Innovation Wanted

By Tom Branna, Editorial Director | March 5, 2014

Suppliers to the laundry and home care sector bring new products, new capacity and new technology to market as consumers seek solutions to make cleaning easier than ever.

The pace of innovation in the global laundry and home care sector has been downright impressive during the past couple of years. Led by unit dose formulas, the category has been re-energized by the launch of multipurpose formulations, scent boosters, brighteners and softeners.

In the dish segment, marketers continue to search for alternative  chemistries that produce the kind of clean that consumers came to expect from phosphate-based formulas. To that end, just last month, Reckitt Benckiser rolled out Finish Power & Free, a new line of dishwasher products with hydrogen peroxide action. The line of detergents and rinse aid is said to deliver a sparkling clean and shine with no chlorine bleach and less fragrances and dyes than the current Finish products. With the Finish Power & Free detergents, hydrogen peroxide action micro-bubbles penetrate deep to power away the toughest food messes, leaving dishes reassuringly clean, even in the hardest water conditions.

The line includes three products. Quantum Power & Free dishwasher detergent’s three-chamber capsule features powerful cleaning ingredients with hydrogen peroxide action to attack the toughest food stains and leave a brilliant shine. All-in-1 Powerball Power & Free dishwasher detergent has powerful ingredients with hydrogen peroxide action that lift tough stains and attack 24-hour stuck on food; gently scrubbing dishes and glasses sparkling clean. Jet-Dry Power & Free rinse aid works during the rinse cycle to protect against spots, film, and residue.

“We know that harsh chemicals are a major concern for many consumers, especially moms,” said Selim Akis, Finish marketing director. “Understanding their desire for new ways to clean without sacrificing quality, Finish Power & Free was developed to harness the cleaning power of hydrogen peroxide with less harsh chemical ingredients.”

March is a big month for Sun Products and Procter & Gamble, too. As previously reported in Happi, Sun is adding All Free Clear liquid fabric softener and dryer sheets to the All Free Clear line, which is the No. 1 recommended detergent brand by dermatologists, allergists and pediatricians for those with sensitive skin. Also new from Sun are Snuggle Scent Boosters that work in the wash to infuse clothes with Lavender Joy or Blue Iris Bliss scents. Meanwhile, P&G has expanded its lineup of unit dose detergents with the rollout of Gain Flings! Back in February, Sun launched All Mighty Pacs Oxi, which promises to fight stains and whiten and brighten laundry.

To keep the innovation flowing, marketers are turning to suppliers for unique concepts in cleaning and novel raw materials. At the American Cleaning Institute (ACI) Annual Meeting and Convention in Orlando last month, some of the industry’s leading suppliers were eager to showcase their abilities to hundreds of cleaning industry executives.  At the same time, the experts were a bit wary of what the New Year would bring, referring time and again to that well-worn phrase “cautiously optimistic.”

“We expect business to pick up in 2014,” advised Dana Nystrand, marketing manager, household care consumer specialties, Evonik. “There is a growing trend toward convenience along with the continued strength of green cleaning concepts.”

To keep up with both trends, Evonik has introduced Rewoquat WE 45, a fabric softener active that is liquid at or near room temperatures—an attribute that makes processing easier, noted Nystrand. The material is supplied at 86% active levels.

Many executives who spoke with Happi during the ACI event agreed that the economy is showing a similar pattern to what happened in 2013, but with the added benefit of no government shutdown in the US and a European economy that appears poised to rebound. On the flip side, currency woes in emerging markets like Argentina can rock the global economic boat and nearly everyone agrees that the big gains in China’s economy are a thing of the past. Just last month, for example, Procter & Gamble said currency problems in Argentina, Venezuela and other emerging markets will cut earnings growth to 3-5% instead of a prior forecast of 5-7%.

In these volatile times, the most successful suppliers are bringing solutions to their customers—sometimes even before the customer sees trouble on the horizon.

A Life-Giving Element
“Innovation is our lifeblood,” insisted Gabriel Tanbourgi, head of care chemicals, BASF. “Thanks to acquisitions such as Ciba, Cognis and, most recently, Verenium, we have the portfolio to offer our customers a wide range of solutions.”

Verenium, San Diego, CA, is an industrial biotechnology company focused on the development and commercialization of high-performance enzymes, and green chemistry plays a key role in BASF’s growth plans. For example, in order to meet the fast growing global market demand for its innovative chelating agent, BASF will build a new Trilon M (methylglycinediacetic acid) world scale plant in Theodore, AL. The investment will be about $90 million. The new production facility is planned to start up in the second half of 2015.

“BASF was talking about sustainability well before the media took hold of it,” observed Tanbourgi. “For us, sustainability represents an opportunity. It led to the development of cold water washing and can point us toward solutions that are affordable.”

BASF’s chelating agent is readily biodegradable and improves the cleaning effect of detergents and cleaners in home care and industrial and institutional (I&I) cleaning applications. It is emerging as the preferred alternative to phosphates in modern, high-performance, ecological dishwashing detergents, according to company executives. The investment in Theodore will free up capacity in Ludwigshafen, Germany to serve increasing European demand for Trilon M triggered by the phosphate regulation for consumer automatic dishwashing detergents which is expected in 2017. In the US, phosphates were banned from consumer automatic dishwashing detergents in 16 states in 2010.

