Five minutes at Sepawa with …
H&PC: How did 2017 go?
Gabriele Pettinari: Last year was very positive. Our turnover increased by 8% and in the last months we noticed an important increase in the demand. Sabo has the luck to be very diversified in different industrial sectors : from detergents, to additives for leather and textiles, up to more peculiar offers such as surfactants for emulsion polymerization, cosmetics and plastic additives. Thanks to this diversification we are active on lots of markets. What is positive is that almost all these applications have shown an increase in demand. For sure the largest increase belongs to, natural derivatives (also certified as from sustainable cultivations).
H&PC: Is there a growing demand for sustainable products from Sabo?
GP: It is a demand that started in the cosmetic sector a few years ago. In the last years we received requests also in a wider range of sectors for performance chemicals. Especially in the cleaning, but even in the textile sector. There are some requests even from the industrial cleaning sector. So far it is mostly in the Western market, but often this stems from great multinational groups, whose policies require products to not contain dangerous or polluting substances. Think of a great textile group, say Dolce&Gabbana, Zara or Benetton. They have centralized policies that will be applied in all the manufacturing around the world.
H&PC: What about green chemistry?
GP: We have a lot of care in optimizing our manufacturing process and to minimize the environmental impact. Our plants are organized to treat the waste material partiallu in house. We are working on a defined, structured internal policy on this topic, also to present then outside a clear approach. What I can say for sure is that we adhere to all the important quality standards, both to ensure the quality of our products to the customers and to be at the forefront in respect to environmental impact. Beyond the usual ISO-9001 we have a safety management system in accord with ISO-18001 and an environmental system according to ISO-14001. We then got a lot of GMP-specific certifications, for cosmetics and feed addivites for examples. Plus, the RSPO certification for sustainable palm oil.
H&PC: How international is your market?
GP: The performance chemical business unit is especially strong in Italy for us, where 30% of our turnover comes from. A remaining 40% comes from Western Europe, and the rest in South America and Asia. We have a bit in Russia, but we go through distributors there. We think there is a lot of room to expand in Western Europe still for us.
H&PC: Are you expanding your product range?
GP: Sabo is one of the main Italian producers of non-ionic surfactants. We produce non-ionic surfactants based on ethylene oxide, propylene oxide, fatty acids and fatty alcohols of natural origins, and esters. Now, for example, in the last two years w’ve been working to introduce propylene oxide in our plants -a unique chemical that allows us to produce surfactants that before we were not able to offe. It was a significant investment. We had to modify substantially our plants and to build new manufacturing plants as well. We also needed to undergo a significant regulatory and approval process, to be able to stock and produce such materials. But we predict this will lead to an increase in sales of about 10 million € in the next five years. These products will be essential to improve our position in cleaning and textile markets, since the resulting surfactants are capable to modify surfaces in a very efficient way without foaming. For example in cleaning they are useful in automatic dish-washing. In cosmetics they allow to create non-foaming detergents -such as detergents for spa. And they are also needed in many technical applications. We are also expanding a lot on different non-ionic surfactants and esters.
H&PC: What can we expect from Sabo for next year?
GP: For sure next year we will consolidate our product range in natural-derived surfactants, both ethylpropoxylated and ethylbutoxylated. These are very interesting surfactants for various sectors such as cleaning, cosmetics and textiles. We will introduce butylene oxide, so far handled only by two surfactant manufacturers in Europe. This intermediate allows to create very efficient surfactants also for food manufacturing plants -for example for breweries. Following that, we will also increase our product capacity in sorbitan esters. We already planned important investments for a total of over 10 million €.
H&PC: What put Sabo above and beyond the competition?
GP: We are independent, trustworthy -we never dropped out, even when the sector suffered setbacks- and we are partneship-oriented. In all sectors where we operate, we are partners with industry leaders.