Architectural Coatings: ”Standing out from the crowd“
Mr. Nauber, how would you describe the architectural coatings market at the moment?
Ulrich Nauber: This is a market driven largely by strong brand loyalty particular in the premium professional segments, whereas cost-performance is often more important than brand in the DIY segment. The European market is not homogeneous, not only because of the climate variations, but also and primarily because of tradition and experience. Significant polymer technology differences and application preferences exist across the regions and so raw materials suppliers must adapt and have the flexibility to customise their product offerings, formulation recommendations and technical support accordingly.
Consumer and applicator preferences continue to drive the architectural coatings market, with distinctive divisions in smooth, textured, satin and matt formulations. But there is a common trend across all European countries for paint producers to differentiate their ranges. Increasingly, formulators want to stand out from the crowd by making specific product claims, such as environmental benefits, eco-labelling, applications claims, and health benefits. Products with extended warranties are becoming increasingly popular in the exterior segment as they enable coatings to be applied and to dry quickly, such as early-rain-resistant paints. Applicators increasingly seek convenience, such as 2-in-1 paint and primer products.
Dr Ulrich Nauber, Dow Coatings Materials
A key driver is of course health, particularly in respect of interior coatings – people are spending more and more time indoors and air flow is being reduced by building insulation and air-conditioning. One example is our “Formashield” technology. These acrylic co-polymer binders not only have a low odour and require no coalescing agents, but can also help enhance indoor air quality by capturing pollutants such as formaldehyde. Now that many countries are taking regulatory action to support better indoor air quality and are establishing standards on formaldehyde levels in ambient air in
living spaces, we expect more paint manufacturers to showcase such technical developments as part of their branding efforts.
Labelling as a whole will continue to be an important area, particularly when it comes to biocide use and labelling changes. Work on scheme requirements and on formulations that do not require sensitiser labelling has been ramped up in recent months, and we are now developing a range of water-borne polymer grades that do not require a sensitiser label to support the transition, including binders, opacifiers and rheological additives.
What functionalities are especially sought after?
Nauber: High-performance, low-VOC and low-odour coatings that have longer life times and are easy to clean continue to drive the innovation agenda, as formulators keep striving to reduce VOC content whilst maintaining the performance properties. At Dow Coating Materials, we are playing our part in a number of ways, particularly by advancing and promoting water-borne, low-VOC technology in interior wall paints, for example. We are reacting to changing feedstock dynamics as well as to more stringent regulatory and consumer demands by creating new product ranges.
We are also seeing real demand for high-performance masonry coatings, with specific attributes that vary with local conditions and individual market demands. This means that it’s important to be able to offer formulators a menu of options, as they often need to be able to cater for different needs in different geographies. For example, specific geography and weather conditions might call for extra protection against fungi or algae, and that’s where the managed use of biocides may come in. In some markets, colour is vital, and so colour retention is top of the agenda: very bright and very dark colours are major trends in exterior masonry. Consequently, technology specifically aimed at ensuring colour retention is key.
On the other hand, highly urbanised environments will demand excellent long-term dirt-pick-up resistance more than anything else. We have made it even easier for masonry paint formulators by creating a menu of options in two key portfolios, the “Colour Protection” range, and the “Dirt Shield” range, which offer high-performance raw materials across the ingredients list: for example, we might offer “Primal AC-412” acrylic binder – ideally suited to deep colours – alongside “Acrysol RM-998”, an HEUR thickener which delivers ideal colour stability and retention.
Are there any other drivers of innovation?
Nauber: Above all else, it is essential to understand local market demands and to focus on end-users’ needs. Local and national economies grow through targeted innovation: such growth benefits the markets in which we operate, supports our customers’ ambitions and in turn enable us to continue innovating on their behalf. Whether the need is for across-the-board performance, sustainability, better hiding, enhanced durability, stain resistance, a low-VOC option, or reduced environmental impact, Dow Coating Materials is eager to bring its years of experience and expertise to work alongside our international customer base so that we can help them attain the desired performance for their specific applications.
For me, the fundamental driver of innovation is deep understanding – and you get that by really listening to what the market wants, recognising where it’s going, monitoring changes in buying behaviour and making sure that you can help it on its way with tailored technology! In short, by making the paints an experience!