Interview: “Covid was the biggest market-creator in history

The pandemic has had a great impact on the architectural coatings sector. André Vieira de Castro, CEO of Argacol, expands on this and other factors that have shaped the market and speaks about the use of alternative raw materials.

We spoke to André Vieira de Castro about the architectural coatings market.

To what extent is the use of alternative materials such as soy for architectural paints sensible and effective?

André Vieira de Castro: Sensible and effective are two different concepts. Often incompatible ones! I know for a fact that many leading producers are investing a lot of money on the usage of soy (among other raw materials) for architectural paints. Actually, it’s a vintage product, as its hydrophobic properties have been used for decades. It has the potential to combine both a renewable resource with a non-toxic product, solving part of the motto “let’s save the world”. But, I would like to leave two insights on it:

PEF – Product Environmental Footprint: is soy contributing for a better PEF score of a product? Tough to say! It is produced mainly on the American continent, meaning a CO2 impact on the procurement side. And the actual performance of soy-based products doesn’t guarantee the same durability, impacting the PEF score directly and negatively. On the other hand, it has a huge potential on the PEF toxic-related variables, inducing changes in one of the Holy Grails of the paint industry, to balance toxicology;

Effectiveness: will it produce the intended results? Is it cost-effective? Results-effective? I would say, as of today, it is not. Obviously we don’t need to have the “crème de la crème” to say we’ve reached the target, because we also struggle in some performance characteristics of common raw materials based products. Our temptation is to try to get top performers and tech-leading products, which may not be the case. Any output from the R&D teams that impacts consumption is welcome. Some of those we can now find in the market. I’m thrilled to see more coming!

The combination of these two aspects that I’ve just pointed out will establish the proxy of these raw materials’ future success.

How have the last years affected the interior coatings market?

André Vieira de Castro: From a regulatory perspective, we have all the indoor-air quality rules, specifications and binding procedures that have impacted interior coatings technology.

Firstly, the impact was negative on the products’ performances, because not all the legal framework was duly pre-incorporated by the producers (and some too late announced by the rulers, I must say!). But quickly the industry adapted and gave an enormous answer, showing the resilience of the chemical industry in Europe.

But the biggest impact came from the market. Covid was the biggest market-creator in history! Some markets were born with this pandemic. People became much more sensitive to anti-bacteriologic environments, to the need of having clean (and cleanable) interior surfaces, and this led the industry to seek new approaches that could match this consumer-expectation.

My guess is that the market will keep growing, despite the competition with other products. Paint has the ability to be quickly aesthetical adapted, to have low CO2 impact (compared to indirect competing materials), to allow renovation in an easy and non-waste way, among so many other intangible advantages. We just have to take the eyes out of what paint is and bring it to what paint does!

This interview is part of the Expert Voice section in the European Coatings Journal. You can read the whole article in the January/February issue.

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