Naturals growth boosts demand for China-sourced surfactants

By Simon Pitman

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Cosmetics

Demand for both natural and milder cosmetic formulations is driving
demand for specialty surfactants. And a new market report
highlights the fact that it is Chinese producers who are poised to
tap into this growth.

The total revenue for the producers of specialty has grown steadily in recent years as China establishes itself as a global hub for the supply of specialty surfactants for the international cosmetics industry.

The market report Strategic Analysis of Chinese Specialty Surfactants for Personal Care Market, from Frost & Sullivan, estimates that in 2005 the category was valued at $87.5m, a trend that is likely to be further influenced by the increasing move towards multifunctional personal care products.

This trend encompasses natural and organic personal care products - currently one of the industry's largest growth categories - as well as the demand for mild and hypo-allergenic products.

The specialty surfactants category, which includes areas such as special amphoteric, special non ionic, special cationic, silicone and special anoionic surfactants currently involves around 45 - 60 suppliers in China - namely local manufacturers, distributors and importers and international manufacturers.

The biggest suppliers are those chiefly involved in the international market, which includes personal care ingredients suppliers such as Cognis, Rhodia and Kao Corporation.

The nature of the market is low volume production of highly developed multi-functional ingredients that are sold at high prices due to the more in-depth research and development as well as the complicated production process.

The Frost & Sullivan report suggests that key to future market growth will be the pricing of specialty surfactants by China producers. Ultimately the report indicates that a downward pricing trend is likely to create a hike in market revenues.

As well as discounts, the report also highlights the fact that China manufacturers will need to promote the recognition of their specialty surfactants within the industry and provide referenced formulations to ensure optimum funcitionality.

"Currently, with specialty surfactants in a stable growth stage, the profit margins have largely decreased, and the price has reduced drastically,"​ Frost & Sullivan market analyst Alina Sun said.

"Decreasing prices largely cut down production costs and that is likely to attract more personal care manufacturers to upgrade their formulations by using specialty."

Specialty surfactants combine high performance and functionality. They are currently found in some of the more advanced and premium personal care formulations, where there additions helps to lower the surface tension of a liquid, making it easier to spread.

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