its high-foam Amphoterge W and Amphoterge W2 surfactants.

More on Mildness
Tom Schoenberg of McIntyre Group, agreed that amphoteric demand will outpace the rest of the surfactant industry. "In the past few years, betaines were often the surfactant of choice to replace diethanol amides," he noted. "Amphoterics, however, are expected to grow at a more rapid pace because of the greater concern for mildness. Today, almost every baby shampoo, body wash and baby wipe contains an amphoteric surfactant."

RITA executives acknowledge that mildness has always been a concern of formulators. But too often they've had to sacrifice foam for mildness or add betaines to sulfated surfactants. To solve the foam/mildness problem, RITA, Woodstock, IL, has introduced Ritafac-tants acyl lactylates for surfactant blends. According to the company, these materials are not only good moisturizers and emulsifiers, but short chain fatty acid lactylates have been proven effective as excellent foaming agents and foam boosters. By integrating different RITA acyl lactylates with adjusted ratios of nonionic amphoteric and/or anionic sulfated surfactants, the formulator has the ability to control foaming surfactant systems.

Look to Nature to Nurture
Surfactant suppliers throughout the personal care industry are rolling out surfactant systems that are based on natural materials in order to satisfy the marketer's needs and, in some cases, assuage the consumer's fears.

"Finished product producers are looking for more 'natural' components, although this term is not well-defined or understood," noted Cheryl Littau of Clariant, Charlotte, NC. "Also, the internet has a great impact on consumer 'knowledge,' so trends such as sulfate-free or natural or DEA-free can become truly noticeable in the market."

Mildness is a key attribute for many personal care products, but especially products for babies. Coty recently expanded its Healing Garden franchise with the launch of Zzztheraphy for Baby.
Uniqema has introduced the Arlasilk phospholipid series featuring products that have essentially the same chemistry that is found in human cells, explained Ms. Clarke. "Each of the products in this series starts with a naturally-derived substance and delivers the effect properties of that substance enhanced for ultimate performance through innovative chemistry."

According to Ms. Clarke, Uniqema has also addressed the need for mildness and safety with its Promidium 2 line of specialty surfactants that gives formulators a viable option for replacing DEA-based amines in rinse-off products. "Our surfactant line also includes highly functional products such as the Arlatone Versaflex series of emulsion stabilizer," she added. "These ingredients are highly effective at very low levels of use, meaning that they decrease the irritancy and other negative formulation effects associated with traditional surfactant products."

McIntyre chemists are focused on natural surfactants too, and the company has launched several new products during the past year that are already in the consumer market. For example, McIntyre offers a series of five products based on sunflower seed oil (Mackernium SFES, a quaternary hair conditioner; Mackam 2SU, an amphoteric; Mackine 1201, an amidoamine; Mackalene 1216, an amidoamine salt and Mackanate SM, a sulfosuccinate).

Also new is Mackol CAS-100F, a sodium cocosulfate to replace sodium lauryl sulfate in formulation. It produces excellent viscosity building, rich lather and moisturizing feel, according to McIntyre. Finally, the company has introduced a series of salt-free amphoterics for products that require zero or low salt, such as neutralizer shampoo or baby shampoo.

Cognis recently introduced Plantapon ACG 35, a disodium cocoylglutamate anionic surfactant based on vegetable raw materials. Recommended as a co-surfactant for mild body and hair cleansing preparations, Plantapon ACG is able to reduce the absorption of anionic based surfactants on the skin surface and consequently, can reduce the increase in transdermal water loss. Another addition to the Plantapon line is Plantapon 611 L, a multifunctional, economical, mild, easy to thicken, DEA-free, cold processable blend that can be used for body-, face- and hand washes, shampoos, liquid dish and laundry detergents. Also new is Plantapon LGC, a second generation, anionic APG (APG carboxylate) that combines exceptional mildness with great foam characteristics, according to Cognis.

Croda has introduced three new products for personal care formulators. Crodafos CS20 acid is a high actives (50%) primary emulsifer. It is specifically designed to provide more viscosity control and is especially suited for pourable-type emulsions with high active loads (i.e., liquid foundations) or other medium- to low-viscosity products such as after-shower/body sprays and milks. Crodafos CS20 acid can also be used to formulate higher viscosity creams with the addition of a fatty alcohol.

For hair care products, Croda has introduced Crodazosoft DBQ a softening and conditioning agent. As a quaternary compound combining the imidazoline functional group and the behenyl alkyl chains, Crodazosoft DBQ offers formulators the benefits of multifunctionality and exceptional softening and conditioning properties. In fact, Croda maintains that its Crodazosoft DBQ outperforms the benchmarks of the alkyl and dialkyl quats and cationic guars.

Also for hair care formulations, Croda has launched Crodasorb UV-HPP, a UVB absorbing polyester polyquat. This 65% active polyester polyquaternized UV absorber is aimed at hair care manufacturers who market their products globally and need a cationic UV absorber for hair that meets EINECS requirements. According to Croda, the material is effective in preventing UVB damage, and in doing so, protects UV-exposed hair from protein degradation and a loss in integrity, preserving its tensile strength, hydrophobicity, combing properties and natural color. Crodasorb UV-HPP is supplied as an easy-to-use liquid.

What's New in HI&I?
Earlier this year, Rhodia launched the Mirapol Surf-S range of polymers for hard surface cleaners, shower cleaners and automatic dish detergents. According to the company, these patented technologies deliver long-lasting surface modification benefits, enhancing post use surface appearance, drying rate and ease of cleaning and can be used as a direct add on to most formulations, including bleach and biocide-containing products. In other moves, Rhodia is adding value for its customers by developing formulated concentrates, reducing time to market and simplifying the customer's development and supply chain processes.

This year Dow will introduce Triton EF, a line of low-foam surfactants. They offer improved wetting performance, excellent detergency, very low foam characteristics and biodegradability. According to Dr. Cazzaniga, these materials will be particularly suited for rinse aids, commercial dishwashing and metal cleaning applications.

"In addition, Dow Surfactants is reviewing its current asset utilization and total ethoxylation capacity across the whole organization," said Dr. Cazzaniga. "This includes evaluating opportunities for partnerships around the world to ensure that we are able to meet the demands and requirements of our global customers."

Last month, Uniqema introduced Synperonic NCA, a line of alcohol alkoxylate surfactants that offer excellent wetting and detergency performance and at the same time offer full biodegradability and low aquatic toxicity for dishwashing detergents, glass cleaners, window cleaners and rinse aids. According to Uniqema, Synperonic NCA products conform to primary biodegradability requirements of EEC Directive 82/242 and are not classified as "dangerous for the environment" or as "marine pollutants." Therefore, they can be used in formulations that will carry the ECO label in Europe.

"The Synperonic NCA series offer a high level of environmentally-sound performance," said Tim Moore of Uniqema. "Formulators do not have to resort to developing blends to meet performance goals, thus avoiding secondary reformulation costs in meeting environmental obligations."

Surfactant suppliers have never been immune to trends in the market. As consumer demand for natural or mild products continues to grow, raw material makers are responding with a larger selection of effective products that are available around the world.