CLEVELAND - Demand for soy chemicals is forecast to increase 7.8 percent per year to $2.7 billion in 2013. The success of the soy chemicals industry is dependent on the continued penetration of biodiesel, as well as the adoption of alternatives to traditional, petrochemical-based materials in the manufacture of industrial products. Despite recent concerns regarding the impact of biodiesel on the environment and on world food supplies, and increased competition from alternative feedstocks, growth in soy chemicals will continue to be supported by the biodiesel market. These and other trends are presented in Soy Chemicals, a new study from The Freedonia Group Inc., a Cleveland-based industry research firm.
 
As long as soy chemicals perform as well as or better than their petrochemical counterparts and crude oil/petrochemical prices remain relatively high, market penetration will likely expand. In particular, soybean oil derivatives, such as methyl soyate and polyols, and a variety of small-volume products will have good opportunities.
 
Methyl soyate is by far the most established soy chemical due to its current dominance of the biodiesel market, although it will begin to face competition from other raw materials. Methyl soyate is also finding greater use as a solvent in a variety of markets including cleaning products and paint and coatings. Other soy oil derivatives, such as polyols, will benefit from corporate initiatives to use more renewable feedstocks, as well as from consumer demand for “greener” products, particularly in the plastics and paint and coatings markets. Intense research and development activities will further fuel growth in soybean oil derivatives, as new products enter the market over the next five to 10 years.
 
Growth in natural extracts will primarily depend on their health benefits, expanding their use in foods, and on increased demand for natural ingredients in consumer goods such as cosmetics. However, as the bulk of usage is in the mature food and beverage market, further growth will be limited. Refined industrial soybean oil is set to post below-average gains due to its use in established, mature or declining applications such as newspaper inks and alkyd resins. However, increasing regulations, along with performance requirements and public relations demands, have led the lubricant industry to develop products derived from plant-based sources, such as soybeans.