“The overall mood (at the convention) is pretty good because we are talking to customers about innovation and sustainability and a combination of the two,” Ralph Schweens, president, BASF Care Chemicals, to Happi during the convention. “Our customers want us to be part of these innovations. As a large supplier, this is a positive sign as we invest in R&D in all parts and regions, so looking for innovation is good for us.”
He noted that detergent marketers are rolling out new products in a variety of categories including ultra concentrates, 4-in-1 formulations, new tablets for detergents and autodish. At the same time, there’s been real progress in sustainability—such as machine washing at 20°C. BASF is making plenty of progess on its own; for example, the company is committed to be carbon dioxide neutral in the coming years. A pledge that demands plenty of resources.
“Our customers want us to be part of these innovations. As a large supplier, this is a positive sign as we invest in R&D in all parts and regions,” noted Schweens. “Growing our company while reducing our footprint is an ambitious challenge and part of our corporate strategy.”
Investment is critical as consumers’ demands come faster than ever before.
“Consumers are moving faster, forcing us to look 5-10 years into the future,” explained Danielé Piergentili, VP-BASF Home & Personal Care, North America. “But this is an opportunity for BASF, because we operate in all regions. That’s one reason why our slogan is, ‘We deliver the future of clean.’”
Delivering the future means working more closely with customers, added Scott Thompson, SVP, BASF Care Chemicals, North America.
“We’ve opened new innovation center in Mexico and Brazil. They let us get closer to our customers locally and regionally,” he explained.
Eric Peeters, global business director and general manager, Dow Home & Personal Care told Happi that customers were upbeat during the ACI Annual Meeting & Industry Convention.
“There was a relatively optimistic atmosphere. We had some outstanding meetings with business partners about innovation and partnership and how to grow the businesses,” he said. “There is some apprehension surrounding the global economy, the geopolitical climate and Brexit. But they will play smaller role in the fast-moving consumer goods space. We expect 2019 to be a continuation of 2018, with good market demand and more growth for specialty product formats.”
The Power of PE
Nouryon is a new name for a familiar business. In October, AkzoNobel Specialty Chemicals was acquired by The Carlyle Group and GIC and became an independent company in the global specialty chemical space. According to Nouryon executives, the new identity has been well received by the industry.
“The Carlyle Group is all about accelerating growth; that’s our focus,” explained managing director AB Ghosh. “Customers have asked us how things will change. We tell them we will move even faster. Private equity is empowering us. We are no longer a step-child (in a large corporation).”
New product introductions play a role in that expansion plan. During ACI Week in Orlando, Nouryon launched Ethylan TB345, a water-miscible defoamer that company executives say helps household and industrial cleaning formulators meet growing customer need for environmentally safe and cost-effective products that do not compromise on performance.
“Foam can be a big problem in certain household and industrial cleaning operations, with consequences ranging from reduced cleaning performance to downtime of production processes,” explained Stuart Holt, global technical marketing manager cleaning, Nouryon. “Ethylan TB345 defoamer is an excellent alternative to what is currently on the market while being inherently biodegradable, non-persistent and label-free. We have already received very positive feedback from target customers.”
Holt noted that sustainability was a major buzzword during ACI Week in Orlando. Nouryon and its predecessor, AkzoNobel Specialty Chemicals, has been in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index top 3 for the past 10 years.
“Consumers demand sustainability,” explained Holt. “This is the way of the future. We have the chemistry in the pipeline.”
More Innovative Ideas
Consumers, marketers and retailers demand innovation, too. To drive innovative ideas further, Oxiteno shifted strategy several years ago.
“In 2014, we decided we didn’t want to be a supplier, we wanted to be a solution provider,” said Cristiane Canto, global business head, home and personal care, Oxiteno. “We have formulation expertise, and understand our customers’ needs and the consumers’ needs.”
