Surfactants, also known as surface active agents, are organic compounds that possess detergency as well as unique degreasing properties. As a result, surfactants are used as base chemicals in several detergents and personal care product formulations. The surfactants market is largely dominated by several types such as alkylbenzene sulfonates, alcohol ethoxylates, sulfates, and ethersulfates. However, there is an emerging trend of the mixed surfactants system in the market. This, in turn, is expected to lead to the introduction of innovative surfactant-based products in the near future.
Demand for surfactants is primarily driven by increase in consumerism. This has resulted in higher demand for personal care products, which is one of key applications of the global surfactants market. Furthermore, rising demand for detergents and cleaners, led by rapid industrialization, improvement in quality of life, and increasing penetration of FMCG products among all classes of the society, is anticipated to boost the surfactants market. Stringent regulations imposed by several bodies on solvent-based detergents is estimated to be a key factor hampering the surfactants market during the forecast period. Prolonged usage of surfactants obtained from synthetic sources impart toxic effects such as skin and eye irritation, neurotoxicity, mutation, and other health concerns in human beings. Several regulatory bodies such as Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), Organic Consumers Association, and National Institutes of Health (NIH) jointly work to observe the implication of detergents on humans. Investment in research and development to introduce new sources of raw materials for the manufacture of surfactants is projected to provide opportunities to the surfactants market. Additionally, government funding for public-private partnership (PPP) schemes to develop non-toxic surfactants is likely to encourage new players to enter the market.
Based on product type, the surfactants market has been segmented into anionic, cationic, non-ionic, amphoteric, and others. In terms of volume, anionic surfactants held more than 45% share of the global surfactants market in 2014. These surfactants are low priced as compared to other surfactants; hence, anionic surfactants are largely used in industrial & institutional cleaners and detergents. Cationic surfactants do not exhibit washing activity, but provide softening, antistatic, soil-repellent, antibacterial, and corrosion inhibitory effects. Non-ionic surfactants are compounds that are suitable for cleaning purposes, as they are not sensitive to water hardness. Thus, these are primarily employed in personal care applications.
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The surfactants market is largely driven by the demand for detergents and cleaners, as surfactants are primarily used as degreasing agents. In terms of volume, household detergents accounted for more than 50% share of the global surfactants market in 2014. Personal care is another key application of surfactants; this segment is projected to witness the fastest growth during the forecast period. Skin care and hair care are large categories that employ surfactants in the final product formulation. Non-ionic surfactants such as alkyl polyglycosides (APGs) are majorly used in food processing application for emulsification, stabilization, anti-adhesives, and antimicrobials. Other key applications of surfactants include agriculture, mining, paints & coatings, lubricants & fuel additives, and pulp & paper.
Asia Pacific dominated the global surfactants market, constituting more than 35% share in 2014. China is the largest manufacturer and consumer of surfactants, along with India, Malaysia, and Indonesia in Asia Pacific. The U.S. is the primary manufacturer of surfactants in North America. Procter & Gamble, Unilever, Church & Dwight Co., Inc., and USA Detergents, Inc. are some of the leading companies that manufacture detergents in North America. Middle East & Africa (MEA) held smaller share of the global surfactants market in 2014. Demand for petrochemicals-derived surfactants is high as compared to oleo chemicals in Middle East & Africa. The surfactants market in Latin America is expected to expand at a steady rate, especially in household detergents and personal care applications.
The global surfactants market is fragmented. Key manufacturers include Huntsman Corporation, BASF SE, Akzo Nobel N.V., Stepan Company, Kao Corporation, and Solvay (Rhodia).
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