Formulators / Green Products/Applications / Columns

MARKET TRENDS: Going Natural

U.S. natural polymer demand to approach $3.6 billion in 2010.

Methyl cellulose will account for 31% of the cellulose ether market due to its entrenched position in construction uses, such as its use in mortar and grouts.

Natural polymer demand is expected to grow 5.9% annually to $3.6 billion in 2010, reaching 1.7 billion pounds. Gains will be stimulated by increased levels of food production, and opportunities in packaging, medical, and other areas. Average natural polymer prices are expected to stabilize, reflecting declining prices for starch and fermentation products. These and other trends are presented in Natural Polymers, a new study from The Freedonia Group Inc., a Cleveland-based industry market research firm.

Cellulose ether demand is projected to increase 4.2% yearly to $1 billion in 2010. Cellulose ethers, which accounted for 31% of total demand in 2005, have widespread food, construction and oilfield applications. Methyl cellulose will account for 31% of the cellulose ether market due to its entrenched position in construction uses, such as plaster, mortar, grouts, stucco and wallpaper pastes. Carboxymethyl cellulose (CMC) demand will expand at the fastest pace, with best opportunities expected in drilling, workover and completion fluids for the oilfield industry, where it functions as a thickening and suspension agent.

Starch and fermentation product demand will grow at a double-digit pace to nearly $800 million in 2010. Declining prices, attributable to improved production efficiencies and expanded capacity, will stimulate demand for polylactic-acid and starch-blend polymers in packaging and textile fiber uses. Hyaluronic-acid demand will expand rapidly in medical and cosmetic/toiletry applications, with strong gains anticipated in dermal filler injections and orthopedic treatments. Robust growth is anticipated for protein-based polymers such as collagen, with further advances threatened by mature wheat gluten uses.

Food and beverages will remain the leading market for natural polymers, which are used as thickeners, stabilizers, and emulsifiers. Pockets of growth exist in areas such as low-fat and reduced-carbohydrate food formulations. Products such as CMC and Xanthan gum will increasingly be used to improve mouth feel and texture as fats and sugars are removed. Medical markets will present good opportunities for cellulose ethers and collagen in pharmaceuticals, dermal implants, and injections. Oilfield advances will be fueled by increased drilling of new oil and natural gas wells, and the continued maturation of domestic crude oil and gas fields, all of which will increase the need for natural polymers used in well stimulation, exploration, and other areas.

For more information, contact Corinne Gangloff, The Freedonia Group Inc., 767 Beta Drive, Cleveland, OH 44143-2326; phone (440) 684-9600; fax (440) 646-0484; e-mail; or visit


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