Surfactants are usually amphiphilic organic compounds containing both hydrophobic group (tail) and hydrophilic groups (head). Bio-surfactants are surfactants in which at least one of the two groups (hydrophilic or hydrophobic) is obtained from plants, and hence, they are not necessarily 100% plant-derived. Surfactants lower the surface tension of liquids, allowing chemicals to mix more easily. Biosurfactants are produced using oleochemical (bio-based) raw materials including plant oils such as coconut and palm oils, plant carbohydrates such as sorbitol, sucrose, and glucose or from animal fats such as tallow. Oleochemical feedstock sourcing for surfactants has been changing in recent years as animal fats have lost ground for vegetable oils. Like synthetic surfactants, biosurfactants are excellent emulsifiers and maintain wetting and foaming properties, characteristics that are valued in several applications including household detergents and cosmetics industry.
Growing environmental concerns with regards to the use of synthetic (petroleum derived) surfactants such as low degradability are expected to be a key driver for the growth in biosurfactants market over the forecast period. Synthetic surfactants have a high degree of branching those results in poor degradability in contrast to biosurfactants which have high biodegradability and low toxicity. Also, the growing preference towards the use of bio-based products is further expected to augment the growth of the market in the next six years. However, cost competitiveness concerning conventional surfactants remains a major restraint for the market. Also, the low availability and high price of feedstock owing to demand in other applications such as biofuels and downstream renewable chemicals are expected to pose major hurdles to the development of biosurfactants. The global biosurfactants market was 344,068.40 tons in 2013 and is expected to reach 461,991.67 tons by 2020, growing at a CAGR of 4.3% from 2014 to 2020.
Methyl Ester Ketone (MES) was the largest consumed biosurfactants accounting for 33% of the market in 2013. MES is derived from palm and coconut and is an excellent substitute to synthetic surfactants as detergent feedstock. In addition, MES has far lower price as compared to other convention detergent feedstocks. Alkyl Polyglucoside (APG) was the second largest consumed biosurfactants accounting for 25% of the global demand in 2013. APG is derived from sugar and fatty alcohols and has excellent properties for use in industrial applications. The high share is due to its excellent foaming properties with high stability and caustic content. Sorbitan esters and sucrose esters were the other key products in the market with a combined share of 8% in 2013. Rhamnolipids was a relatively small market in 2013 but is expected to register the highest growth at an estimated CAGR of 5.4% from 2014 to 2020 owing to its development using biotech processing.
Household detergent was the largest application of biosurfactants accounting for 44.6% of the market in 2013. The growing environment concern with synthetic surfactants in detergent is expected to lead to increased usage of biosurfactants owing to their lower toxicity. In addition, biosurfactants have superior foaming properties as compared to synthetic surfactants making them ideally suited for use in detergents. Personal care was the second largest application of biosurfactants accounting for over 10% of global consumption in 2013. The growing market for personal care products in emerging economies coupled with increasing awareness of advantages of biobased products is expected to boost the demand for biosurfactants over the forecast period. Industrial and Food processing applications of biosurfactants together accounted for over 11% of the market in 2013. Biosurfactants are increasingly being used as oil field chemicals due to their excellent cleaning ability and stable chemical nature. The other segments covered in the report include agricultural chemicals, textiles, and institutional applications.
Biosurfactants market volume share, by application, 2013
Europe was the largest consumer of biosurfactants in 2013 accounting for over 50% of global consumption. The high proportion of biosurfactants in the region can be contributed to growing awareness among consumers regarding the health hazards associated with chemical surfactants. Also, the stringent regulatory framework of the region favors the use of biobased products in place of convention petroleum based products. North America was the second largest consumer of biosurfactants in 2013 with a share of over one quarter. The demand for surfactants in the personal care industry is expected to boost the demand in the region. Asia Pacific was a relatively small market in 2013 but is expected to gain considerable share over the forecast period on account of growing application industry in the region. Countries such as India and China have extensive presence of textile, agricultural and personal care industry which is expected to augment the demand for biosurfactants over the next six years.
The global biosurfactants market is consolidated in nature with the top five companies accounting for over 80% of market share in 2013. BASF Cognis was the largest manufacturer of biosurfactants in 2013 with a market share of over 20%. The other key companies in the market include Ecover, Urumqui Unite, MG Intobio and Saraya among others.
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