IHS Chemical Week


SDA Diary: Soapers Say Luster Remains Despite Global Downturn

4:01 PM MST | January 29, 2009 | By REBECCA COONS

The Soap and Detergent Association annual meeting and industry convention in Boca Raton, FL convenes this week amid a backdrop of uncertainty as the global economic downturn that has the sector cautious about 2009. Demand in the soaps sector has held up relatively well compared with other parts of industry but suppliers and consumers are closely monitoring conditions, suppliers say.
“There is some somberness in the whole market,” says Frank Sherman, SDA board chair and president and general manager of AkzoNobel Surface Chemistry, addressing the mood of the show. “I think the consumer business is a little less affected than most other markets. Consumer applications are less affected than industrial applications, but the market overall has suffered from the run up of high raw material and energy prior to the fourth quarter of last year,” he says. Trends that drive demand and development have not changed, he adds. “Sustainability is still a big push, and there will be a trend of more value products because of the recession. I think there’s still an interest in greater convenience in home applications” that will drive demand, Sherman adds.
Demand and volumes have weakened but are holding up better than the overall economy, says David Del Guercio, senior v.p. and general manager/consumer specialties, household care at Evonik Goldschmidt. “2007 was an extraordinary year for the business, I’d say current conditions are more like 2006, which was still a strong period,” Del Guercio says. “The household sector is doing very well compared to how other sectors of industry are doing now,” says Reinhold Brand, president of Evonik Goldschmidt.
Richard Carter, director of global key accounts and regional sales, detergents and cleaners at BASF says the mood of the show is cautionary. “We’re taking a cautionary stance because of the extreme unpredictability of the economic environment we’re in.  We’re also looking at the difficulties of forecasting because of the volatility,” Carter says.  “When we look at the detergents and cleaning business, compared to other segments of the economy, the detergents and cleaning business is relatively stable. There has been some de-stocking across the whole chain, and people are talking about a crisis in the economy. But for us the crisis [creates] opportunities,” Carter says, citing one of BASF’s objectives as getting closer with its customers to enhance products as well as optimize its supply chain.

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