They’re in your shampoo and your detergent; your cleanser and your cleaner. Surfactants have been a key ingredient in the household and personal products industry for decades, all the while ensuring that formulas get skin, hair, countertops and clothing clean. Now, formulators and consumers are asking if those surfactants themselves are “clean.” That is, are they sustainable? Renewable? Green? Suppliers contacted by Happi insist they’ve done their homework and their lab work, to ensure that these workhorse ingredients continue to clean surfaces without dirtying up the environment.
“The market has turned and our customers are asking if we are sustainably responsible and we can answer with a big ‘Yes!’” asserted Greg Smith, home care sales director, Croda Inc. “We are sourcing raw materials that are sustainably sourced and from renewable resources.”
Croda’s Chris Sayner, VP-customer alliances, corporate sustainability, said 60-70% of Croda’s worldwide raw material consumption is bio-based and the company is focused on moving to non-fossil energy through in-house initiatives such as biogas from side streams, landfill gas, wind and solar.
“The consumer is expecting manufacturers to be environmentally conscious and manufacturers are listening,” observed Smith. “We see home care product manufacturers improving their portfolio and seeking raw materials listed on Safer Choice and BioPreferred.”
Traceability continues to be a driving trend across personal care, agreed Stephanie Webb, director of product management Care Chemicals NA and business management standard surfactants, BASF. “Consumers are paying more attention than ever to where their products are coming from and how the ingredients are used.”
As a result, according to Webb, the need for certification is increasing and BASF has an extensive list of ingredients that hold certifications in NPA, Safer Choice, Bio-preferred, and RSPO-certified. These chemistries including fatty alcohols, anionic surfactants, alkyl polyglucosides (APGs), co-surfactants, emulsifiers and emollients.
According to Albert Babik, general manager, Jeen International, formulators are bridging consumer expectations with available chemistries and options. Buzz phrases like “sulfate-free” are now mandating performance identical products from non-traditional surfactants; for example, products must now be ethoxylate-free, sulfate-free, economically viable, and performance equivalent to traditional surfactants.
“Jeen continues our focus on greener, more sustainable products by offering a wide line of concentrates and surfactants tailored specifically for emerging trends, such as natural, mild, biodegradable ingredients,” he explained.
Stepan Company actively collaborates with its upstream suppliers and downstream customers to ensure it delivers a high level of transparency and traceability with regard to palm oil sourcing, said Robert Slone, chief technology and sustainability officer, Stepan.
“While challenges remain across our industry to achieve full traceability at the plantation level, Stepan works with a wide range of organizations, including customers, suppliers and NGOs, to ensure consistent progress is made toward the industry goal of 100% traceable and responsibly-sourced raw materials,” he told Happi.
Smith maintains that regulatory issues (in particular Prop. 65 and REACH), high-performance and especially sustainability—which includes bio-based renewability, biodegradability and low toxicity—are driving formulation decisions.
“The key is to maximize the performance while achieving the best profile with regards to regulatory approvals and sustainability profile,” he explained.
Within its personal care business, sustainability/traceability continues to be a criteria for some Evonik customers, noted Arnoldo Fonseca, marketing manager, NAFTA region, Evonik.
“In our personal care business, sustainability/traceability continues to be a criteria for some customers, and that is why 84% of our personal care ingredients portfolio is at least partly derived from renewable substances,” he told Happi.
During the past year, Evonik adopted ISO 16128 to calculate indices of the natural content of its products, enabling customers to better understand the naturalness level of them.
“This represented some effort on our side and speaks to the interest by customers in having such information available as they assess options that meet their product criteria,” Fonseca added.
Innospec has contracted a third party to assist with traceability of all of its fatty acid raw materials back to the individual plantations. Said Innospec vice president Robert Griffiths, “We fully support the quest for sustainability and transparency with our customers that seek this information.”
Every supplier noted that mild, gentle and green is no longer a request from customers, it’s a requirement. And they expect even more.
“The idea of ‘clean’ ingredients and products continue to dominate many personal care categories and gradually enter the home care industry,” said Webb. “In terms of eco-efficiency and improving the environmental footprint, demand is increasing for high activity surfactants.”
As a result, surfactant demand overall has increased, especially for chemistries that are mild and gentle, such as APGs and/or sustainable such as BASF’s Trilon M chelate and RSPO-certified palm derivatives.
“In personal care, APGs have been particularly popular in hair care, where sulfate-free ingredients are perceived as less damaging and extend the length of time between coloring,” she explained. “In home care and I&I, our Lutensol line of alcohol alkoxylates has seen strong demand, as well as natural chemistries in anionic surfactants and co-surfactants.”
According to Babik, surfactant demand has matched the strong economic environment and is coming from all sectors—from mass market shampoos and conditioners to specially formulated cleansers and hair care products.
