Concern for environment by consumers expands North American market for oleochemicals

18-Jan-13
The oleochemicals market in North America, in terms of volume, has been static for the past 10 years, but increased consumer awareness for natural derivatives has significantly widened their usage, as per Frost & Sullivan. For instance, refined glycerin's stable and non-toxic nature has made it the best alternative carbohydrate source to sugar in sports and health drinks. Analysis of the North American Oleochemicals Market, finds that the market earned revenue of US$3.53 bln in 2011 and estimates this to reach US$3.91 bln in 2018. Sustainable biochemical alternatives are nudging out petrochemical products, as manufacturers are striving to reduce their carbon footprint. However, like any other commodity product, the price of substitutes determines the demand for oleochemicals. Petrochemical derivatives are currently the substitutes for oleochemicals, which are generally less expensive. Globally, feedstock prices hit a record high from 2009 to 2011, which rippled into the oleochemicals market," said Frost & Sullivan Senior Research Analyst Dr. Nandhini Rajagopal. "Further, the reinstated biodiesel policy in the U.S. has caused tallow's prices to fluctuate." From 2009 to 2010, palm oil, palm kernel oil and coconut oil experienced wild price fluctuations. The price for palm kernel oil shot up from US$702/ton in 2009 to US$1184/ton in 2010. Coconut oil also suffered similarly during this period, with its price increasing from US$725/ton to US$1124/ton. As of yet, producers of fatty acids have been gaining considerable margin by selling the by-product, glycerin. However, the reinstated biodiesel policy has augmented the global biodiesel production capacity. This has resulted in the oversupply of glycerin, which is expected to constrict the margins of the fatty acid market, affecting its overall profitability. The market is also held back by competition from low-cost Chinese imports. They can stave off this competition by setting up local manufacturing facilities. Furthermore, developing and implementing relevant regulations will eliminate the threat from counterfeit and smuggled personal care products. "Upward integration with plantation or agri-business groups and downward integration with end-user product manufacturing companies should help to synergize oleochemical manufacturers' strengths to overcome the price fluctuations and remain stable," said Frost & Sullivan Chemicals Vice President Shomik Majumdar. "Such alliances have been successful for the largest companies operating in this segment and could be replicated by other players."
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