According to Dirk Buengel, senior VP, BASF Care Chemicals in North America, the company will launch many new products for home and personal care this year, including new molecules and concepts—many of them sustainable solutions.

“Using our Trigger Point Concept, we look at the entire value chain, including retail, to find significant areas of focus and improvement in terms of sustainable  development,” explained Buengel, who noted that BASF was also the first chemical company to become a member of The Sustainability Consortium, whose members include retailers and finished product companies from a wide range of industries.

More Sustainable Solutions
While long-time industry leaders like BASF and Evonik roll out sustainable solutions for the home care category, there’s still room for newcomers to the playing field. One of them is Rivertop Renewables, the Missoula, MT-based supplier of glucaric acid, which has applications as a detergent builder. According to John Monks, VP-business development, toll manufacturing is set to begin in the coming weeks and onstream commercial production will get underway by the end of the year.

“Our product is reasonably priced and sustainable, which has become an entry point to the industry,” explained Monks. “But the main drivers are the good performance and solid economics. We are convinced that there is money to be saved by switching (to our product).”

If he’s right, Monks expects Rivertop’s chelating agent to begin showing up in autodishwash formulations by 2015.

“The industry still hasn’t recovered from the phosphate ban,” he insisted. “Glucaric acid improves spotting and filming in ADW formulations. It’s cheaper, it’s more effective and it’s green.”

For more than 150 years, Procter & Gamble has offered natural based solutions via its global oleochemical network of  fatty alcohols, acids and glycerin. According to Tom Nelson, director, customer business development, P&G Chemicals, emphasis this year is on expanding and optimizing the well-established supply chains that serve our customers.

“Supply chain efficiency drives down the cost to serve our customers,” he explained. “We are expanding our distribution networks capability to make sure that we have the right infrastructure to satisfy demand.”

The fabric, home and beauty care businesses continue to grow globally increasing the demand for oleochemicals. Near term demand growth could stall with the recent increases in palm kernel and coconut oil prices.

“Energy and agriculture are emerging growth areas for our products right now.  Formulators across a variety of industries are in search of natural-based materials alternatives that deliver the right performance and value,” explained Nelson.

But regardless whether P&G Chemicals’ customers make consumer goods or industrial chemicals, P&G Chemicals is determined to optimize its supply chain in 2014.

“Our objective is to enable our customers to build their businesses and to compete effectively. To realize this goal, we must continue to offer low-cost solutions,” explained Nelson.

Solutions can be found all over the world. Dow Chemical recently unveiled a new geographic structure that enables the world’s No. 2 chemical maker to work more closely with their customers wherever they may be.

“We can execute locally and get involved with local brand owners,” noted Neil Carr, business president, functional materials, Dow Chemical. “The macro trends local have become very similar to those at other large companies.”

To help meet growing trends for sustainable solutions, Dow Chemical promoted several new products to attendees. For example, Dowanol DiPPh glycol ether is said to be specially developed to offer excellent degreasing and cleaning performance with minimal streaking, making it a good addition to hard surface cleaning formulas. Triton CG-425 alkyl polyglucoside surfactant is said to be compatible with many cleaning formulations and mild to the skin, while offering good wetting and detergency properties, low streaking and filming and producing  stable foam in many hard surface cleaning applications.

For laundry care applications, Supracare performance-enhancing cellulose polymers impart softness, longevity and shrink resistance for fabric and clothes. The Supracare platform is cellulosics based, derived from renewable plant-based materials.

“We’ve had very good reaction from customers about our new products,” said Christi Stiers, global business director/consumer and industrial solutions, Dow Chemical. “We’ve listened to our customers and major themes keep coming up regardless of where they are located. It is becoming more difficult for companies to be creative, so they look to us for innovation.”

For example, demand for low VOC solvents can be heard around the world and Dow Chemical has answered with Diamosolv 323 bio-based solvent that is derived from 100% renewable citrus feedstocks. The product has vapor properties that qualify it as an exempt VOC under California Air Resources Board and EPA criteria for both consumer and commercial product applications.

Enzymes, too, are playing an increasingly important role in detergent formulas, especially now that formulators see that they have applications at all price levels, not just premium products, said Cynthia Bryant, director of marketing and business development for household care at Novozymes.

“We are developing cost windows for enzymes a second and third tier price points,” she explained.

New product formulas also provide opportunities. Bryant pointed out that the lower water content of unit dose formulas improves stability issues. Furthermore, Novozymes’ new Evity is a more stable enzyme that makes it easier for formulators to incorporate in existing products. Plus, it is boron-free.

All these developments point to double-digit gains for Novozymes this year.

“I am quite optimistic that the detergent business will provide even greater value for consumers and that means even more business for suppliers who can deliver it,” concluded Bryant.

With emerging market currency woes, a Western European market taking gingerly steps from recession and consumer confidence still fragile in the US, successful marketers and suppliers will rely on innovation and exceptional value to grow in 2014.

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