How is the chemical industry becoming sustainable with its products and processes? Victoria Meyer welcomes Cameron Whaley, the President of Southern Chemical & Textiles, and Michael Suver, the Executive Vice President at Integrity Bio-Chem. Cameron and Michael share their collaboration on biosurfactants. They developed two sets: Tiger Surf and Eden Surf. They use all bio-based surfactants to go into all of the energy fluids. Synthetic surfactants are out of the equation. And they make sure that the molecules are non-detrimental to the current food supply. Tune in for more exciting news on sustainability!
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How The Chemical Industry Is Becoming Sustainable With Cameron Whaley And Michael Suver
I am meeting with people that you have already read on the show. We’ve got Michael Suver, who is EVP of Specialty Chemicals for Integrity Bio-Chem, and I’ve got Cameron Whaley, who is the President and CEO of SCT. I’m delighted to have both of these guys here. We are going to have a great conversation. Guys, welcome.
Thanks for having us.
You are welcome. This is fun. I have been doing this via Zoom for the past year, so being in-person is amazing.
This is my first time being here at SOCMA, and it has been interesting. It’s a whole different universe of people and companies that I typically have done business with. It’s certainly different where I worked before. Cameron, SCT, has been a member of SOCMA for a long time. Can you talk about SOCMA on the show and what it’s all about?
SCT became a supplier affiliate with SOCMA years ago. SOCMA, their big meeting, used to be called an Informex. It was in New Orleans or Florida bounced around between the two. This show in Fort Worth, SOCMA purchased from Tom Leahy, the Specialty Chem, and Agro Show. This is the first year that SOCMA has taken over The Specialty Chem Show. This is brand new, and the attendance has been phenomenal. There are over 850 people here.
It has been good to see everyone in person, seeing people in 3D rather than Zoom. It’s a conference there are talks in multiple rooms, industry experts, panels but then there’s also a trade show booth or an exhibitor booth, where a lot of chemical manufacturers in North America and from across the globe get to have a presence and display new things.
What’s interesting to me is SOCMA, Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates, which is custom manufacturing. It’s a new world for me. Talking to people at the conference, everybody is saying business is good. How have 2021 and 2022 played out for you, guys? Let’s start with Mike.
For Integrity Bio-Chem, it has been a change. We have gone through and are going through a transformation from being a pure-play energy producer to more of a specialty chemical company. If I had one word, it would be a change. It’s a good thing for us. We are growing by leaps and bounds. It’s a fun organization to be a part of.
I mentioned with oil at $100 a barrel, it’s not so bad to be anchored in energy at the moment but you are here with the company that helps expand its footprint and presence. How about you, Cameron?
For us, we have a presence in oil, gas, and energy. This is a targeted approach for us. The majority of our businesses are in personal and home care. It has been a great market and has challenges like any market does now but the growth has been good for SCT. Energy is expanding rapidly. The growth and the amount of production in oil and gas are going on now. It all has its challenges with the supply chain, providing the surfactants that we offer.
As I have walked around the show and talked to folks, everybody says that there are a lot of people coming to them for totaling, custom blending, etc., and demand is strong. The question I have is, what’s driving that? Is this the current rising interest rates and inflationary period we are in? Is it limited investment elsewhere or do you see something else?
From my perspective, it’s the supply chain. There’s a variety of things that we can point to that are causing this but folks are looking into buying closer to home.
It has helped domestic manufacturers.
You can have the capacity and all the products in the world. It goes to logistics and transportation. Also, if you don’t have a good transportation partner and internal logistics right, it doesn’t matter what you have if you can’t get it to the customer. It is a completely different ball game now.
I remember from our conversation previously. You do some of your own logistics.
We do. Reeva Transport as a subsidiary of ours. It was our biggest liability, and at times, it can be your best asset.
That’s not going to change now in the foreseeable future.
The supply chain and transport?
Is it through the end of the year or beyond that?
It’s at least through the end of the year.
I know with the conflict in Russia and Ukraine put global supply chains under stress. I don’t think we know where it’s going but it’s going to have an influence.
The beauty of the chemical industry now is the push for sustainable products that are available and scalable.
For the US energy market, it’s putting a spotlight on, “We have this available product and capacity.” We are already the world’s largest producer. We need to take care of others.
I attended an event, and there was a speaker talking about what’s driving energy. What is interesting to me is that pricing isbeing driven by the lack of development and continued drilling. The production in the US has been driven by capital discipline. A lot of it is an influence from investors and this shift towards sustainability and not wanting to limit how much carbon production there is and stuff. We are at an interesting tipping and pivot point at the moment.
The beauty of the chemical industry now is the push for sustainable products that are available and scalable, and that is happening in real-time.
That is a great segue because you have been working together now for a while. You have been collaborating on some biosurfactants. IBC is developing and working with you. Can you talk about that?
On our first show, IBC is pivoting to more of a specialty chemical company. Oil fields are always going to be important to IBC but we want to maximize our technology in other markets. We had developed, purely for the oil fields, a biopolymer a few years ago, and it became apparent that this biopolymer was extremely versatile and very compatible.
