Soapsuds ecofriendly wash

Soapsuds of ecofriendly wash

12:02 PM, 10th November 2016
Bathing soaps have forever come with unique scents, textures, colours and shapes to provide sensory experience to the customers.
Bathing soaps have forever come with unique scents, textures, colours and shapes to provide sensory experience to the customers.

Soaps that protect from UV rays. Soaps with pearl essence to make skin fairer. Handwash that kills germs and bacteria in just 10 seconds. Handwash that protects from 100 illness causing germs. Detergents that is soft on your clothes but harsh on dirt and stain. Detergents that can make white whiter.

With a new ‘better than ever’ product launched every quarter, customers are bombarded everyday with new choices in soaps and detergent market.

By Debarati Das

The soap and detergent manufacturers globally had witnessed declining volumes over the past few years and the industry only began to see the numbers growing from 2015 onwards after the industry shifted its focus towards new innovation and improved functionalities in these FMCG products.

The developing and the emerging markets are also showing slower growth and globally, the market is only expected to show a 3 percent growth. Amidst various companies trimming down their less popular products, the industry is vigorously focusing on expanding its portfolio to meet the changing demands of customers. P&G, which holds the leading market share in laundry detergent, witnessed its fabric-care and home-care segment’s earnings rise by only 4 percent year-on-year in fiscal first quarter of 2016 even after introducing an improved product mix.

According to IHS reports, the demand for soap, cleaning, and cosmetics will grow 3.1 percent globally in 2016 to $400.3 billion, after contracting 5.4 percent in 2015. The segment is however forecast to grow 7.5 percent in 2017 and 2018.

Asia, which accounts for the largest share of the soap, cleaning, and cosmetics industry, is forecasted by IHS to expand to over 40 percent early in the next decade. The demand for home, fabric, and personal-care products will continue to grow among the Chinese customers. Western Europe and North America which together accounts for 50 percent of the global market currently is expected to lose ground in future, said IHS.

“India is a strong contender in the global personal care industry where segments like shampoo, soaps, toothpaste, and other health and hygiene products will see tremendous growth. Personal care industry in India is growing very fast especially in the oral care segment. All these years there was one dominant player in the oral care division, but now local players are also entering the competition and are going global too. There is a huge opportunity for local ingredient manufacturers to go global as they are able to match the global quality and regulatory parameters,” said Udayan Kumar Singh, Managing Director, Kumar Organic Products Ltd.

Diversifying portfolio

The industry has for long experimented with price discounts to attract customers but has finally realised that the best way to win in the soaps and detergents category is not through price competition but with innovation. With growth in sight, the industry expects to return back to the normalised pricing environment and is trying to strike the cord with its customers with innovative products and new functionalities.

The laundry segment alone has undergone a dramatic change in its product line due to the changing ways of doing laundry. The products in this category can be broadly classified as laundry detergent, fabric softener, bleach, fabric protector and speciality products like pre-wash additives and starch.

The industry has come up with new product innovations like easy to use unit-pods/ tablets which eliminate the common error of overuse or underuse of detergent; the 3-in-1 detergents which includes cleaning agents, stain removers and brighteners in the same scoop of detergent; washing powders with quick collapsing suds which dissolves easily in water, detergents with lint reduction power, detergents with scent beads and fabric enhancers which prolongs the freshness in clothes, etc.

Liquid detergent is the latest entrant, which is taking the market in its stride since it easily dissolves in water, has less wastage and is thus more economical. The industry is also coming up with targeted products such as detergents for removing oily stains, detergents with optical brighteners for white clothes, detergents that strengthen fibres in silk and silk blends and detergents that helps maintain breathability and weather resistance for fabrics like breathable sportswear.

With the increasing awareness about hygiene, handwash segment has also undergone rampant changes over the last couple of years. Off late, liquid hand washes have taken over antiseptic soap bars, however, functionalities have equally increased. Fast germ killing action, moisture based handwash to keep the hands soft even with repeated use, longer scent, foam based handwash, soap free handwash and many such characteristics have entered the domain giving a unique feature to every product.

Bathing soaps have forever come with unique scents, textures, colours and shapes to provide sensory experience to the customers. However, that’s not enough in a market, which is burgeoning with innumerable brands. The industry is constantly trying to come up with unique features, which are yet unexplored by the market and its customers.

The Spanish bar soap market was recently dominated by a cocoa butter soap bar designed in the shape of a chocolate bar to give users the feel of a chocolate bath. The French market was taken over by a multipurpose mouldable soap that combines soap, shampoo, bubble bath and a malleable toy in a single product. A luxury bar soap launched in the Chinese market contained 24 carat gold in small particles which keep the skin soft, youthful and revitalised along with having antioxidant properties that protect skin against UV rays and environmental pollution.

