Listen To Victoria’s ACI 2024 Recap:
Curious about the latest developments and trends in the surfactants and cleaning industry? Learn more about the key themes discussed at the 2024 American Cleaning Institute (ACI) annual meeting and understand their implications for your business with host Victoria Meyer. With over 1300 attendees from the cleaning industry, the event emphasized the importance of driving innovation and transformation in the industry. Victoria dives into the impact of supply chain, the integration of AI, the shift towards market-centric business transformation, the continuation of green initiatives, and the challenges posed by tightening regulations.
This week’s episode of The Chemical Show highlights the major takeaways from the 2024 ACI annual meeting, providing valuable insights for professionals in the chemical and cleaning industry. From the resurgence of formulation innovation to the increasing focus on bio-based products and the impact of tightening regulations, Victoria’’s summary offers a comprehensive overview of the industry’s current landscape, presenting opportunities and challenges that lie ahead for industry professionals.
Join Victoria as she elaborates on the following topics:
- ACI’s 2024 conference theme: Advancing Cleaning Innovation
- Insights on six key themes from ACI 2024
- The impact of innovation in the cleaning industry
- Monitoring tightening regulations and their impacts
- Trends shaping the chemical business landscape
Killer Quote: “Companies are really considering their next formulation and getting more innovative with those products and solutions.” – Victoria Meyer
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Victoria Discusses Her Insights From ACI 2024 on Youtube:
Key Themes from ACI 2024
Hi, this is Victoria Meyer. Welcome back to the Chemical Show, Where Chemicals Means Business. In today’s episode, I am sharing key themes from the 2024 American Cleaning Institute annual meeting. Otherwise known as ACI. Over 1300 people from across the cleaning industry, representing surfactants and other ingredient manufacturers, formulators, brand owners, consumer products companies, and industrial products companies attended this year’s event in Orlando. The conference’s theme Advancing Cleaning Innovation was apparent throughout the conference and the conversations.
So I’m here today to share some of the themes that I picked up from the event. If you and your team are wondering how you’re going to deliver your goals in 2024 or if you’ve got some of these themes on your target and need some support, send me a message on LinkedIn. You can find me there at Victoria King Meyer, and let’s have a call to discuss how we can help.
So onto the conference, I’m sharing today six themes that I picked up throughout the conference.
First of all innovation was key and it was clear in the theme and in the theme title of the conference. The topic of several panels and showcase sessions that ACI produced and the topic of a lot of conversation, innovation, is here across several facets. Product innovation, process innovation, and even business and business approach innovation. From a product perspective, what we’re seeing and this is a theme that’s continuing on for a couple years, is a lot of green products and bio-based products that were showcased throughout the conference. We’re gonna talk more about that later. The other innovation theme is really around formulation.
As a leading distributor shared with me, formulation innovation is back after the tumultuous 2020 to 2022 timeframe. With COVID and destocking and supply chain challenges, companies were stretched thin. They were more focused on getting the right product for their current formulations than really innovating on new formulations. Then with the destocking and cost controls that we saw in 2023, some of that formulation specific innovation dried up a little bit. What we’re hearing today is it is back. Companies are more willing to invest. They’re pivoting in some cases and focusing on the future with innovative product and business opportunities. Now, back to that green product innovation.
As one leading bio surfactant producer said, you may actually have to reformulate the entire formula in order to accommodate some of the differences that you’re seeing with some of these new products. So that’s an interesting twist on formulation innovation. But what I think we’re seeing in what I was hearing is, across the entire value chain from a cleaning products perspective, surfactants, fragrances, all the different additives. Companies are really considering what their next formulation is and getting more innovative with those products and those innovations. So that’s one.
The second key thing that came through was restocking. Now, I gotta be honest, that was a bit of a surprise when people said, oh yeah, we’re having a great January, and we are seeing companies and our customers restocking.
I think that’s a bit application and market specific, and that’s certainly what I heard from several of the companies. So they’re not necessarily seeing restocking and but they’re seeing better buying behaviors than perhaps we saw at the end of 2023. This is something that’s coming through. Cost control is still here but it appears really that some companies and some sectors have exhausted their destocking and are starting to refill their stores. Now, there is still a lot of “just in time” inventory. So nobody is planning that far ahead because there’s some uncertainty around what is really going to transpire in 2024.
Overall, people were moderate about the market. So I would not say that there was a strong confidence in terms of what the market is going to be in 2024, but certainly there was a sense that we may be in stable times and notice my word choice. I’m still hedging my bets a little bit here as are others, but I think we’re starting to see some stability across the industry and potentially some restocking. So stay tuned. If you’re seeing that, let me know.
The third thing that came through is AI. AI was everywhere. It was definitely a central topic throughout the event, just like it’s a central topic elsewhere. It was featured in several sessions hosted by ACI with panelists ranging from consumer products companies like P&G and Clorox to AI companies like Noble AI. In fact, you may recall Ethan Mirsky of NobleAI was featured on Episode 99 of The Chemical Show, talking about science-based AI and how it can be used to accelerate product and formula innovations. So go check it out, Episode 99.
While AI was really featured quite strongly in the programming, it also was part of the conversations that I had. It became apparent, many companies and many leaders just aren’t sure where to start. So while the biggest companies like P&G and Clorox that I’ve already referenced have been investing in utilizing AI for a long time within their businesses. At the same time, there are many companies that are just now starting to figure out where they wanna go with this.