“The preference is still focused on replacing traditional surfactants with newer, milder, biodegradable surfactants which are becoming a requirement for more savvy consumers,” he added.
Fonseca pointed out several trends in the personal care space.
“First, micellar waters continue to prompt strong customer interest and, perhaps more exciting, is how the basic formulation design has been extended to include a variety of different applications and components, such as micellar oil and micellar gel formulations as well as such systems for applications like hair care,” he said.
Like others, he noted that mild cleansing solutions is another area of customer interest, due, in part, to a broader sensitive-skin theme across various applications.
“Lastly, customers are always seeking new product formats, and one of the more popular guide formulations we featured earlier in the year and which has continued to draw interest is our PEG-free, powder-to-foam cleanser,” said Fonseca. “Interest here highlights a growing awareness of low-water and portable product formats (powder).”
Innospec has seen a dramatic increase in the demand for its surfactant range during the past 12 months, noted Griffiths, who explained that consumers are embracing the milder, sulfate-free, amino acid based product offerings from Innospec in a number of personal and home care applications.
“There are several different finished product trends impacting our technical staff’s activities,” he added. “The use of foaming dispensers for different applications is driving specific surfactant demand as formula viscosity is so integral to success of that packaging. The trend for simpler formulas, with fewer components is also pushing our teams to create products that provide performance without multiple surfactants in the final formula.”
According to Smith of Croda, the overall increase in domestic GDP is pulling through more volume and producer and consumer sentiment seems to be healthy. He agreed that there’s increased demand for sustainable, high performance products and for ingredients that have a softer touch on the environment through biodegradability, lower carbon footprint and low toxicity.
“This puts Croda in the lead as we introduce our new Eco line of nonionic surfactants, many of which are Safer Choice approved, made with renewable energy, have 100% renewable feedstocks, and are registered on the USDA BioPreferred inventory,” he explained.
In response to increased consumer demand for environmentally-friendly products, Stepan has responded with increased focus on products that provide natural alternatives to the market’s traditional, synthetic ingredients to reduce its overall environmental impact, explained Sarah Kovach, market manager, personal care, Stepan. For example, Stepan-Mild L3 is a 100% bio-based alternative to synthetic silicones, which also has additional, multifunctional benefits such as viscosity boosting and improved skin hydration.
Preservatives, too, are under scrutiny.
“Consumers are looking for products without particular chemical preservatives, spurring formulators to adjust their products based on this growing trend,” said Kovach.
Stepan’s Amphosol CDB-HP is an excess alkalinity ingredient that prevents bacterial growth due to its excess sodium hydroxide. This enables formulators to freely choose their finished product’s preservatives, should they choose to add any preservatives at all, she explained.
The sulfate-free trend that began in the early 2000s continues to grow. With more claims such as SLS/SLES-free driving product launches, Stepan has expanded its portfolio to include a wide variety of sulfate-free ingredients, including Alpha-Step PC-48. According to Kovach, this CleanGredients-listed product is a 94% bio-based, naturally-derived alternative for common, sulfate-containing, primary surfactants used in all types of cleansing products. As an added bonus, it also brings a soft skin after-feel.
Suppliers are making these moves to stay ahead of regulatory activity that could impact several sectors in the household and personal care industry. California and New York have recently enacted cleaning product disclosure programs, and several states have draft disclosure programs in process, observed Bridget Weir, compliance and product safety officer, Stepan.
“These require cleaning product manufacturers to disclose ingredients/contaminants of concern and health impact information on product labels and/or their websites. Chemicals that require disclosure include intentionally added ingredients, fragrance allergens, Proposition 65 chemicals, colorants and 1,4-dioxane,” she said. “As a supplier to the cleaning product industry, we are putting a process in place to supply the necessary information to our customers.”
According to Shannon Smith Butz, technical director, surfactants, Coast Southwest, there has been a move away from surfactants with any possible Proposition 65 problematic components as well as away from traditional preservative such as methylchloroisothiazolanine.
“To meet these demands we are introducing surfactants which are either preservative-free or preserved with safer and more effective preservative packages,” she said.
Butz noted that the changes to Proposition 65 labeling for Coast Southwest’s customers have caused a re-emergence of concerns about preservation packages, by-products in betaines and other ingredients.
“This opens the market to more unique formulating solutions such as our new blends. We have many new ideas percolating in our labs, so expect more in the coming year!” she told Happi.
Even good regulatory news can cause headaches for suppliers and their customers. Smith of Croda said Toxic Substances and Control Act (TSCA) reform has drastically slowed new product approvals and has yet to play out in terms of full impact and efforts.
“But if we have learned anything from our REACH registrations, the costs will be high and the efforts will be significant,” he observed. “As a global leader in regulatory compliance, Croda is working closely to achieve government regulatory compliance and helping our customers understand their roles under new regulations.”
