Too bad I won’t be able to attend the 1st ICIS European Surfactants conference this month as Belgium-based Ecover is one of the presenter in the conference. But I’m betting that there will be questions coming up about the company’s recent acquisition of US green cleaning product company Method.
Oh well, I guess I will have to wait for Neil Burns, the co-producer of the Surfactants conference, to give us an update coming from the conference.
According to Ecover, both companies are deeply rooted in the use of plant-based ingredients. Ecover and Method will continue as separate brands but combined, will create “the world’s most dynamic and visionary green cleaning company,” said Ecover CEO Philip Malmberg.
The companies collectively have sales of $200m and a combined staff of 300.
|Photo Source: Method|
I first encountered Ecover back in 2010 when I attended the American Oil Chemists Society (AOCS) annual conference and heard about these fermentation-based glycolipids called sophorolipids and rhamnolipids that can be used to produce surfactants via fermentation process.
Ecover has been developing biotechnology-based surfactants particularly sophorolipids for use in cleaning products and cosmetics for years. Sophorolipids is produced from the fermentation of glycerol, soy molasses or vegetable oils using the yeast Candida bombicola, according to researchers from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) who also presented about glycolipids back then.
Rhamnolipids, meanwhile, can be produced by fermenting C18 fatty acid source such as oleic or esters, and linoleic acid using certain bacteria from the Pseudomonas family.
My last interview with Ecover was in a bio-surfactant article I wrote on September 2010 on ICIS Chemical Business. According to Dirk Develter, Ecover R&D manager back then, the company has already launched products such as all-purpose cleaner, interior cleaning spray, window spray, heavy-duty power cleaner and a car wash and wax cleaner containing sophorolipids.
The biosurfactant ‘s main beneficial properties are its mild nature, very low aquatic toxicity, and comparable surface activity compared with alkylpolyglucosides (APGs). Sophorolipids are also said to be well-suited in low-foaming applications such as hard surface and auto-dish cleaning products.
Germany-based consumer products company Henkel has actually been also using sophorolipids surfactant in some of its regional branded glass cleaning products. Back then I listed down sophorolipids developer such as France-based Soliance/WheatOleo, Japan-based Saraya, and South Korea-based MG Intobio.
Later on, I discovered US-based Synthezyme, which according to the company, has developed intellectual property for the modification of sophorolipids. The company is looking into the applications of sophorolipids as biodispersants and bioemulsifiers, and as antimicrobials. You can check out some of the company’s literature on biosurfactant and antimicrobials in these links.
And before this post gets too long, the blog would just like to mention a new study from Transparency Market Research citing that the global biosurfactants market is expected to reach $2.2bn in 2018 with a growth rate of 3.5% from 2011 (where the market is worth $1.74bn) to 2018.
Market volume for global biosurfactants will reportedly reach 476,512 tonnes by 2018. Out of this total, 21% of volume consumption will come from developing regions such as Asia, Africa and Latin America.
BASF (with its Cognis acquisition) occupies over 20% share of the market in 2011. Other producers include Ecover, Urumqi Unite, Saraya and MG Intobio. The top 3 biosurfactants vendors accounted for more than 60% of the market.
Meanwhile, according to US market research firm Packaged Facts, the US green cleaning products market (that includes household surface cleaners and laundry products) has a total retail sales last year of $640m, up from $303m in 2007 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 20%.