During the past five years, the surfactant industry has been influenced by a range of trends including higher actives, lower 1,4 dioxane levels, RSPO and, of course, consolidation, observed Timothy Roach of Lubrizol Advanced Materials. Yet, despite those demands, the segment continues to post steady gains now, and into the foreseeable future. According to Colin A. Houston & Associates (CAHA), the market value of the six primary surfactants (LABS, MES, AES, AS, AE and APE) reached $14.6 billion in 2015. CAHA forecasts sales to rise 3.3% a year to 2025.
Albert Babik of Jeen International agreed that surfactant sales are growing steadily, if not spectacularly, as the market comes to terms with issues such as regulations, labeling and global formulations.
“It’s all about consumer perceptions,” he explained. “For example, there’s concern that some cleansers may affect the microbiome. That’s all wrapped into surfactants and managing to cleanse skin without stripping.”
Divya Namjoshi, Ajinomoto North America, was even more emphatic in her assessment.
“Environmental concern has caused the paradigm shift in the industry, as consumers are opting for more natural, green, environmentally-friendly and biodegradable alternatives,” explained Namjoshi.
“Sustainability is the future, and consumers are pushing the boundaries for more sustainable options and innovations by the companies in the industry.”
Facilitating that shift, said Andrew Miller of BASF, is social media and online research that are making consumers more discerning about their product choices.
“Natural/green and ‘free-from’ claims continue to grow, as consumers seek products free from perceivably harmful chemicals,” explained Miller. “As a result, we see a shift toward natural surfactants.”
But the drive for greener raw materials has hit a speed bump in the past few years as a drop in oil prices removed the incentive to switch to bio-based raw materials, according to some suppliers.
“As a result, many of the upstart bio-based companies have struggled to survive and those that did may not have been able to commercialize their innovations as quickly as they would have liked,” according to Rick Hanson of Croda.
Tim Arundel of Cedar Concepts noted that the shift toward green, sustainable surfactants has accelerated due to new GHS standards, and regulatory initiatives such as DfE and RSPO.
“We have seen a steady interest in biomass alternatives as opposed to oleo synthetic. Due to prices though, those interests have not necessarily translated into large quantity sales,” he explained. “Interest will continue to grow, but a physical shift will not occur until prices of sustainable and green products can compete with current formulations along with a sustainable supply chain.”
A Price Must Be Paid
Victor Low of Lonza Personal Care agreed. He noted that the interest for more “naturally-derived” alternatives exists but the demand is not as high for surfactant ingredients as compared to other components within a formulation.
“Not all customers are willing to pay a premium for ‘natural and green,’” he said. “Smaller or mid-sized companies tend to invest more into these developments. Central European and Scandinavian countries are spearheading the concept ‘natural, green and sustainable.’”
Meanwhile, multinational companies are switching back and forth between oleo- and petrochemicals in order to keep the costs low and to maximize margin, according to Low.
“The cost-performance ratio, in regards to both cleansing properties and formulation aesthetics, remains the primary focus for manufacturers utilizing surfactants today.”
Despite the stumble in biomass-derived demands, Hanson said demand continues to grow for renewable or non-petrochemical surfactants, including performance and consumer perception that bio-based is better for the environment.
“In many situations bio-based raw materials, when derivatized, can deliver better performance than a petro chemical based material, allowing a slightly higher price to be paid,” he said. “For the consumer, bio-based or renewable products are often perceived as better for the environment as well as being less hazardous, which lends itself to a more favorable perception of the products.”
To help fuel demand for these products, Croda will soon commission the first bioethanol to EO plant in North America. It will enable Croda to produce 100% renewable, 100% bio-based surfactants, according to the company.
Namjoshi of Ajinomoto North America said surfactants have always been a massive part of the company’s global business.
“All of our products, including surfactants, emollients, humectants and functional ingredients, are amino acid-based. (They) fit well in the growing trends in the industry, be it the sulfate-free, natural, biodegradable, ecofriendly, multicultural or PEG-free trend,” she said.
Stepan’s surfactants sales volume increased in Latin America following the 2016 acquisition of Tebras Tensoativos do Brazil Ltda’s commercial business and PBC Industria Quimica Ltda’s sulfonation production facility within the greater São Paulo, Brazil area. Combined, the acquired entities had annual sales of approximately $32 million and 25,000 metric tons of sulfonation capacity. The acquisitions brought Stepan the opportunity to sell its surfactants to 1,200 potential new customers, according to Anne Gariepy.
Sustainability, doing more with less and efficacy are all common themes driving surfactant sales. Stepan executives say these themes are providing a lift to its business. For example, Ninol CAA has greater than 85%, bio-based carbon and can provide multiple benefits such as improved viscosity, fragrance solubilization and skin feel, according to Terri Germain.
Under the doing more with less theme, Stepan’s Steposol Citri-Met is a dilutable, concentrated cleaning blend is customizable on dilution to accommodate additives to adjust pH or extra reserve buffering. At 20% use levels, customers can create powerful graffiti removers, oven cleaners, and oilfield rig wash cleaners. At 5%, a range of products can be created including multi-purpose cleaners, fabric pre-wash spot removers, and bug and tar removers for automotive care.
“The patented combination of Stepan ingredients with citrus extracts provides a new cleaning mechanism to remove tough stains, including ink, blood and iodine, even when diluted to 5-10%,” explained Ron Masters, who added that in many cases, customers have been able to replace a majority of solvent-based cleaners with diluted Steposol Citri-Met.
“Steposol Met-10U and Citri-Met prove that it is possible to design surfactants that are naturally-derived and that address the cleaning and environmental needs of today’s market,” concluded Germain.
According to Roach, demand for betaines and amphoterics has been partially offset by weakness in sales of DEA and MEA amides. He blamed the decline on regulations.
At Croda, customers are more interested these days on bio-based or renewable cleaning products, as well as increased concentration. According to Hanson, Croda chemists are often asked to help boost performance through the company’s specialty range of surfactants and its formulation expertise.
“We expect this challenge to become easier once our bio based EO plant comes on stream and we start producing 100% renewable, 100% bio-based surfactants,” he predicted. “Customers will no longer have to sacrifice performance to be bio-based.”
At the same time, the Croda executive has noticed an increasing interest regarding performance and increased concentration—both come into play in reducing cleaning time and supply chain costs.
Jeen International is a niche, value-add player in the surfactant market, focusing on properties such as mildness, gentleness, foam control, and residual feel vs. dryness.
According to Babik, Jeen carries a unique line of concentrates that answers the growing demand for formulas that cater to sensitive skin. Jeechem Concentrates checks all the boxes making it convenient for multinationals and emerging companies alike, he added.
“We are delivering a cocktail surfactant that is stable, mostly electrolyte tolerant and gives the formulators everything they are looking for in a single ingredient,” Babik explained.
For Cedar Concepts, North American demand is growing for amphoterics, esters and emulsifiers. In contrast, there’s been a drop in certain blends, and certain alkanolamide sales are down due to regulatory issues, according to Arundel. In contrast, there’s growing demand for sulfate-free formulation blends.
Tongue planted firmly in cheek, Low said waterless systems have generated some waves in Lonza’s surfactant business.
“With growing concern over water scarcity around the globe, the demand for waterless systems is increasing,” he said.
Surfactant growth varies, according to James Esposito of BASF, who noted that more commoditized surfactants are growing at a stable rate versus the specialty surfactant market. Taking a closer look at the category, demand for lauric-based surfactants for use in personal care is growing, while in home care, use of synthetic/petro-based surfactants is continuing. At the same time, the natural surfactant market is growing at a faster rate than the petro market, due to share shift and customers’ desire for renewable surfactants, added Esposito.
As consumer preferences evolve, and FMCG customers’ needs change, suppliers say they are making investments to grow along with them. At Lubrizol Advanced Materials, there’s continued investment in the areas of foam, sensory and mildness.
“Our focus is to be able to deliver our products, across all of our technology platforms, as solutions that enable our customers to make products that deliver an enhanced consumer experience,” said Roach.
Ajinomoto North America recently announced a $30 million investment to expand its Raleigh, NC plant. According to Namjoshi, the investment is going to bring in more production and employment and shows a great sign of continual growth for the company. Recently, Ajinomoto North America, Inc. marked its 100 year anniversary in the US. Finally, the specialty and personal care division of Ajinomoto North America relaunched a more informative, interactive website, www.ajiaminobeauty.com.
Cedar Concepts realigned personnel toward a streamlined structure to optimize effectiveness. The company has expanded its R&D staff, too. New business growth has been in high volume products such as amphoterics, esters and emulsifiers.
In June Stepan agreed to acquire BASF’s surfactant production facility in Ecatepec, Mexico, and a portion of the associated surfactants business. The facility is located close to Mexico City and has more than 50,000 metric tons of capacity, 124,000 square feet of warehouse space, a large laboratory and office space. The transaction is expected to close in the fourth quarter of 2017.