Organic and natural ingredients are the latest trends in the soap and detergent industry where natural oils and extracts are increasingly being used to provide antiseptic and therapeutic properties to the users.

Changing chemical composition

Consumers are constantly looking out for more functionality from their fabric and home-care products like multi-functional products, enhanced fragrance retention, balanced pH level etc. This has led to brands to come up with new formulations. Understanding that modern textiles require modern treatment, Evonik Industries have a range of raw materials for high-performance fabric softeners, which gives easy ironing and anti-wrinkling effect along with antimicrobial odour absorber concentrate. It also boosts a product portfolio that combines a wide range of organic and organo silicone based specialities to provide system solutions for modern day textile needs.

With the growing environmental concern, Evonik has come up with a novel biosurfactant belonging to the class of sophorolipids, which exhibits an eco-toxicological profile and is biodegradable under both aerobic and anaerobic conditions. Recently, Evonik launched a silicone-based microemulsion that is used in fabric softeners. “With REWOCARE® GSM 42 in fabric softener, the laundry still has a pleasant freshness even two weeks later,” said Dr Xiaolan Wang, head of Evonik’s household care business line.

Evonik is also the first company to use biotech methods to produce surfactants on an industrial scale and is targeting its new biosurfactants for household and personal care products.

“Increasing prosperity has meant access to modern cleaning and personal care products for more and more people throughout the world. Biosurfactants promise significant growth and will complement our conventionally manufactured products,” said Hans Henning Wenk, head of research for biobased materials within Evonik’s nutrition & care segment.

Tata Chemicals, the world’s second-largest producer of soda ash, is constantly innovating on formulations to meet the changing requirements of the soap and detergent manufacturing. Soda ash is used to deliver a smoother surface in the formulation of soaps, detergents and other cleaning compounds.

It is also used as an alkali in pH adjustment necessary in shampoos and soaps. Soda ash is also used to manufacture ultramarine, which gives a sparkling look in white clothes. Tata came up with a crystalline form of sodium sesquicarbonate, Crex, which is non-irritant and has an intermediate pH/ alkalinity that lies between soda ash and sodium bicarbonate.

Dow Chemical has a range of acrylic acid detergent homopolymers and partially neutralised granulated detergent polymer, which is used in laundry detergent additives, dishwash and industrial cleaners.

Dow’s cellulosic polymers for fabric softeners protect the garment while softening. Dow also has a range of formulations for skin cleansing products which can be used in a range of applications like bubble baths, bath foams, foaming or moisturising facial cleansers, waterless hand cleansers, bar soap etc.

Technological Transition

The industry is wary about the environmental impact of each laundry cycle and to address this issue, various technological advancements and sustainable innovations are taking place to minimise the impact. The use of washing machines is growing and this has led several detergent companies across the globe to take up dedicated campaigns to promote less impactful laundry practices and encourage environmentally conscious washing in many households.

One such campaign was the promotion of lower temperature washing. Campaigns like, ‘I prefer 30°’ was done in five European countries (Belgium, Denmark, France, Italy and the UK) to encourage the reduction of wash cycle temperatures among consumers. Even a 3°C reduction in washing temperature helps to generate significant savings in energy consumption.

Apart from campaigns, many companies are trying to find ways to reduce carbon footprints from the environment in form of detergents that are readily biodegradable, phosphate-free or made from plant and vegetable-based ingredients instead of being petroleum-based.

A UK-based company, Xeros, developed a process that uses polymer beads to clean clothes wherein the beads replace water as the cleaning agent. Sanyo Electric (part of Haier) developed a zero detergent washing machine that replaces washing powder with ultrasonic wave technology to clean clothes. The machine uses a combination of electrolysed water with ultrasonic waves, which could save on the cost of detergent.

The use of surfactants is also being focused upon for sustainable alternatives to detergent formulations. Surfactants are organic chemicals that act as surface active agents, lowering the surface tension of water to enable quicker cleaning of a wet surface. Work on enzyme formulations is also meeting similar enthusiasm.

Reducing cycle times is also one of the priories of washing machine manufacturers who are trying to bring down a 90-minute cycle to a 12-minute wash cycle using various technologies like twin jet system etc. Such measures will not just cut down energy usage but also water consumption.

The Way Ahead

Customer awareness and technology trends are going hand in hand in promoting ecofriendly laundry practices revolutionising the soap and detergent industry. New detergent formulations for waterless washing, low-temperature washes, avoiding harmful chemicals are some of the practices which is changing dynamics of soap and detergent market.

© Chemical Today Magazine

See the Story Coverage in Chemical Today magazine (Pg 26) 



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