According to Griffiths, demands for animal testing by REACH and the European Chemical Agency on many of the products that Innospec has used for many years in the personal care industry is a concern as the company tries to balance the regulatory requirements of the industry against the consumer demands for non-animal testing, vegan claims and more.
The World Meets in Boca Raton
Critical information will be in great supply when the Fabric and Home Care World Conference gets underway next month in Boca Raton, FL. The event, developed by the American Oil Chemists Society, addresses a variety of issues impacting the global cleaning industry, noted Conference Committee Member Manfred Trautmann of ManTra-Chem, Switzerland.
“The fabric and home care industry is facing challenges from various directions. On the one hand, you see continuous movement toward consolidation; on the other hand, regional growth is no longer taking place in Europe and the US, but more and more in Asia,” he noted. “Technological challenges are still a big issue in the industry, as well as environmental compliance, but we see a strong push for higher use of renewable raw materials, energy savings in use of products and of course, convenience.”
The conference always features a unique lineup of speakers, but the organizing committee doesn’t fancy trying to tell formulators the latest formulation or packaging trends or cleaning improvements on the horizon—there are plenty of technology- or marketing-focused conferences for that, Trautmann noted.
“We try to identify the potential challenges and opportunities that this and other industries are facing today or will face very soon tomorrow; how they will impact your decisions today and tomorrow and what you must do to take advantage of such revolutionary new ways of doing business,” he explained.
The executive committee plowed through a plethora of topics to uncover the issues that challenge the industry and select the most appropriate speakers for these topics. Day 1 speakers include Sree Ramaswamy, partner, McKinsey & Company, whose topic is “No Ordinary Disruption: Global Business and Econology Trends.” Later, Sundar Raman, general manager for fabric care, P&G, will present, “Who Really Wants to Wash Clothes? Trends and Perspective of the Out-of-Home Laundry Dynamics.”
“We have a very diverse list of subjects that will be addressed by world-renowned speakers,” noted Trautmann. “(And) like every other global fabric and home care event, it will include keynote speeches from the very top officers of the global leading fabric and home care industry.”
For example, Oxiteno CEO João Benjamin Parolin will open the event with a keynote address devoted to new technologies and their impact on the world of cleaning. Kees Kruythoff, president, home care, Unilever, UK, will present “Thriving Through Disruption and Leading Change: The Challenge of the Home Care Industry;” and Michitaka Sawada, president and CEO, Kao, will discuss “Connecting with Care: Human-centric Innovation Across the Industry.”
“There is no better place to meet the most important business leaders of our industry,” asserted Trautmann. “Within a few hours you can discuss strategic decisions, new challenges, opportunities, reconnect with acquaintances and learn more about future challenges.”
To address some of those challenges, BASF continues to invest in its global production and personnel in an effort to strategically support its customers, noted Webb.
“We have expanded production capacity at our APG plants in both Cincinnati, OH and Jinshan, China, as well as that of chelates and ethylene oxide/alkoxylation at our European locations, in order to support key businesses in North America and Asia,” she explained. “Innovation is at the core of what we do, and we will continue to monitor consumer and market trends to provide insights and added value to our partners.”
In March, Stepan acquired BASF Mexicana, S.A. de C.V.’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, too. The acquisition supports Stepan’s growth strategy in Latin America, significantly enhances Stepan’s market position and supply capabilities for surfactants in Mexico, and positions the company to grow in both the consumer and functional markets for surfactants, according to Stepan executives.
In personnel moves, earlier this year, Luis Rojo was appointed as Stepan’s vice president and chief financial officer. He joined Stepan after a 21-year career at Procter & Gamble, where he progressed through a variety of global finance leadership positions, most recently serving as global hair care finance director. Rojo’s prior assignments included positions in China and Latin America.
In 2015, Croda began a $170 million capital investment in its Atlas Point manufacturing site in New Castle, DE to build a bioethylene oxide plant, using licensed technology from Scientific Design Company, Inc. This plant is the first bio-ethylene oxide plant constructed in the US for the manufacture of 100% renewable, 100% bio-based surfactants.
According to Croda, the Eco range is the widest range of 100% renewable surfactants on the market. By using an alternate route to EO with bioethanol from biomass sources, it significantly increases the bio-based content of ethoxylated products and reduces reliance on fossil fuels. Moreover, the ingredients are manufactured with high levels of renewable energy.
“The Eco range caters to the tremendous consumer need for greener products,” said Smith. “Now, with the 100% renewable, 100% bio-based Eco range, customers won’t have to choose between meeting their sustainability goals and delivering high-performance products to consumers. In the coming weeks we will have samples of our Eco range available.”
There have been many changes at Evonik during the past 12 months, ranging from acquisition of Dr. Straetmans (which extends the company’s reach to more natural cleansing formulations), to new classes of chemistry, such as Rheance One glycolipid.