“The acquisition supports the company’s growth strategy in Latin America,” said F. Quinn Stepan Jr., chairman, president and CEO of Stepan, at the time of the announcement. “We believe this acquisition significantly enhances Stepan’s market position and supply capabilities for surfactants in Mexico and positions us to grow in both the consumer and functional markets for surfactants.”
According to BASF’s Esposito, despite the sale, in the US, BASF continues to focus on bio-based surfactants and is committed to the environment.
In a personnel move, Lonza hired Daan Thorn Leeson as global head of skin care technology for its personal care and hygiene businesses. Based in South Plainfield, NJ, he leads new product development and assists in building Lonza’s reputation as a solution provider in the highly competitive skin care market. Leeson is a 17-year veteran of the personal care industry, with particular focus in skin care applications. Prior to joining Lonza, he served 10 years at Avon Products in various senior research and innovation roles. Leeson holds three patents for skin care applications, and has published 10 research studies.
As a host of forces shape the surfactant industry, leading suppliers say they are making the moves necessary to survive and thrive for years to come.
Here’s a list of new surfactants introduced by industry suppliers during the past 12 months. For more information on the materials listed here, contact the supplier using the information provided below.
Ajinomoto North America, Inc.
Tel: (877) 507-9303
INCI: Disodium sebacoyl bis-lauramidolysine
Applications: hair care, skin care
Use levels: 0.5% wt.
Comments: Amisafe LL-DS-22 is a water soluble lysine material. It has foam boosting properties and works in synergy with various categories of foaming surfactants. It leaves the skin and hair feeling silky and moisturized without causing dryness and taut sensory feel.
INCI: Hydroxypropyl arginine lauroyl/myristyl ether, HCL alcohol, water
Applications: Hair care
Use level: 1-2% wt.
Comments: Amisafe LMA-60 is an amino acid—Arginine based material. It helps improve hair moisturization and hair smoothness. It is a great biodegradable and environmentally-friendly substitute for conventional non-biodegradable cationic conditioning agents for hair. It also has color-treated hair color retention property.
INCI: Sodium PCA
Applications: Skin care, hair care, makeup
Use levels: 1-15% wt.
Comments: Ajidew NL-50N is a component of the NMF in the skin and an excellent humectant for skin. It imparts excellent moisturization, shine and smoothness to hair. It also has color-treated hair color retention property. It helps retain moisture in skin and hair even when incorporated in rinse-off materials.
Tel: (773) 890-5790
INCI: Olivamidopropyl betaine
Applications: Foam booster, foam stabilizer, viscosity modifier, mildness enhancer for shampoos, face wash, body wash and bubble bath.
Comments: Cycloteric OL is a premium, mild betaine formed from olive oil. The product can be substituted for cocamidopropyl betaine in many common formulations. Being produced from olive oil it is desirable for companies seeking natural ingredients. It has a high substantively to skin and hair, giving good anti-static and conditioning effects in combination with the cleansing properties. Cycloteric OL is a primary surfactant for shampoos, shower gels, liquid soaps and other cleansing products.
INCI: Olivamidopropylamine oxide
Applications: Chemical intermediate and hair conditioning additive.
Comments: Cyclomox OL is a premium, mild amine oxide formed from olive oil. The product can be substituted for cocamidopropyl oxide in many common formulations. Being produced from olive oil it is desirable for companies seeking natural ingredients. It is a mild nonionic product that gives both good foam boosting and stabilizing properties and even thickening in anionic matrices. Cyclomox OL is a primary surfactant for shampoos, shower gels, liquid soaps and other cleansing products.
Description: Polsorbate surfactants
Applications: Personal care and I&I
Comments: Tween polysorbates are surfactants which are formed by reacting 100% bio-based ethylene oxide with 100% bio-based sorbitan esters (Span USDA BioPreferred Certified 100% bio-based). Eco Tween polysorbate surfactants are hydrophilic and excellent emulsifiers, forming oil-in-water or water-in-oil emulsions. Widely used in many personal care applications as well as industrial cleaning, fiber finish, crop protection, water treatment, paints and coatings, lubricants, and many other industrial applications.
Description: Fatty alcohol ethoxylates
Applications: Personal care and I&I
Comments: Depending on the HLB value, Eco Brij surfactants can be used to form either oil-in-water (O/W) emulsions or water-in-oil (W/O) emulsions, as well as to solubilize oils and improve wetting. Their performance as solubilizers is considered to be outstanding. Eco Brij fatty alcohol ethoxylates are widely used in many personal care applications as well as industrial cleaning, fiber finish, crop protection, water treatment, paints and coatings, lubricants, and many other industrial applications.
