CHICAGO — Clariant Masterbatches (Booth E10165) has added a compounding line in Milford, Del., and will do the same in Holden, Mass., early next year to continue the 8-9 percent global growth it expects in 2000.
Easton, Md.-based Clariant Masterbatches also is rolling out a global branding strategy to fully integrate the color and compound businesses that parent Clariant International AG of Muttenz, Switzerland, acquired from Hoechst AG in 1997.
A line producing specialty black masterbatches opened in Milford in April with annual capacity of 12 million to 15 million pounds. The line is aimed at the polyester fiber market.
In Holden, Clariant will open a similar-sized line early next year to produce nylon and polybutylene terephthalate masterbatches for the electrical/electronic and business machine markets.
A new line in Phoenix also will increase capacity for packaging-related masterbatches later this month.
Clariant officials are pleased with their progress, but are still a bit concerned about a potential economic slowdown in 2001.
"A slowdown would hit the masterbatch industry first, since we're related to so many consumer products," Clariant Masterbatches President Gunther Hencken said. "All in all, we're cautiously optimistic, but we don't think the growth we've seen is going to continue."
That growth was impressive in 1999, as the North American unit grew 9 percent. The firm ranks as one of North America's three largest makers of color compounds and concentrates, along with Ampacet Corp. of Tarrytown, N.Y., and M.A. Hanna Co. of Cleveland.
Clariant does not release individual division sales. A recent industry study estimated its 1998 North American sales at about $230 million.
About 60 pecent of Clariant's product mix is in polyolefins, with another one-third in engineering resins. The firm operates 14 manufacturing sites in North America and more than 50 worldwide.
At NPE, Clariant is rolling out several new products, including fragrance additive masterbatches and anti-microbial additive masterbatches.
Fragrance additive technology has been around for a while, but is enjoying a resurgence thanks to an interest in such projects as leather and wood scents for automotive interiors and lemon scents in detergent bottles.
Clariant also has been able to increase loadings and expand the duration of the scent past the standard three-week shelf life.
The anti-microbial line is aimed at allowing synthetic fibers to retain colors and additive quantities after repeated washings.
Clariant also finds itself needing to ramp up its customer interaction and marketing efforts to compete in the always-changing world of color.
"We're working more downstream to change aesthetics and functionality," said Robert Fielding, senior vice president, Americas. "There's such competition for shelf space that customers are looking for any advantage they can."
This approach already has resulted in successful product campaigns with Gillette Co. in using polycarbonate, polypropylene and glycol-modified PET in its Papermate-brand gel pens, and in color-enhanced trilayer high density polyethylene bottles for Suave shampoo.
In global branding, Clariant will use Remafin for olefin-based applications, Renol for nonolefin-based applications, Cesa for standard and specialty addditive masterbatches, Hydrocerol for chemical foaming and nucleating agents and Omnicolor for multipurpose color masterbatches.
"Most of the sites we acquired had different brand names, so this will be a definite improvement in that area," Hencken said. "We should have the transition completed by the end of 2001.
Clariant also is working to establish a fully interactive Web site for its customers that includes purchasing, order tracking and technical support. About 100 of the firm's basic products have been available online since February.
Sales generated from the Web in 2000 will be relatively small, but Hencken said the firm could be generating as much as 30 percent of its sales via the Internet in the next three years.