Coast Southwest continues to expand its plant in Texas to increase surfactant production to meet growing demand.
“We are excited about our newest surfactant blends preserved with new and unique preservation packages free from both formaldehyde donors and methylchloroisothiazolinone,” added Butz.
Excitement isn’t a word normally associated with the staid surfactant category, but as regulatory pressures mount, feedstock scrutiny grows and consumer demands increase, suppliers and their partners seek to promote the positives surroundings this all-important ingredient category.
New Surfactant Ingredients
Here are new ingredients introduced by industry suppliers during the past 12 months.
|Supplier||Trademark||INCI||Application||Use levels, %||Attributes|
|Coast Southwest, Inc.||Endinol B-SF65A||Sodium cocoyl isethionate (and) cocamidopropyl hydroxysultaine (and) lauryl glucoside (and) cocamidopropylamine oxide (and) caprylyl/capryl glucoside||Shampoos, body washes, facial cleansers, light duty detergents||25-60||Complete sulfate-free surfactant package based on vegetable-derived, mild, and gentle surfactants which can be easily diluted into natural formulations to achieve exceptional foaming and feel. Contains no ingredients or by-products with Proposition 65 warnings and no formaldehyde-donors or methylchloroisothiazolanine.|
|Coast Southwest, Inc.||Endinol KC||Potassium cocoate||Hand soap, natural shampoos, shower and bath gel, scrubs||3-100||Preservative-free, palm-free, natural soap. It is the perfect base for natural cleansing products and also can be used as a secondary surfactant to give a soapy feel to lather.|
|Coast Southwest, Inc.||Endinol B-SFPBA||Sodium cocoyl isethionate (and) cocamidopropyl betaine (and) decyl glucoside (and) caprylyl/capryl glucoside||Shampoos, body washes, facial cleansers, light duty detergents||25-60||Fully formulated sulfate-free surfactant blend optimized for maximum performance and to be easily diluted to make a variety of personal care and household cleansing products. Contains no formaldehyde-donors or methylchloroisothiazolanine.|
|Croda||Eco Tween||100% bio-based polysorbates||Industrial cleaning, fiber finish, crop protection, water treatment, paints and coatings, lubricants, and many other industrial applications.||Varies||Tweens are polysorbates which are formed by reacting 100% bio-based ethylene oxide with 100% bio-based sorbitan esters (Span USDA BioPreferred Certified 100% bio-based). Eco Tweens polysorbate surfactants are hydrophilic, meaning they are generally soluble or dispersible in water, and excellent emulsifiers, forming oil-in-water or water-in-oil emulsions. Eco Tween polysorbates are 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.|
||100% bio-based fatty alcohol ethoxylates||Industrial cleaning, fiber finish, crop protection, water treatment, paints and coatings, lubricants, and many other industrial applications.||Varies||Brijs are fatty alcohol ethoxylate surfactants formed by reacting 100% bio-based ethylene oxide with a 100% bio-based fatty alcohol.
The Eco Brij series contains both hydrophilic and lipophilic products. Depending on the HLB value, Eco Brig 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.
||100% bio-based fatty acid ethoxylates||Industrial cleaning, fiber finish, crop protection, water treatment, paints and coatings, lubricants, and many other industrial applications.||Varies||Myrjs are fatty acid ethoxylate surfactants formed by reacting 100% bio-based ethylene oxide with 100% bio-based fatty acid.
Eco Myrj fatty acid ethoxylates are used for their 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.
||Cetyl betaine||Bubble baths, facial cleansers, foam booster, hand soaps, hair conditioners, lotions, shampoos, shower gels, sulfate-free formulations.||0.5-10||Amphosol CDB-HP is a preservative-free, mild surfactant. It is a unique, secondary surfactant, designed to improve the viscosity response of sulfate-free surfactant systems and traditional anionic systems. It is also formulated for cold processing and easy handling.|
|Stepan Company||Makon L64
||Poloxamer 184/Polyalkylene glycol||All-purpose cleaning, food processing, floor cleaning, hard surface care, laundry, rinse aids, sanitizing solutions, water treatment.||0.5-15||Makon L64 is a liquid, nonionic EO/PO block copolymer. With an HLB of 15, Makon L64 exhibits low foaming properties, good detergency and water solubility. It is also a low ash product.|
|Stepan Company||Bio-Soft N45-7
||C14-15 pareth-7/fatty alcohol ethoxylate||All-purpose cleaning, commercial laundry, hard surface care, laundry pre-spotters, laundry powders||0.5-15||Bio-Soft N45-7 is an alcohol ethoxylate for use in various consumer and industrial applications such as laundry powders, laundry pre-spotters and I&I laundry detergents. It exhibits moderate, stable foam, high detergency, water solubility and effective oil-in-water emulsification.|