The global stearic acid market size was 5,516.2 kilo tons in 2013. Rising application in personal care (shampoos, shaving creams, soaps) is anticipated to drive demand over the forecast period. Stearic acid is a waxy solid, saturated fatty acid which is derived in animal fat and vegetable oils. Palm kernel and coconut oil account for maximum potential to extract the product. The production process involves hydrogenation of vegetable oils or animal fat treatment with water at elevated temperature and pressure. The commercial product is a mixture of palmitic, stearic acid and oleic acid.
Benefits such as enhanced shelf life, versatility, and stability as a base for cosmetics are expected to be critical aspects of industry growth in near future. Additionally, it acts as an excellent binder and thickening agent for personal care products. Powerful cleansing and surfactant properties that facilitate removal of oil and dirt in the skin are projected to strengthen demand in cosmetics and detergent applications. High demand in personal care and soaps & detergents as the surfactant is anticipated to foster product penetration in these segments in next few years. Growing application scope in several niche segments including candle manufacturing, metal processing, and dietary supplements is also expected to bolster industry growth over the forecast period.
Volatile raw material prices including those of vegetable oils and petrochemicals coupled with increasing incidence of toxicity and hazards associated with the same may, however, hinder stearic acid market growth. Hazards, such as liver toxicity, cancer, and skin damage in humans and animals, associated with consumption of higher product concentration may also hamper stearic acid industry growth. Development of 100% bio-based products along with increasing R&D spending regarding product innovation is estimated to create lucrative opportunities for future expansions.
Global stearic acid market estimates and forecast by product, 2012 - 2022 (Kilo Tons)
Stearic acid esters with ethylene glycol are used to develop pearly effect in shampoos, cosmetics, and personal care products. Soaps can retain their shapes in the molded form owing to optimum saturated fatty acid content. Alkylammonium derivatives are used to manufacture soaps. Soaps and detergents were the largest application segment and accounted for over 25% of the total demand in 2014. The application segment is anticipated to witness rapid growth in the upcoming years. Body lotions along with edible margarine are manufactured in stearic acid, which is anticipated to bolster global market growth.
The growth of several applications including softening & release agents, lubricants is projected to propel industry growth. Product salts such as lead, zinc, calcium and cadmium are applied in PVC softening. Additionally, they are used as release agents in automotive tire production. Increasing application scope as additive in negative plates and lead acid battery manufacturing are also projected to generate demand in near future. Furthermore, it can be used as a hardening agent in dietary supplements and candy manufacturing, which is slated to impact positively industry growth. Stearic acid acts as a lubricant in injection molding applications, thus, generating a significant demand in industrial sectors. Niche applications include the production of candles, coatings, plasticizer alcohols, cleaners, and paints. Personal care is projected to be the fastest-growing application segment on account of rising product scope in emerging economies such as India, China, and Japan.
Asia Pacific stearic acid market accounted for over 40% of the total demand in 2014 and is projected to witness the fastest growth on account of rapid industrialization. Growing demand for personal care, detergents and plastics maybe attributed to high growth in the region. Emerging economies such as India, China, and South Korea are slated to emerge as major consumers, complementing market growth.
Mature markets such as North America and Europe are anticipated to generate significant revenue on account of rising demand in U.S. and Germany. The Middle East & Africa is projected to generate high demand on account of rising population and growing application scope as plasticizers and lubricants. Latin America is anticipated to witness high growth in product demand, driven by end-use industries including personal care, soaps & detergents, and rubber processing.
Industry participants are involved in continuous strategic collaborations in the form of mergers & acquisitions and JVs. BASF, AkzoNobel, and Wilmar are striving for stearic acid market share and are taking ardent steps to improve their product portfolio and gain a competitive advantage in the rapidly growing regions such as Asia Pacific.
The industry exhibits fairly high threat of new entrants and a medium threat of substitutes. Major companies include The U.S. Chemical Company LLC., BASF, AkzoNobel, Emery Oleochemicals, Wilmar International, Godrej Industries, Oleon, Pacific Oleochemicals Sdn Bhd, Kao Chemicals, and Kuala Lumpur Kepong (KLK).
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