Novozymes A/S, the Copenhagen-based supplier of enzymes, said DuPont Co.’s $7.1 billion purchase of crosstown Danish rival Danisco is opening up a U.S. market that has lagged behind Europe in enzyme use.
Only 30 percent to 40 percent of detergents in the U.S. contain enzymes, which replace oil-based chemicals and act as catalysts to allow washing machines to run at a lower temperature, Chief Financial Officer Benny Loft said in an interview. By contrast, they are ubiquitous in Europe, he said.
Western chemical makers, including BASF SE and Royal DSM NV, are turning to the science of modifying proteins and enzymes for industrial use to help remodel portfolios and replace cyclical commodity products. DuPont Chief Executive Officer Ellen Kullman orchestrated the takeover of Danisco and its Genencor enzyme unit, and her role advising President Barack Obama on competitiveness is helping push the technology.
“It’s moving in the right direction,” Loft said in the Nov. 16 interview. “Before DuPont entered this space with the acquisition of Genencor, there wasn’t really anybody of size who was favoring the industry from a lobbying point of view.”
The better connections to the political system is helping the large oil companies embrace the use of enzymes in developing and converting crop stalks into biofuels.
Vestar Capital Partners’s purchase of Unilever’s branded laundry business for $1.45 billion, renamed Sun Products, is also driving enzymes use in the U.S. as it includes them in brands, Loft said. China is another market with very low and growing usage, and Novozymes is investing to expand its products’ penetration there, according to the finance chief.
“Sun Products is very focused on including enzymes,” he said. “They’re taking the market to a new level where a broader use of enzymes is taking place in the u.s. Hopefully we’ll see a U.S. market that’s more equal to the European one.”