Five minutes at Sepawa with …
Location, location, location: the 2017 edition of SEPAWA proved the classical real estate mantra to be true. Moving SEPAWA, one of the most important on detergents and personal care in Europe, from the little Fulda to the world city Berlin, consolidated the event as a worldwide must for the industry. The international stage brought the deserved exposure to the 234 companies exhibiting. The three-day program was packed of exciting scientific talks, with topics ranging from surfactants to nanoparticles to natural products. The ambition of SEPAWA seems to aim beyond the atmosphere, as the keynote address was held by former German astronaut Ulf Merbold, who flew twice on the Space Shuttle.
The general mood of companies was positive. Many exhibitors chose SEPAWA 2017 to present new innovative products. Most, if not all companies reported growth, in the words of WeylChem “We see a lot of positive developments in 2017 compared to 2016” or Sabo “Last year was very positive. Our turnover increased by 8% and in the last months we noticed an increase in the demand.” Biolin Scientific “Our business is doing good!”.
Even if many, such as Lubrizol, acknowledged that “there is a lot of competition, especially in the European market”: consequently players look more and more to emerging countries for growth opportunities. This brings its own cultural challenges and opportunities: Lubrizol “something that would be rejected in Europe could be great in Africa, and viceversa”. Political shifts such as Brexit or the Trump administration are met with a wait-and-see attitude: the British distributor Surfachem sums it up well: “It is like living under a big question mark.” while Croda reassures that in the US “The federal mandates will have much less impact than people think.”. Philosophically, WeylChem stated that “Every regulatory change can be a challenge or an opportunity, depending on which side you stand.”
Almost everyone reported that customers -especially but not only in personal care- definitely demand natural ingredients, sustainably collected, especially in the Western markets: Schill+Seilacher “More and more companies are trying to go green”; KLK Oleo “the regulatory demand for company sustainable business is growing”; Silab “We see a trend towards naturality”; Surfachem “We definitely see a demand for natural, environmentally-friendly products”; Sabo “We have a lot of care in optimizing our manufacturing process and to minimize the environmental impact” and even towards vegan products: Cosphatec “We are proud to have been among the first to offer a vegan, crystal clear xanthan gum”. In particular almost everyone was keen to note that they got RSPO certifications – the moral panic about palm oil seems to have had a strong impact in the industry. The issue the industry is now going to solve is the tension between sustainability and performance..
Croda “Even the most sustainable product has to deliver performance, or no one is going to pay for it.” Technology seems key to overcome this and other challenges, and many companies were eager to emphasize their R&D investments. Chemyunion “our active ingredients are tested in vivo, in vitro, standardized”; Rahn “We work a lot with universities: we have an academic network”; Silab “We have a lot of collaboration with academia. Science is part of the Silab DNA […] We publish discoveries in peer-reviewed high-impact journals” while Oxiteno announces “We are also starting a brand new research center”. Plus, as Silab notes, “Another trend we see is medicalization of beauty” and indeed companies such as Rahn boast an approach to R&D that gets close to that of pharma, looking proactively at emerging skin pathological conditions: “We are facing very new diseases now.”
The three days of SEPAWA were a bubbling opportunity for exhibitors to show off, network and get the pulse of the latest research and market highlights in HPC. Get a glimpse of SEPAWA 2017 in the interviews that follow, featuring some of the most interesting companies we met this year!