There’s a lot of uncertainty. One of the things I heard even from someone is that chemical companies are still just reluctant to trust, not just AI, but even to trust the cloud. If you think about where we are in the world today, cloud-based computing is everywhere, but perhaps not so much in the chemical industry. Companies and leaders are really trying to figure out where to start and how to safely start, how to utilize it effectively.
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4. Market Centric Business Transformation
So my fourth theme on this is market centric business transformation. So business transformation is an ongoing theme. I think there’s no stability in my career throughout in the chemical industry, business transformation has always been taking place. It seems to be on a cycle, much like the cyclicality of the chemical industry. In this case, what I think is really interesting, and I’ve had several great conversations with leaders about this, is that it’s really market centric and about really setting up for the next decade of success.
So a couple examples I had, one was really around realigning the business and shifting from a product centric business organization and orientation to a market centric orientation for their businesses fundamentally to drive better customer experience and to meet market requirements. So it’s a opportunity to be more effective, to be more collaborative internally and externally with customers to create that market centric business transformation. The second piece is really around looking for new market opportunities, and rethinking traditional end uses and traditional markets, and going beyond what is currently seen for companies in the industry. So market centric business transformation is here. We’re starting to see it across many companies, and I think it’s gonna be a real focus in 2024.
My fifth theme is about continuing the green. So if you remember last year we talked a little bit about being green and buggy, and that was one of the key themes that came out of the conference. Bio-based ingredients and green innovation continues on and in fact, a CI hosted a couple of innovation panels with speakers from leading companies, including Eastman, Hollifirm, Pilot, Sasol, and others, talking about their bio surfactant innovations, and really their bio-based ingredient innovations. What’s interesting, I think is number one, there’s a lot of evolution in this space and definitely a lot of focus. It’s innovation, it’s market centric, it’s sustainability centric. There’s also a lot of collaboration and partnership coming through. So certainly we see companies like Hollifirm and Integrity Biochemical partnering up with other companies that are able to maybe more effectively take it to market, have a different market reach and really help expand the impact.
So I think this is what we’re gonna continue to see from a bio-based ingredient perspective, a continuing partnering perspective, and just frankly continuing for this industry to continue being on a green and sustainable path.
6. Regulatory framework
I look at the first five themes is a bit more opportunistic and positive. The sixth theme was a little bit worrisome and it’s around tightening regulations. So a lot of this is European driven. The EU tends to be the leader in some cases, and I’m not sure if it’s a good or bad leader, you guys have heard me talk about this before. But the EU is a leader in driving tighter regulations.
One topic that was a hot topic throughout the conference is EUDR, so the European Deforestation Regulation which applies stringent and risk-based guidelines to specific products coming into the EU. As you can imagine, the word deforestation is the key theme in there, the things that are tied to the forest in the surfactant space. Products derived from palm oil are in the spotlight. And one of the things I heard more than anything is, there’s been a lot of regulation and there’s been some practices already put in place across the industry to recognize the risks and the potential harm that comes in some of the farming of palm oil. So there’s already been a lot of work going on to ensure, effective regulations and protocols and requirements are in place. This goes a step or two or three further and there seems to be some concern about how are companies really going to meet this? So watch this space, stay tuned to the news and how this progresses on as companies are trying to figure out how they’re managing this new deforestation regulation coming out of the EU.
The second one that came out was really around dioxane. So 1,4 Dioxane has been in the spotlight for the past several years, certainly in the US as well as globally, and companies have really figured out how to navigate around that. The current regulations are formulation base. They’re setting a target amount of 1,4 dioxane in the formulation, in the applications, in the industry, companies across the industry have really teamed up to understand how to adjust to that, how to adapt, and how to meet those requirements. Now there’s a new regulation coming out of Germany that focuses on 1,4 dioxane in the raw materials at a pretty low level that quite honestly, I think companies are still figuring out how are they going to tackle this. So I would say regulations is maybe one of the key themes. Frankly, this is an area that a CI and other industry groups really help pave the way and lead the way for other constituents to provide both consensus, to provide that feedback to the governing bodies and more so stay tuned in terms of where that’s gonna go.
In general, the mood I would say was upbeat, but measured, so ACI has said this was a record attendance, over 1300 registrants from across the global industry. I think that’s important to recognize. I would say overall people were positive, looking forward to the year, uncertain about how it was going to progress. Certainly what we’ve seen and what we’ve heard on The Chemical Show and what you guys have heard elsewhere in the markets is that there’s some concerns about how the year is going to progress. It’s a little foggy. It’s perhaps a little flat until we get to the second half of the year.
But certainly what we’re hearing is positive forward progress across a number of fronts. An upbeat mood tempered by some very pragmatic views and concerns. Just watch this space on how the industry is gonna progress. So that is it for this year’s update from the 2024 ACI annual meeting. I’d love to hear what you had to say if you were at the conference. What did you hear? Does this align with you? Reach out, send me an email, shoot me a DM on LinkedIn.
Would love to hear from you and love to respond. Thanks again for listening to The Chemical Show. Keep listening, keep following, keep sharing, and we will talk with you again soon.