How to increase your market certainty before you launch your new biobased product

Published March 14, 2023 | Written by Ana STOYANOVA


The development and commercialization of innovative materials derived from renewable biomass and biorefining side-streams have been the industry buzz for years. Suppliers knew that this was going to be a slow and twisted road. The scaling of bioproducts has been difficult and oftentimes the feeling is that the go-to-market is a tedious journey. 

Novel biobased materials typically have three major points of concern: higher cost, lower technical performance compared to existing petroleum-based materials and uncertainty with regards to continued availability and capacity to supply. To this we can add the common barriers encountered by any new chemicals heading to the market: lengthy approval processes and implementation for what, in most cases, wouldn’t be drop-in replacements.

One example is the development of biobased plasticizers driven by the expected replacement of certain unsafe phthalate plasticizers following regulations and legislation bans. A range of naturally derived alternatives started popping up as early as the 2000s. It took suppliers considerable efforts and investments to develop viable biobased technologies – in terms of performance, compatibility, and cost, and even though their market share is growing, 20+ years later the shift towards bioplasticizers is far from being over.

Bringing compelling green materials to market remains a huge challenge with an unsure outcome unless there is a high certainty about its technical performance and about its acceptance by the market in a reasonable timeline.

The lower the market and technology knowledge, the higher the risk of failure.


Innovate not only the product offering but also the processes: Suppliers need to unlock new channels and broaden their market reach beyond their existing network

We’ve seen well established companies in food, wood & paper willing to expand their business to less familiar markets such as plastics, coatings, adhesives and sealants, served by traditional chemicals and materials. A common issue is the lack of market and application understanding. Furthermore, these are companies already having extensive portfolios of molecules and technologies and it is challenging to choose which product to start with in the first place.

Specialized community platforms like SpecialChem (9 Million technical buyers’ visits in 2022, including resin and additive producers, formulators, converters and equipment manufacturers) have typically expertise and resources to help suppliers collect market data, connect with the right industry contacts and get results considerably faster. To give an example, the producer of a new highly-functional biobased molecule got the market insights needed to approach unfamiliar coatings and adhesives segments in just 8 weeks by working with SpecialChem compared to what would have taken 2+ years and much more resources with their standard processes (see our case studies).

We work closely with material suppliers involved in innovation and naturally derived technologies to support them focus on the highest value opportunities and avoid useless industrial investments. 



Multiply the sources of data and knowledge all along the product development

No company wants to heavily invest in a long product development only to discover that the users are not interested. Whatever the breakthrough technology, the chances to fail are still rather high if producers rely on old-school stage-gate practices where development teams are all alone or in the best case in touch with a few customers (learn about agile innovation here). And this is especially true about new unproven technologies.

One of the biggest challenges suppliers face is the lack of quick access to the target or the difficulty to find not only the right applications and geographies, but also the ones to approach first.

We still see new technologies heading to the market after only a few tests at with local customers. This is almost certainly a dead-end and high risk.

To help suppliers lower the risks and focus on market-validated opportunities we typically combine:

  • broad reach of digital to collect high number of market feedback and datapoints
  • direct exchange with industry representatives and future customers to deepen the market understanding
  • close contact with key industry partners to test and validate product performance in real conditions
We have many years experience working with material suppliers and covering many high-value products (derivatives of starch, cellulose, vegetable oils). We have learned that constantly talking to the market via different channels is the only way to identify the priority applications, the product value and the key messages to convey to the customers.


Stay connected to the market through the product development and make continuous efforts to understand how the market needs evolve


When a product development starts, suppliers have identified a market need. But, what is the market and competitive context at the moment the product is ready for commercialization years later?

Let’s look again at what happened with biobased plasticizers. By the time some were ready to launch, many compounders and converters – for a big part in Europe and North America - pressured by governmental regulations and pessimistic forecasts for the future of phthalates, had switched to other phthalate-free solutions. Moreover, it took them several years to make the shift (to screen, qualify and understand how to run the new materials in their production process). Unsurprisingly, many of them were no longer open to embark on a new material replacement adventure, even for a cleaner chemistry.

Despite the strict legislation and growing consumer appetite for natural materials, new technologies must correspond to the market needs and expectations. Customers’ demand evolves as does the market and competitive landscape. Today, most customers are still looking for products that are easy to use and will not make them implement too many changes in their equipment and process.

Therefore, it is critical for suppliers to constantly talk to a large portion of the industry to find their way in the marketplace. We have spent years gathering substantial and reliable feedback from our global online community to support material producers to find and rank the best applications and markets and test and refine the value proposition until getting the right marketing messages.

Learn how SpecialChem can help you boost commercialization strategy within a 3 to 4 months Insight Solutions mission.





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