Surfactant Market Update

September 4, 2007

Suppliers develop innovative products and programs to meet the dynamic needs of this important segment.

Surfactant Market Update

Suppliers develop innovative products and programs to meet the dynamic
needs of this important segment.

By Tom Branna
Editorial Director

You can’t be all things to all people…unless, of course, you’re a surfactant supplier! Marketers expect their surfactant partners to offer a wide array of materials that have a variety of consumer-preferred attributes. At the same time, vendors are expected to keep prices in line and materials in compliance as cost and regulatory pressures mount around the globe.

For years, marketers have tried to keep a lid on prices. Although they’ve shown some willingness to pay a bit more for, say, a novel anti-aging ingredient, they’ve often held the line when it comes to paying more for traditional surfactants. Suppliers have developed a variety of techniques to sustain margins.

 “Historically, all surfactants have shared a common life cycle which matures to a commodity status the speed of which is determined by how well the IP is protected by the supplier and what the material delivers to excite the ultimate consumer,” explained Phil Matena, president, Innospec Perfor-mance Chemicals.

Stellar Service Is a Must

Janet Kosiek, marketing and sales manager, household care, Degussa’s Goldschmidt Chemical Corporation, agreed there is an emphasis on cost, which can serve to commoditize a surfactant. But she noted that there is also a growing need to view the total value that a supplier delivers to a customer’s business.

“For example, technical and regulatory support from a supplier can reduce the spend in these areas by a customer, resulting in cost savings that impact the customer’s bottom line,” said Ms. Kosiek. “Consistent product quality means that the incoming raws spend less time in QC, and potential delays in manufacturing can be avoided.  So individual surfactants may become commodities but the suppliers can be viewed as the specialty.”

Dan Beio, vice president, R&D, RITA, noted that as more customers are looking for ways to reduce costs, they are relying more heavily on RITA as a source of concepts and formulation suggestions. 

“We have noticed over the past few years an exponential growth in our formulations being accepted by our customers and actually showing up on store shelves,” noted Mr. Beio. “We have invested heavily in seeking out technologies that will truly add value to our customers’ products.  We have also made the commitment with our technical services laboratory to provide unique ideas and applications along with any of our ingredients.”

Breadth of portfolio and depth of formulation expertise are critical to keeping surfactants from being considered commodities by marketers, explained Andrew Douglass, market innovation director, Rhodia. “Our customers are ever more demanding in seeking cost effective performance solutions that provide improved and often multiple benefits.” 

Rhodia develops and manufactures new high-technology formulations based on specialty surfactants that can deliver synergistic performance attributes.  For example, Miracare SLB structured liquids are based on specific combinations and processing of surfactants to provide unique rheology and phase structures. This translates into products that can deliver high amounts of oil and fragrance which result in rich, lotion-like textures, high foam and 24-hour skin moisturization.

Stepan Company is offering value-added, multifunctional ingredients that address its customers’ formulation challenges and at the same time offer additional functional benefits to help customers differentiate themselves in the market, explained Annie Gariepy, market manager, general surfactants, Stepan.

“For example, we launched Stepan 745 GC, a novel water-compatible emollient that is soluble up to 2% in water at ambient temperatures, does not negatively affect foam, improves viscosity build and provides conditioning properties,” she said.

Kevin Gallagher, president of Croda, noted that there are two basic approaches to preventing surfactants from becoming commodities. One is to differentiate through outstanding service and flexibility. The other is to build features and innovation into these products that customers value.

“For instance, we have offered our customers the product in a special package which makes it easy to use, or provide the product in bulk, or in a blend,” explained Mr. Gallagher. “In some cases, we have provided our customers an exclusive variation on a well known product that can deliver some performance claim, like enhanced mildness or biodegradability. In other cases, we have developed new patented technology with unique benefits claims that have allowed our customers to capture new profitable niches in their markets.”

Hamposyl specialty surfactants offer formulators some unique properties that will allow them to create innovative products, said Art Pavlidis, Hamposyl marketing and sales manager, Chattem Chemicals, Inc., Chattanooga, TN. For example, Hamposyl surfactants offer outstanding lather building and resistance to sebum delathering, outstanding mildness to skin and eyes, compatibility with quaternary ammonium germicides and conditioners, excellent corrosion inhibition, wide compatibility with medicated ingredients, resistance to oxidation, high salt tolerance and solubility in neutral to moderately acidic formulations.