Description: Fatty acid ethoxylates
Applications: Personal care and I&I
Comments: Eco Myrj fatty acid ethoxylates are hydrophilic and have excellent emulsification properties in many personal care applications as well as industrial cleaning, fiber finish, crop protection, water treatment, paints and coatings, lubricants, and many other industrial applications.
Lonza Consumer Care
South Plainfield, NJ
Tel: (908) 561-5200
Polyaldo 10-1-CC polyglyceryl ester
INCI: Polyglyceryl-10 caprylate/caprate
Applications: Personal care surfactant cleansing systems such as baby shampoos, hand washes and facial cleaners
Use levels: 1.0-5.0%
Comments: Polyaldo 10-1-CC polyglyceryl ester for personal care surfactant cleansing systems such as baby shampoos, hand washes and facial cleaners. Ecocert-certified and manufactured from 100% plant-derived raw materials, Polyaldo 10-1-CC (INCI name: Polyglyceryl-10 caprylate/caprate) provides a mild, high-performing foam boost, improving formulation aesthetics in these systems.
Polyaldo 10-1-CC polyglyceryl ester has better flash foam properties than many other competitive raw materials. Our research shows a three times faster foam build over the first 200 seconds in face wash and baby shampoo applications.
Lubrizol Advanced Materials
Chemoryl BRSK-LV Surfactant
INCI: Disodium laureth sulfosuccinate (and) cocamidopropyl betaine (and) sodium cocoyl isethionate (and) sodium lauroyl sarcosinate
Applications: Chemoryl B-RSKLV surfactant is ideally suited for premium shampoos and body washes and is free of alkyl sulfates, alkyl ether sulfates and DEA or MEA amides.
Use levels: 25-55%
Comments: Chemoryl B-RSKLV surfactant is a bio-based, multi-purpose surfactant that provides gentle cleansing. Carbopol Aqua SF-1 polymer can be used to thicken Chemoryl B-RSKLB surfactant formulations.
Sulfochem ALS-SB Surfactant
INCI: Ammonium lauryl sulfate
Applications: Low pH shampoos, shower gels and other personal care cleansing products.
Use level: 15-55% as a primary surfactant and 5-15% as a \ secondary surfactant.
Comments: Sulfochem ALS-SB surfactant is a naturally-derived, food grade preserved, bio-based surfactant that provides a dense, rich foam when formulating low pH shampoos, shower gels and other personal care cleansing products. It is a low odor, low color alternative preserved with sodium benzoate.
Tel: 800-745-7837 (tech. service)
Description: Nonionic surfactant blend
Applications: Hard surface cleaner, degreaser, industrial cleaner, floor cleaner, tile cleaner, fragrance solubilizer
Use levels: 1-20% wt.
Comments: Bio-Soft N-905 is an economical, nonionic blend that effectively removes grease, dissolves readily into water, and is easy to formulate. The balanced HLB, versatile cleaning performance and broad compatibility with solvents and builders makes Bio-Soft N-905 an excellent choice for a wide variety of applications.
Amphosol 2-CSF AF
INCI: Disodium cocoamphodipropionate
Applications: 2 in 1 shampoo, bar soap, body wash, facial cleansers, foam booster, hard surface care, industrial cleaning (including metal), shampoo, sulfate-free formulations.
Use levels: 0.5-15%
Comments: Amphosol 2CSF-AF is a very mild, alcohol-free amphoteric surfactant suitable for personal care applications ranging from baby products to makeup removers—wherever sensitive skin is involved. It is a secondary surfactant that assists with cleansing and produces fluffy foam for a gentle, clean feeling to skin and hair. It is also suitable for household, institutional and industrial cleaning applications as a foam booster and viscosity builder.
Lathanol LAL Coarse/MB and Lathanol LAL Powder/MB
INCI: Sodium lauryl sulfoacetate
Applications: Body wash, shampoo, facial cleansers, hand soaps, micellar water, syndet bars, bubble baths, salt and sugar scrubs, foaming oils
Use levels: 2-15%
Comments: Lathanol LAL/MB is developed with sustainability, mildness and performance in mind. Its raw materials are certified by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) as mass balance (MB) and it is >85% bio-based carbon. Lanthanol LAL/MB is readily biodegradable with no synthetic preservatives, and is a premium anionic alternative to SLS and SLES. It also provides creamy, rich lather and a moisturized skin after-feel.