Swine flu measures likely to increase Europe soap-chems demand

05 May 2009 18:20  [Source: ICIS news]

LONDON (ICIS news)--Demand for hand-wash products has spiked across Europe as companies implement contingency procedures to halt the spread of the H1N1 swine flu virus, soap manufacturers said on Tuesday.

This could force hygiene-related product prices higher, with glycerine thought to be the most likely affected, according to industry sources.

“What happens is that soap producers exhaust their supplies and then reorder. We’ll see an impact in one or two more weeks. It definitely makes sense. I absolutely think we will see a pick-up in glycerine,” one major producer said.

A glycerine buyer said: “At the moment, the market is in balance. If a bigger demand than expected enters the market, it will drive up prices, especially spot markets, at least in the short term.”

Other soap-linked chemicals could also benefit, with isopropanol and ethanol as two other chemicals used in hand-wash products.

Ethanol is used in the fuel and beverages markets, as well as for a variety of industrial and pharmaceutical applications. But its use in disinfectants accounts for only a small percentage of total ethanol use.

However, the recent boom in hand-sanitizer gels could tighten the market for pharmaceutical-grade ethanol, according to one major European producer of 99%-pure synthetic ethanol.

Hand-wash suppliers said they have experienced a spike in sales since the start of the H1N1 outbreak, sources confirmed.

PHS, a Wales-based supplier of hygiene products to UK workplaces, has seen sales over the past two weeks equivalent to the last 6.6 years, according to the company.

This has been the result of offices “following their own documented pandemic preparation guidelines”, PHS said.

Other hand-wash suppliers also confirmed increased sales since the start of the H1N1 outbreak.

“We’ve seen a big boom. We’ve had an increase in a number of enquiries. We’ve been working with companies on flu planning over the last three years,” said a source at Deb Ltd, a worldwide supplier of cleaning, hygiene and skin safety products.

UK stores have seen a rush on products. According to retail staff at several UK-based stores, hand-wash products have largely sold out.

The Body Shop has seen high sales of hand-wash products in several stores and has placed small hand-wash bottles at check-outs in anticipation of continued high demand, one shop worker said.

“We’ve sold 25 bottles of hand wash today. On a normal day, we’d sell one,” a worker at Boots said.

Reports of demand increases have fuelled speculation in upstream markets.

“If it’s true [the reported sales figures], it will definitely have an impact on glycerine,” one buyer said.

Matthew Bristow, Daniel Horlock, Stuart Moir and Nel Weddle contributed to this story

Read Paul Hodges’ Chemicals and the Economy blog
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By: Mark Victory
+44 208 652 3214



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