26 January 2011 23:31 [Source: ICIS news]
Soda ash is used in detergents for its alkalinity, as carriers for other ingredients, as well as for fillers.
"Compacted detergents require less raw materials. That affects the market for soda ash as well," said Bill Breunig, FMC director of marketing and sales, alkali chemicals division at FMC. He spoke on the sidelines of the annual American Cleaning Institute (ACI) meeting.
Breunig did not indicate how much US soda ash consumption would drop as a result of the trend.
During the past several years, the switch in US consumer preference from powder detergents to liquid formulation, which does not use soda ash, already caused US consumption to slump.
"The percentage of powders probably dropped to 20-25% of total home laundry detergent market in the US. However, these days, a lot of people believe that the use of powders, which also include auto dishwash detergents, [is] now stable because of the base level demand," said Breunig.
He noted a spike in soda ash demand for use in powder detergent during the recession in 2009.
"Demand in the detergents sector popped up a bit during the downturn because people realised powdered detergents cost lower per wash. Still, we don't expect soda ash use in this sector to grow that much," Breunig added.
FMC estimated soda ash use in detergents was between 8-9% of total US soda ash consumption and was expected to reach 5.8m short tons (5.3m tonnes) in 2011.
Global soda ash use in detergents was estimated at 9-10% of the total global market, which was forecasted at 49m tonnes in 2011, said Breunig. He noted Asia and Latin America as growth areas because of the popularity of powdered detergents.
Major US soda ash producers include FMC, Solvay, OCI Chemical, General Chemical and Searles Valley Minerals.
The ACI meeting in Orlando, Florida, ends Saturday, 29 January.
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