It had some unique characteristics that led us down the path to start making bio-based surfactants. When I came onboard, and we started talking about these products and what they did and what we could do, it wasn’t my first phone call. It was probably my second, and it was to Cameron and his folks to say, “Let’s sit down and talk about this technology and what we can do together.”
That was a few years ago when IBC, Mike, and Jimmy brought us this plant-based, bio-based product. They said, “We think it can do this. Can you show us what it can do?” We gave it to our R&D team in New Jersey. It was six months’ worth of work in-house, putting it through paces in formulation, seeing what it’s compatible with, where its strengths and weaknesses are. We gathered back together and sat down with IBC and said, “We have something here.” They have something unique. It has some interesting properties in personal care formulation. It became, “Here’s the data. Where do we take this? What do we do with this?
Fast forward to now, you are ready to take it out to the market. You’ve got your regulatory approvals because there’s a lot of work to get a product to the market and commercialized. Give us some of the inkling behind it. What does it take to get that product commercialized? Mike, you looked like you were bracing for it.
It has been an eye-opener for me. We have two sets of surfactants. We have an industrial line of surfactants called Tiger Surf, which we are launching, getting all the regulatory approval and whatnot. We use all of our bio-based surfactants to go into all of our energy fluids. We are no longer using any synthetics surfactants at all.
Our customers love it. It checks their box and works well. Moving and pivoting over to our personal care line, EdenSurf had been a challenge because it was a new molecule. Going through the inky certification was a challenge for us. It was new to IBC but something that Cameron and his team helped with us. To be honest with you, would we have liked to have launched this earlier? Yes, but the reality is we have learned so much about this molecule. What it does, what it can do, all the attributes that we thought it could do but then it bore out over our collaborations. It’s going to work out in the end.
With the maltodextrin laureate backbone of EdenSurf, it immediately put into formulations in bath care and skincare. What we saw replacing current surfactants with the EdenSurf 1200 was sometimes with some of the plant-based products that you see now, they are not effective in viscosity building and foaming. You get tacky residue.
I’m laughing because I have this skincare product that’s in my travel bag, it’s here with me in Fort Worth, and I hate this stuff. I probably need to flip it over and see what it’s made of because it doesn’t foam. It’s tacky.
You feel so good about it because it’s 100% plant-based, and it smells great. That was the challenge. How do we get this new molecule to not be that? When we first put it in the formula, we saw that it wasn’t. It was like nothing we had ever seen. We started doing formulation and performance work with it, actual analytics, and performance studies. The low dermal irritation numbers we have not seen. It’s the lowest we have seen in formulation yet. Viscosity builds that we haven’t seen in the formulation. It was, “We love this. Let’s get this to market as soon as we possibly can,” but going through, you have to be slow and steady. There’s a lot of stability work.
Especially in the stuff that is in personal care that’s touching people’s skin. FDA influence does have an EPA influence.
There are a lot of boxes you have to check.
How do you bring customers onboard? You guys are excited about it. You have the skills and resources to figure this out, yet it doesn’t do you any good if you have developed it and nobody wants it. How do you validate this in the market? How do you get customers interested and engaged in buying a new molecule when it’s going to take some reformulation work?
There’s a tailwind out there with sustainability, ESG, all the buzzwords, and the new thinking of not only these small formulators but the big conglomerates are all talking about this. They have staffs of sustainability now where a few years ago was talked about but it wasn’t a whole lot of action. There have been bio-based solvents years ago that were going to be the next coalescent agent or something of that nature that never took off.
There’s going to be skepticism. Part of our job together is to get Dextera, their line of products, out to the customer base but we feel pretty confident not only in the results we have seen over but we’ve got some folks that are formulating with it and running it through its tests and so far, so good.
How we came about is an amazing collaboration between IBC and SCT. In any venture, you start out with number one, you have to have trust. What was immediate between our two companies was a level of trust. You have to have like-minded values. My leadership team and the leadership team with Mike and Jimmy, and his group, it’s a like-value company. It’s easy to go down that path. We took the EdenSurf, put it into the formulation. The EdenSurf 1200 enhanced some of the surfactant performance concentrates that we already had. It was a very easy marriage putting those in. Out of that was born the Dextera performance line.
Are you ready to go to market with this?
We are. You should tell her how you came up with Dextera.
Naming is always tough. We were at a meeting with Mike and me and our groups. The whole purpose of this meeting was to lay out our strategy. We had the development work started, so it’s okay. We’ve got a pathway. We laid out a pathway and timeline for success and completion. I was tasked with a three-and-a-half-hour drive back home from Jimmy Jett of, “We need another name.”
In partnerships, you need to take each other’s strengths and marry them together.
What was the prior name?
It’s EdenSurf. As we make it a performing solution, that needs a name. “Thanks, Jimmy. I will work on that.” Three and a half hours in the car and racking my brain. I’m like, “What’s the molecule? It’s maltodextrin. It’s a polysaccharide and comes from a sugar-based renewable carbon.” I saw some road sign that said Tera something. I was like, “Dextera.” I called Mike and went, “I think this is a drug. Somebody google this for me.” Dextera was not a drug. It’s funny that the timing of this is because I’ve got an email that our trademark is fully 100% registered.
Let me go back to what he was talking about, the trust and those shared values. That’s a stop, in my opinion, if you don’t have those first but one of the things that became very clear, at least in my mind, was that we were going to take each other’s strengths and marry them together. We each have some good core competencies that can enhance the others. I don’t like to use the term win-win but it is. We are adding core value to both companies by this partnership, and that’s what drives us.
I do think that’s important, the whole aspect of the partnership because, at the end of the day, it’s hard to find the right business partner. You have to get very clear about what’s important to you, in terms of, “What do you need a partner to bring? How do you match it up?” Trust, in some ways, is almost table stakes because you are not going to do business with somebody you don’t trust but you have to have the right trust to build on and then match your capabilities and maybe your market elements and other aspects.
Part of the beauty instantly was we come from a market that is foreign to IBC. The manufacturing of EdenSurf and the molecule is foreign to us. We put those two strengths together.
We went from there.
We all have a very entrepreneurial spirit. That’s a nice way to say.
What’s next for you, guys? You are ready to go to market with Dextera and EdenSurf. Is the market ready for you?
They better be.
One of the most important aspects of EdenSurf, which is extremely important to Cameron and his team, and then his customers and our customers, is that it’s sustainable and scalable. We can make a lot of our products, which is a little unique in the bio world.
We talked about that before because you are right. It has historically been a challenge in bio-based materials. It’s awesome but if you think about some of the biggest producers, let’s say of personal care products, which might be somebody like P&G or pick your major consumer products company, they need a lot of products, so scalability is critical.
Also, in our early discussions, one of the main key points that IBC brought to us about the molecule as it is domestically sourced. That was wonderful. We don’t have overseas shipping concerns. Number two, the molecule is completely non-detrimental to the current food supply. That was huge for all of us. We have this great molecule or renewable carbon but if it damages a current food source or food supply, that doesn’t work.
Can you talk about this? What’s the feedstock or the raw material? Are you allowed to talk about this?
It’s a polysaccharide, so it’s a sugar derived from a food source that’s domestically available. Not only here but globally but it’s a largely domestic product.
There’s a sufficient amount of it that your impact is not impacting.
There were a lot of discussions before we all started down this path and a lot of work.
I bet your teams are excited.
They are very excited.
What is next for you, guys? You are launching, so what’s coming up next? I know this cannot be one and done.
It surely won’t be.
For SCT, our big official product launch will be at NYSCC in May 2022. You will see Dextera stuff everywhere and a lot of information. We are going to be pushing the product prior to that. It will be time for our customers and people in our industry to finally take a look, see, touch, feel the product.
How about you, Mike?
We are going to continue to launch new surfactants into the marketplace, 4 or 5 for the personal care industry. We have launched ten or so bio-surfactants for the industrial side. Energy and ag, we will continue to seek out relationships. I’m not sure we will have one as quite as close as we do with Cameron and SCT but we will continue to work that angle. We are an R&D company. We want to stay true to that. As we continue to develop and take this biopolymer to new places and new heights.
I am so glad we’ve got to meet up in person. The first time in a few years that I have sat in a room with people other than my family!
You have to relocate to Fort Worth.
I’m not sure if I will go that far but I might find some future studio space to have some of these live conversations. This is cool.
You do a good job, and I will speak on behalf of Cameron and me. We are pretty honored that you asked us to come back the second time.
I’m excited that you agree. I was going to say, “Are we going to start doing the three-peat and the four-peats like basketball teams?” We will see what happens. You guys keep doing new things, and we will have new things to talk about.
Thanks, guys, for joining the show.
Thank you so much.
I appreciate it, and thanks to everybody for reading. Keep reading, liking, following, sharing, and growing. We appreciate that.
About Cameron Whaley
Cameron Whaley is the President of Southern Chemical and Textiles, Inc (SCT) and has 23 years of experience in the Chemical Industry. He is a proven leader in expanding and diversifying business into new markets with a focus on improving culture, managing growth, sustainability initiatives, industry needs, and partnerships. In addition to leading SCT, Whaley is active in community outreach programs such as the National Kidney Foundation, Andrew P. Stewart Center (Atlanta), and a supporter of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Aside from work, Cameron enjoys spending time with his wife Erin and their children Reece and Eva. He earned a B.A. in Mass Communication from Auburn University.
About Michael Suver
Michael Suver is the Executive Vice President of Specialty Chemicals for Integrity BioChem. He oversees Integrity BioChem’s go-to-market strategy as well as the day-to-day management of the specialty chemical division. Mr. Suver has over 25 years in the chemical industry, with executive leadership positions in sales, marketing, and operations. He has worked with some of the most respected brands around the globe in the chemical industry.
Mr. Suver previously served as President at Performanx Specialty Chemicals, located in Columbus, Ohio. He began his career at Ashland in 1996 and held various sales, sourcing, and management roles for both the Industrial and Fine Ingredients divisions. Mr. Suver received a degree in Management Science from Wright State University.
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