Novel Product Ideas

Cognis Care Chemicals has launched several products that are anything but commodities, according to Thomas Schroeder, global marketing, hair body and oral care. Plantapon SF has an unusually mild natural-source surfactant base. Because it does not contain any sulfates, ethylene oxide or preservatives, it enables the formulation of gentle, environmentally friendly body cleansing products, facial washes, baby care concepts and professional shampoos.

Plantapon LC 7 uniquely combines the benefits of moisturizing fruit acids with a degree of mildness that far surpasses that of typical mild co-surfactants, according to Cognis. It combines gentle cleansing, moisture balancing and protection of the natural micro flora all in one. These multi-functional advantages make it the ideal 3in1 care additive for personal care cleansing formulations. In addition, Dehypound Advanced has been proven to provide better cleaning performance in I&I cleaners and consumer cleaners without the requirement of builders or solvent, thus contributing to the environmental movement without compromise on performance.

“We provide innovative surfactant solutions that enable manufacturers to meet consumers’ key demands, such as products that offer exceptional performance combined with delivering an enhanced sense of well-being, wellness experiences, multi-functionality and/or providing sensorial properties,” explained Mr. Schroeder.

Grant Industries is launching an alkyl modified sulfosuccinate dimethicone copolyol surfactant, called Gransurf 155, for acne scrubs. 

“Sulfosuccinates of dimethicone copolyols are ultra mild to start with, so the idea was to add some medium chain length alkyl groups to the polymer backbone for better sebum control,” explained John Gormley of Grant. “The high value of silicone-based surfactants coupled with patented market applications, like acne or facial scrubs, help keep this class of surfactants from becoming a commodity.”

Pilot Chemical offers economical performance blends such as CalBlend ECO-1, noted Tom McAlpin, manager, marketing, Pilot Chemical. “These blends are developed as results of our in-depth studies regarding the surfactant-surfactant interactions for optimum foam, viscosity, lather quantity/quality and skin after feel.  These blends provide excellent performance and provide customers ease of use into finished products.“

Ken Rizzi, global marketing manager, performance solutions, Air Products, told Happi that Air Products is committed to continuing Tomah’s (which it acquired in March 2006) longstanding tradition of supplying innovative, cost-effective, multi-functional additives to industrial and institutional (I&I) cleaning customers. 

“Our focus is to provide solutions to our customers to enable them to capture emerging market trends and needs,” he said. “An example is our Tomadol 900 series products that enable customers to replace NPE surfactants in their cleaning formulations with no impact on product performance; further, the Tomadol 900 series surfactants are highly efficient and can be used at lower use levels to achieve target performance.”

On Going Green

While marketers try to figure out the best way to position their products to consumers who are increasingly comfortable with terms like “sustainability” and “environmentally-preferable,” surfactant suppliers, in turn, are developing their own programs and products to ride the green wave.

"Our customers value sustainability, whether that’s in providing ingredients based on renewable resources, enhanced biodegradability or a smaller carbon footprint,” noted Mr. Gallagher. “Croda’s botanicals and vegetable-derived conditioning agents and surfactants are probably the most ‘environment friendly’ portfolio of personal care ingredients in our industry. Our stream of innovative new products is based on sustainability.”

Mr. Douglass of Rhodia pointed out that no two customers have the same definition of green.  Therefore, the company has an array of products and formulations that can meet these various needs and Rhodia works closely with its partners and customers to identify the right choices for them.

“Looking to the future, more than a third of our home and personal care research and development work is dedicated to green initiatives and this percentage continues to grow,” he added.

Stepan has been listing its surfactants on www.cleangredients.org, an online database of I&I cleaning ingredients. The site reportedly aligns broad environmental and human health goals with the cleaning product industry’s business objectives and will support formulation of products with human and environmental health benefits, whether to meet corporate internal objectives, regulations, voluntary product recognition programs, or national and international eco-labels.
Pilot is also actively monitoring and reducing its carbon footprint in the manufacture and selling of its products.  At the same time, Pilot is evaluating its products using various green standards such as Cleangredients and Green Seal.

