Natural fatty acids are basic oleochemicals that are unsaturated or saturated in nature. Naturally occurring fatty acids have a chain of even number of carbon atoms and are generally derived from phospholipids or triglycerides. These acids are widely used in various end-user industries such as surfactants, personal care, soaps, rubber, plastics, lubricants, and food. Expansion of these industries contributes to the economic growth of a region. Natural fatty acids are transformed into amines, amides, esters, or soaps through reaction with carboxyl groups. Additionally, hydrogenation of methyl esters with fatty acids makes way for fatty alcohols. These are used in the manufacture of surfactants.
A wide range of raw materials is used in the production of fatty acids. Vegetable and animal oils such as soy, rapeseed oil, palm oil, palm kernel oil, coconut oil, tall oil, tallow oil, and grease are used in the production of natural fatty acids. These animal and vegetable generated fats and oils have been the most vital and renewable feedstock in the chemical industry over the past decade. A remarkable shift in feedstock and geographical shift of oleochemicals manufacturing has been witnessed in Europe, North America, Asia (particularly Southeast Asia), with feedstock trend moving from tallow to palm oil.
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Rising demand for tallow fatty acids in the soaps & detergents industry is expected to be the major growth factor for the tallow fatty acids industry. Stearic acid, palmitic acid, and oleic acid are the three most important fatty acid esters used in the production of soaps & detergents. These esters are found in oils and fats from vegetable and animal sources. Soaps are produced by the reaction of sodium hydroxide with animal fat. The market for soaps & detergents in Asia Pacific and South America is likely to expand significantly due to the changing lifestyle of individuals and growing modernization. Soaps & detergents accounted for over 30% of the global market for tallow fatty acids in 2013. However, restraining factors such as declining share of tallow feedstock in the overall natural fatty acids industry are projected to hamper market growth.
Demand for personal care products is increasing, especially in countries such as India and Brazil and in Southeast Asia. Growth in per capita income and adoption of western lifestyle are the key factors for the rise in demand for personal care products. Manufacturers of cosmetics and personal care products are using tallow-based stearic acids in various products such as eyeliners, face powders, and foundations. Thus, demand for tallow fatty acids in these applications is likely to increase over the next few years.
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Monounsaturated fatty acids such as oleic acids are extensively used in soaps & detergents as emulsifying agents. These fatty acids are also used in pharmaceuticals and aerosol products. Monounsaturated fatty acids accounted for over 45% of the global tallow fatty acids market in 2013. Saturated fatty acids such as stearic acid and palmitic acid are used to make stearates. These stearates are further employed in a wide range of end-user industries such as building & construction, rubber, plastic, and paints & coatings. Demand for tallow fatty acids was the largest in the others end-user segment due to significant use of monounsaturated fatty acids in the oilfield industry. Rising health concerns are estimated to boost the demand for dietary supplements. This would further fuel the growth for polyunsaturated fatty acids. Soaps & detergents was the largest segment of the tallow fatty acids market in 2013. Saturated fatty acids are used significantly in the production of soaps and other cleaning products.
Currently, the natural fatty acids market in developed regions such as Europe and North America is dominated by tallow feedstock, as tallow is mostly produced in these regions. However, tallow fatty acids hold a relatively smaller share in other regions such as Asia Pacific due to dominance by vegetable based fatty acids such as palm oil and coconut oil.
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