Hygiene concerns will boost industrial, institutional cleaning industry's growth beyond 2020

13:30 PM | February 26, 2021 | Adam Bland

The cleaning industry continues to play an essential role in the front-line battle against COVID-19, but the market has not been immune to the devastating impact the pandemic has wreaked on the global economy, resulting in a contraction in world real GDP of 3.9% in 2020. The cleaning industry is, however, one of the industries set to show renewed growth, bolstered by persisting concerns over public health and hygiene, created mainly by the impact of COVID-19. 

Surfactants are an important component of many detergent and cleaning formulations that are used around the home, in addition to being used in industrial and professional cleaning products for institutional use. Surfactants are also used in many personal-care, cosmetic, and fabric-softener formulations. 

The global market for surfactants in 2020 is estimated at $42 billion, having shown a 5% increase over 2019. Growth was driven by the home detergent and household cleaning sector that accounts for approximately 65% of the global surfactant market, as concerns over personal hygiene persisted throughout 2020.  Overall growth in surfactant demand was tempered, however, by the loss of demand in the industrial and institutional (I&I) sectors.

I&I cleaners are defined as those products intended for routine cleaning of industrial, commercial, and public institutions, outside of the normal household environment. I&I cleaners are used in numerous applications and employ a variety of chemicals including acids, alcohols, bleaches, disinfectants, solvents, and surfactants. 

The global market for all I&I cleaners at the ex-factory level in 2020 is estimated at $46.9 billion, a decline of around 4% over 2019. The closure of non-essential premises throughout long periods of 2020 has severely impacted the demand for cleaning products. 

Janitorial cleaning of offices, shops, hospitals, restaurants, hotels, and public buildings is the largest segment of the I&I cleaners’ market and saw mixed fortunes in 2020. The sector has been supported to a large degree by increased demand for cleaning products in hospitals, care homes, essential retail outlets, and quick-service restaurants, but this has not mitigated the losses seen in other areas that have had to close, where demand dropped by as much as 20%.

Kitchen and catering, another important segment, has also suffered by the closure of the hospitality sector in many economies including restaurants, hotels, and bars. The use of takeaway, disposable eating utensils by quick-service restaurants that remained open throughout 2020 has not supported the sector.

Other sectors such as transportation, including commercial fleet cleaning, commercial car washes, and public transport, and the professional laundry sector also saw similar declines in demand in 2020 as a consequence of national lockdowns and closure of the hospitality sectors.

Areas such as agricultural cleaning, and food and beverage processing have proved to be more resilient to the impact of the pandemic. Even technical and industrial cleaning saw only modest declines in 2020, buffered by demand in China, which was the only major economy showing real-GDP growth of around 2.1% in 2020.

The big winner was the unprecedented demand for hand-sanitizers throughout 2020. Once the domain primarily of the medical sector, alcohol-based hand-sanitizers have played a critical role in preventing the transmission of the virus and have become commonplace in offices, schools, and public spaces. The market for hand-sanitizers in the institutional sector alone is estimated to have increased by over $3 billion in 2020 at the ex-factory level.

The distribution of vaccines throughout 2021 is expected to enable the reopening of many economies. However, as we emerge from the wrath of the pandemic, the concerns and requirements surrounding hygiene and cleaning will persist for many years after the virus is contained. As a result, the demand for surfactants and cleaning products is predicted to show continued growth, with many institutional sectors such as janitorial, kitchen, and laundry cleaning expected to show annual average growth rates of 4-5% over the next five years. 

Chemical Week’s Specialty Strategies Form (14 April 2021, online) will explore the strategies and trends that are transforming the sector. Industry executives will join IHS Markit experts to provide attendees with comprehensive insights into the different specialty chemicals markets, from personal care and pharma ingredients, to mobility and electronics. Learn more