 Innospec launched a green alternative for the chelant market called Natrlquest E30, a very effective biodegradable chelant that, Mr. Matena maintains, is generating a lot of excitement in the market.

Of course, some companies insist that their products have always been green. Ajinomoto, for example, specializes in amino acid derivatives with distinct characteristics and its surfactants are gentle on skin and hair and environmentally friendly, noted Seiji Takagi, manager, specialty chemicals division, Ajinomoto. “We specialize in producing natural amino acid derivatives, and green chemistry has always been very important to us. We are proud to be a pioneer in this field.”

Similarly, as a supplier of lanolin to the cosmetic industry for more than 50 years, RITA is well-positioned to take advantage of the green movement.

“From lanolin to our current high technology vegetable-sourced liposomes, we are always striving to provide that unique edge to our customers,” said Mr. Beio.  “We are also well-positioned with our extensive line of certified organic butters and oils. With our history and current lineup of products, we are considered by many as a leader in the cosmetic ingredient marketplace.”
Ms. Kosiek agreed that consumers are becoming more aware of environmental issues, but she noted that they have become accustomed to certain performance standards in the products that they purchase, which can be challenging to consumers. In anticipation of this trend, Degussa has been developing more environmentally friendly technology for the markets it serves and the application data needed to ensure that consumer products can be formulated “greener” yet still meet performance expectations, she told Happi.

Manufacturers who want to develop products in line with these new global “ecoethics” trend can choose the appropriate ingredients from Cognis Care Chemicals portfolio by utilizing “Green Chemicals Solutions,” an innovative classification system based on product specific data, highlighting the naturalness in every ingredient to give manufacturers easier viewing and purchasing options, said Mr. Schroeder.

Synthetic, Natural or Both?

While some suppliers promote the synthetic route and others a natural one, Chris Tarletsky, general manager of Jeen  International, insists that there is another avenue to innovation.

“We rely on hybrids,” he told Happi. “There is a lot of effort and research going into more naturally-modified synthetics or synthetically-modified naturals, depending on the target functionality.”

For example, he suggested that a marketer working on a betaine platform should consider incorporating natural triglycerides into a formula to maintain performance yet improve market friendliness. He pointed out that a similar approach could be taken with anionics and nonionics.

“Surfactants are workhorse chemicals, and trying to maintain that workhouse status but with an environmentally-friendly profile is extremely difficult and costly,” warned Mr. Tarletsky.

To help pave the way toward innovation, he suggested that more global marketers are willing to partner with tier-two chemical suppliers such as Jeen.

“We’re not risk-averse and we don’t have to be all things to all companies,” he observed. “Alliances give a tier-two chemical producer an opportunity to aggressively find solutions to formulating problems. These are exciting times for fast-moving innovators in the personal care industry.”

All’s Well with Wellness

The trend toward wellness, for many suppliers, dovetails with the green movement. For Innospec, skin protection is a key area within the wellness sector. The company is working on extensions to its Finsolv benzoate ester line that is focused on delivering specific benefiting agents to skin from formulation.

“Our goal is to tailor the delivery system to the active being delivered,” said Mr. Matena.

Cognis Care Chemicals provides product concepts that give formulators precise control over perception, feel, effect and usage—the four key dimensions of a holistic product experience, according to Mr. Schroeder. This approach, which is called “Feelosophy,” is part of Cognis’ strategy to target the growing market for wellness and convenience-oriented products. Objective emotional assessment, sensory assessment, active ingredients and convenience technologies back these dimensions.

Similarly, Rhodia not only uses its basic building materials to provide wellness benefits like skin care and protection, but also to trigger consumer emotion.

“We develop delivery systems that allow our customers to add fragrances, essential oils and other sensory items,” explained Mr. Douglass.

Ready for REACH

The wellness trend takes into account the health of the consumer, while green initiatives consider the health of the planet. But regulators are rarely content to let market forces shape either issue, which is why the European Union issued its Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) legislation several years ago. The new law, which will go into full effect next year, aims to improve the protection of human health and the environment through the better and earlier identification of the intrinsic properties of chemical substances.

A noble goal, for sure, but the program has put plenty of pressure on chemical suppliers to inventory their product offerings and pay millions to get their products registered. Certainly surfactant suppliers have not been able to avoid the long arm of REACH. Still, the industry executives who spoke with Happi insist that they are more than ready for REACH.

For example, with business partners located throughout Europe, RITA is well-positioned to handle the directive.

“They have been a huge help in gathering information we will need to pre-register all of our ingredients and in the preparation of the extensive dossiers,” explained Mr. Beio. “This is a massive project, but due to our excellent knowledgeable partners overseas, we will be well prepared for this initiative.”

With three legal entities in the EU, Stepan, too, is counting on its ties in Europe to help it prepare for REACH. Blaine Byers, senior manager product safety and compliance, said Stepan has established a REACH implementation program that is focusing on two main activities: a proactive communication plan that targets suppliers and customers and a global portfolio assessment. The company’s official REACH policy is located on its website, www.stepan.com. Stepan has also set up REACH-specific email addresses that customers and suppliers can use when seeking additional information (REACH.contact@stepaneurope.com for EU customers and REACH.contact @stepan.com for all non-EU customers).

“We recognize that REACH is an EU regulation with significant global impact and Stepan is aggressively working to assure REACH compliance,” said Mr. Byers.

As a part of its long-term commitment to sustainable development, Rhodia, from the very start of the process, entered into active discussions with the European Commission to ensure the most effective implementation of REACH. The company also actively participated in the definition of tools, guides and procedures.

Meanwhile, Pilot has begun preparations including contacting several customers and suppliers as well as securing funding for possible research needs.  The company intends to pre-register all of its products by the appropriate deadline, according to Mr. McAlpin.  

“REACH is a tremendous undertaking by the chemical industry that requires a significant resource commitment of both people and funding,” observed Mr. Matena.

As part of its commitment, Innospec has created a REACH team at its headquarters in the UK to support the overall implementation activity for the company.

“We are networking with suppliers, customers, regulators and consultants,” he added. “We are working together to understand the requirements to make certain we are positioning our products properly to ensure our ability to serve our customers needs into the future.”

“With the recent acquisition of Uniqema, Croda has the most robust global product regulatory capabilities in personal care,” observed Mr. Gallagher, who added that company experts have been frequent speakers at seminars and educational conferences on REACH. 

“Croda’s customers have provided us with a lot of positive feedback about our REACH capabilities,” he said. “As the result of our headquarters being in the UK and our early and sustained involvement with all aspects of REACH regulations, we feel that our ability to help our customers with REACH issues is unsurpassed.”

Cognis has put together a special REACH Process Team made up of representatives from different areas of its business. In addition, Cognis’ product safety and regulations department introduced a range of measures to ensure the company is well prepared for the new regulations. This included identifying all substances that are relevant for the process of pre-registration, modifying IT systems and detailing information on each substance. This information includes what sort of safety information already exists on the substances and how and in what sort of condition Cognis products are used further down the value chain.

“Besides this, Cognis is holding regular meetings with its business partners and customers, who will be also affected by REACH in a similar way,” explained Mr. Schroeder. “REACH is happening and Cognis is prepared for it.”

According to Dr. Charles M. Bartish, director of product safety and regulatory affairs for Air Products, the company is well-prepared for REACH.

“Many of our products have already been included in the EU Existing Chemicals, U.S. High Production Volume (HPV) and ICCA HPV programs,” he noted.

Air Products has been working for several years to collect fundamental hazards data for products manufactured or imported in volumes similar to those requiring registration under the REACH system. As a result, much of the data required for REACH for its products are already available.

“We are in the process of conducting an internal review of both our raw materials and products to fully assess the implications of REACH for Air Products,” he concluded.

Degussa has established a project group that has been working on REACH since the beginning of 2006.  Furthermore, the company is participating in chemical industry association initiatives and is actively considering the implications for its customers.  “We are in the process of pre-registering the substances that are components of our products and anticipate that this will be complete by the Nov. 30, 2008 deadline,” added Ms. Kosiek.

