SIC 2843

This industry classification includes establishments primarily involved in making compounds that, when dissolved in water, reduce the water's surface tension. Products include preparations such as wetting agents, emulsifiers, and penetrants. These ingredients are raw materials for soap and detergent manufacturers. This industry classification also includes establishments primarily involved in producing sulfonated oils and fats and related products.

NAICS Code(s)

325613 (Surface Active Agent Manufacturing)

In 2000 shipments of surfactants (surface active agents) were valued at $5.1 billion, up from $4.68 billion in 1995, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The 211 establishments that manufactured products in this category employed 8,799 people, including 4,526 production workers who earned an average hourly wage of $24.81, in 2000. The industry spent $2.7 billion on materials and $289 million on capital expenditures. About 50 percent of the establishments in this industry had at least 20 employees. The largest concentrations of businesses in the category were located in North Carolina, South Carolina, New Jersey, California, and Illinois.

Customer demand and legislative requirements changed the industry throughout the 1990s. Manufacturers worldwide developed milder products, used more natural ingredients, and emphasized environmental safety. One of the most profound changes was the shift to concentrated and superconcentrated products for use in homes, industries, and institutions. Some industry analysts feared that the increasing demand for superconcentrated surfactants produced by large manufacturers would impede the development of small companies because the formulas were difficult for smaller manufacturers to reproduce.

Formulas were also changed to comply with environmental regulations. Personal care product manufacturers required solutions with less alcohol, makers of specialty cleaners were shifting from solvents and volatile organic compounds to water-based systems, and some communities upgraded biodegradability standards.

Stepan Company, of Northfield, Illinois, led the industry with 1,372 employees and sales of $610.5 million in the late 1990s. Other companies whose primary business was in this category included Harcros Chemicals Inc. (a subsidiary of Harrisons and Crosfield Inc. based in Kansas City, Kansas) with estimated sales of $98 million; Rite Industries Inc. (High Point, North Carolina) with sales of $90 million; and High Point Chemical Corp. (a subsidiary of Kao Corporation of America based in High Point, North Carolina) with sales of $70 million.

Although the market for surfactants grew slowly in North America, parts of Europe, and Japan during the late 1990s, demand increased significantly in developing nations where standards of hygiene and household clean-liness were rising. The detergent industry used more than 50 percent of all surfactants manufactured worldwide. In North America a large percentage of surfactants were used by the petroleum industry and other industrial ventures.

Further Reading

Feng, Pang, and Gui Hua. "China's Surfactants Market: Opportunities and Risks." Chemistry and Industry, 19 April 1999.

Karsa, David K. "Coming Clean: The World Market for Surfactants." Chemistry and Industry, 7 September 1998.

McCoy, Michael. "Stepan Eyes Specialty Surfactants and Overseas Markets for Growth." Chemical Market Reporter, 9 March 1998.

Stepan Company. Stepan 1996 Annual Report. Northfield, IL, 1996.

United States Census Bureau. "Statistics for Industries and Industry Groups: 2000." Annual Survey of Manufacturers. February 2002. Available from .

U.S. Department of Commerce. Census Bureau. 1996 Annual Survey of Manufactures. Washington, D.C.: GPO, 1998.

U.S. Department of Commerce. Census Bureau. 1997 Economic Census. Washington, D.C.: GPO, 1999. Available from .

User Contributions:

Comment about this article, ask questions, or add new information about this topic: