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Fishing for Ideas at Informex USA 2012
By: Rachel L. Grabenhofer
Posted: March 1, 2012
At first, this cosmetics R&D trade journal editor felt like a fish out of water at the Informex USA specialty chemicals exhibition, held Feb. 14–17, 2012, in New Orleans. Most booths lured attendees with new active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs), specialty polymers, greener synthesis processes, catalysts, coatings, amino acids, outsourcing services and more; but not especially for cosmetic applications. However, this is what one might expect when exploring lesser-known industries and by casting a wider net, this editor encountered a few novel nibbles and scored a few big catches for personal care.
For starters, it was interesting to note the themes, concerns and strategies in these peripheral markets. They ranged from eco-friendly materials and processes, strategic partnerships between divisions/ companies, outsourcing, regulatory concerns and financial constraints, to supply chain issues, speed to market, consumer demand, delivery of materials, safety and more. Some of these concepts seemed all-too familiar, although a few were notedly different and potentially telling of what could come.
Green chemistry: The push for green chemistry, the related life cycle management of materials, and the development of biocatalysts via fermentation processes were notable and familiar topics at the event. The Feb. 15, Informex show daily reported an increase in the biopharmaceuticals field, i.e., pharmaceuticals from biological sources and produced by biotechnology. In relation, “white biotechnology” was referenced in conference presentations. This branch of biotechnology relates to the search for methods to replace petroleum-based synthetics.1 Unlike personal care however, the word natural was not prominent, save for one exhibitor whose sister division develops traditional Chinese medicine.
Specialty alliances, partnerships: Collaborations, whether between departments or companies, were also a common strategy within specialty chemical manufacturers—also not unfamiliar to the cosmetics industry. As panel members during the Tuesday morning outsourcing session explained, specialists that complement one another must make alliances because competition is fierce, although one should be careful not to risk the direction of a company’s portfolio or its intellectual property application. As owner of the intellectual property, the company should do a thorough job of training, including bringing in analytical folks to teach people how to use its IP. During the Q&A session, however, one attendee countered, “This business functions on secrets.” Again, not unheard of in the personal care industry.