“The specific product registrations will be addressed individually, based on the established REACH requirements, once the pre-registration is complete. This initiative is a very involved and time intensive undertaking but we recognize the importance and have devoted significant resources to addressing the issues in a timely manner,” she said.

After obtaining a base of knowledge at industry events like the Society of Cosmetic Chemists annual meeting, executives at Grant Industries began a complete inventory and database of a number of important parameters associated with every raw material the company buys or sells, including EINECS numbers and polymers classes.

“Since MSDS communicate a lot of information, we set up a template that meets both EU and NAFTA regulations and update these as required,” explained Mr. Gormley. “We are working closely with customers and distributors to ensure their current and future regulatory needs are met.”

He noted that many customers are very proactive in the way they are preparing for REACH and communicating openly about expectations for current and future coding packets.

“Compared to prior years, they are now asking for significantly more information before beginning work on a new material or formula,” observed Mr. Gormley. “This means even more time spent on regulatory support and product safety testing. This is all leading to a general strategy within the industry to pre-register everything possible to avoid imports and exports from being disrupted.”

With shorter deadlines, more regulations and rising costs, successful surfactant suppliers are juggling many issues even as demand for new products gains steam.

Here's a look at new materials from industry suppliers.

Fort Lee, NJ
Tel: 201-292-3180


Comments: A new amino acid-based humectant for hair care products. PRODEW 500 is an amino acid blend that is modeled after the constituent amino acids of protein in CMC (Cell Membrane Complex) as amino acids are known to moisturize, strengthen structure, color protect and repair surface damage when applied to the hair. 


Comments: An amino acid-based emollient wax with an intercellular lipid-like structure and significant water-holding capacity (more than 2000% of its weight). The light, moisturizing, non-sticky feel of ELDEW APS-30 makes it particularly well-suited for cosmetic products such as lipsticks and foundations.

Ambler, PA
Tel: 800-531-0815

Duesseldorf, Germany
Tel: (49) 211-7940-0

Ultragel TM 300

A patented cationic powder grade rheology control additive which is designed to work effectively in acidic pH conditions for transparent gels.

Cetiol SenSoft

Cognis´ innovative, new, and light emollient fulfils the desire for a unique sensorial experience with multi-dimensional softness. Pillow Talk (Pillow-Aided Sensory Assessment), a new method developed to differentiate specific sensory parameters, revealed a multi-dimensional softness sensation for Cetiol SenSoft.

Arlypon TT

Cognis´ first high performance thickening agent that combines associative and micellar thickener parts to ensure optimum viscosity for surfactant systems that present   a '' thickening '' challenge. Difficult systems, such as SLES reduced or sulfate-free and betain-free systems, low active matter systems or even blends of specific mild surfactants can easily be thickened by Arlypon® TT.

Lamesoft Care

A high performance white free flowing wax dispersion that is suited  for surfactant based skin and hair care applications. Its micronized lipid system offers excellent skin and hair conditioning properties. Particular strong effects are achieved in combination with cationic polymers. Lamesoft Care can be used in a wide pH-range between 4-11 and therefore in all kinds of body rinse off applications such as shower gels, hair colors, shampoos, female hygiene and specific Ethnic hair care treatments.

Polyquart Pro

A smart additive for hard surface cleaners
In the Home Care market, “convenience” is one of the key values driving consumers’ choice. Convenience claims like high gloss, streak-free cleaning, easy to clean again, less resoiling, and spotless drying can be incorporated just by adding a small amount (~0.5%) of Polyquart PRO to the formulation. Polyquart PRO is compatible with all types of surfactants and can be used in the pH range from 1 to 12.

Plantapon SF

A green and natural cleansing concept can be realized. Plantapon SF is a robust surfactant blend that is compatible with care additives therefore all desired cleansing claims can be achieved (mildness, protection, moisturizing, smoothing).

Cosmedia CTH(E)

A cationic inverse emulsion rheology control additive to facilitate the preparation of hair conditioners and hair treatment products. It is simple to use with no elaborate mixing equipment required.
Cosmedia ATH - A cationic inverse emulsion rheology control additive to facilitate the preparation of hair conditioners and hair treatment products. It is simple to use with no elaborate mixing equipment required.