An example of that collaboration? Oxyzmes, which Oxiteno created with Novozymes that combines the surfactant expertise of the former, with the enzyme expertise of the later. According to Oxiteno, Oxyzmes offers a unique combination of surfactants and multiple enzymes with high detergent and humectant power, which leads to deep, effective cleaning, yet is gentle on fabrics. Oxyzmes are made from renewable raw materials and maintain performance at a reduced cost, because it requires a lower percentage of active ingredients.
During the ACI Annual Meeting & Industry Convention, Oxiteno promoted its Oxiflow F1700, a rheology modifier for home and laundry care. It is said to be particularly effective in formulations with low concentrations of surfactants and systems that are difficult to thicken with electrolytes, including those containing nonionic surfactants.
Finally, for fabric softeners, Oxisense F1100 is said to maximize the action of the cationic ingredients by promoting the substantivity of these ingredients in the textile fibers. The result is a fabric that feels soft and smooth, and is protected from the wear and tear caused by frequent cleaning, according to Oxiteno.
During the ACI meeting, Dow launched SupraCare 133, a polymer that Dow describes as a “smart sensorial enabler.” SupraCare 133 offers one solution which combines softness and cleanliness with no graying impact.
“Consumers want more than clean clothes,” noted Peeters. “They want softer clothes, that last longer with good color retention. These care benefits are becoming increasingly more important.”
In other moves, Nouryon recently expanded its offering to customers in the detergents market with bio-based polymers with chelating properties. The company is currently expanding the production of biodegradable chelates in Europe and recently completed a major expansion at its surfactants facility in Boxing, China, enabling Nouryon to better serve customers in Asia and other regions around the world, according to company executives.
Oxiteno’s new ethoxylation plant in Pasadena, TX, provides several advantages for its customers and the industry, according to Canto. Benefits include:
- Proximity to the Gulf of Mexico;
- Strong supply chain; and
- Strategic benefits.
More is on the way, too.
“Great things are coming from Oxiteno in 2019,” asserted Canto. “We are a global company with global resources; but we are lean enough to make changes quickly. Oxiteno has all of the assets of a big company, but we move much more quickly.”
BASF is investing around the world for the next several years. The company began a stepwise capacity increase of its production plant for alkoxylation, a downstream technology of ethylene oxide production, in Antwerp, Belgium. The first additional capacities were available in the third quarter of 2018.
In China, BASF is investigating the possibility of building a highly-integrated “Verbund” chemical production site in Guangdong. It would be BASF’s largest investment and would be operated under the sole responsibility of BASF. The investment could reach $10 billion by project completion around 2030. The first plants could be completed by 2026 at the latest. Finally, BASF is expanding capacity for methane sulfonic acid (MSA) at its Ludwigshafen site by about 65% and increasing global capacity to 50,000 metric tons a year. The volumes from the additional capacity will be available late in 2021 for customers in all regions.
Dow also announced investment plans in its upstream and downstream silicones business. In Songjiang, China, Dow will install specialty emulsions equipment, which will add roughly 40% emulsion capacity. The move will enable Dow to supply more differentiated emulsions to customers in Asia in beauty care, specialty packaging and other markets.
“There’s a trend toward premiumization in the personal care and home care space,” noted Peeters. “Consumers are becoming more affluent throughout Asia, so we expect demand for premium products to continue growing.”
In Barry, Wales, UK, Dow’s ongoing projects support very low viscosity fluids capacity increases to enable more production of fluids for personal care and other applications. In addition, ongoing projects in Seneffe, Belgium, will add capacity for high-quality branched antifoam compounds used in home and personal care formulas.
In North America, in Midland, MI, Dow will launch an emulsions project, leading to the first generation of an innovative technology that will enable novel rheology film formers from a water-based formula for hair care products. The Midland plant will also upgrade gum manufacturing and provide new capability for gum used as intermediates in key personal care applications in North America. In Greensburg, LA, Dow installed a new dryer, adding 15% CatHEC cationized hydroxyethylcellulose capacity to the site to meet the growing demand in the personal care market.
From new product launches to new capacity to plans for the next 10 years, suppliers are trying to remain ahead of consumer demand, no matter how strong the geopolitical or economic headwinds.