Emulgade Sucro

An emulsifier that deliver a velvety to powdery feeling as well as a light and smooth afterfeel without any tackiness. Compared to traditional emulsifiers, Emulgade Sucro provides better peaking and nicer distribution on the skin.

Cutina PES

A consistancy wax factor that builds up good viscosity and stability of o/w emulsion with different emulsifier systems (ionic/non-ionic), while at the same time also creating a non-waxy, caring skin feel.

Euperlan PCO

A very convenient, self-dispersible, versatile opacifier suitable for many personal care applications, as for example bath & shower gels, hand soaps or shampoos.  Euperlan® PCO shows outstanding opacifying efficacy, imparting a luxurious white, creamy, rich & dense appearance to the formulations.

Croda Inc
Edison, NJ
Tel: 732-417-0800

DiversaClean SRS and Cromollient SCE

Comments: These specialty surfactants provide added benefits to the formulation and, ultimately, to the consumer. DiversaClean SRS is a "soil removal system" that can target and remove a variety of soils in various types of cleaning products, or to create one cleaning product with multiple uses thereby reducing the quantity of cleaning products needed in the home.  The Cromollient SCE allows you to create milder and more gentle cleaning products, which is, for example, important to busy consumers who may use a wipe product for convenience and have direct skin contact with the cleaner.  This allows for safer usage around the home, including around children and pets.

Degussa Care Specialties


Varisoft 350 Veg.

Comments: A vegetable derived quaternary  for fabric softeners with renewable resource positioning.  Additional products targeting green and/or enhanced performance are under development and will be introduced to the HI&I market over the next months.

Grant Industries
Elmwood Park, NJ
Tel: 201-791-6700

Gransurf 155

Proposed INCI name: PEG-8 lauryl dimethicone sulfosuccinate, sodium salt is now available for mild facial scrubs.

Gransil ST-9

INCI name: Stearoxymethicone/dimethicone copolymer  exhibits excellent solubility in many cosmetic oils and waxes including hydrocarbons, esters and alcohols.  It can be used in a wide variety of cosmetic including treatment and make-up products. Gransil ST-9 will enhance spreadability and emolliency properties as well as improve luster and adhesion to the skin.


Edison, NJ

Tel: 732-321-3501


Tauranol SCMI 85 and Tauraol SLMI 85

Comments: Two exciting additions to our surfactant line. They are ultra-mild anionic surfactants that will be used in skin cleansers and sulfate free shampoos as primary or secondary surfactants. Their performance benefits in addition to mildness include; luxurious large volume lather, crystal clarity, enjoyable after feel, improved conditioning in hair and elegant rheology.

Finsoft series of cationic guar

Comments: Extremely effective conditioning agents for hair and skin cleansers. Our material provides “best in class” purity.

Finquat PQ 22

Comments: A recently launched cationic polymer which as tremendous benefit in hair color systems to improve the condition of color treated hair.

Tauranol SF-HP

Comments: A high purity sodium cocoyl taurate designed for use in applications which require very pure materials such as oral care.

Natrlquest E30

Comments: Avery effective biodegradable chelant which is generating a lot of excitement in the market.

Pilot Chemical
Cincinnati, OH
Tel: 513-326-0636

CalBlend ECO, ECO-1, ECO A-18        

Eco friendly and economical blends of surfactants that are easy to formulate into finished PC & H I & I products

Calfoam EA-682  

Short chain ether sulfate with hydrotroping, coupling and wetting properties

Calsoft AOS-FS          

Winterized AOS, prevents issues with frozen AOS

Calsoft AOS 1240/1245             

AOS based on C12 chain enhanced foaming and hydrotroping

Caltaine L-35     

Lauryl betaine for enhanced foaming properties

RITA Chemical
Crystal Lake, IL
Tel: 815-337-2500

Ritative AN

Comments: This introduction has has  generated a ton of interest in our  industry.  It is a patent  pending combination of "non-preservative"  ingredients that has  anti-microbial activity.  There is a real push going  on in the  industry to replace the current  generally recognized   preservatives with ingredients that have dual functionality, such as  skin  conditioners and emulsifiers.  This versatile product can be  incorporated  into skin care and personal care/toiletries products  alike.  Our timing  with this launch has been perfect as has been  the customer  excitement.

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