Bio-based coatings survey: “Prices will go down”

Bio-based raw materials for coatings have so far led a niche existence, but there are clear signs that this could change. We have asked you, our readers, how you see this. What is important and what difficulties are to be expected. The results speak for themselves.

bio-based paint and coatings survey
The world of coatings will become greener thanks to bio-based raw materials. However -

Yes, they have been around for a long time. Bio-based coating raw materials are actually older than their fossil counterparts. Today, vegetable oils still play an important role, but the majority of paints and varnishes sold are based on fossil raw materials. Not only since the Friday for Future movement started have plant-based raw materials become the focus of attention. But how far along is the industry and what potential does it see? In our survey, 160 experts from the industry responded. 

Bio-based coating raw materials are becoming increasingly important

In our survey, a good 77 % of respondents said that bio-based coatings were more important than five years ago, almost 21 % thought that bio-based solutions were just as important and only 2.5 % said that they had become less important. However, there are differences depending on where respondents are located in the value chain.

bio-based coatings survey importance  

The most highly rated are raw material manufacturers, distributors and others (many research institutions and consultants can be found here). Coatings manufacturers are slightly more cautious, but also rate bio-based solutions as more important than five years ago with a clear majority of 68.5 %. However, as some people mentioned in the survey, a clear and standardised definition of what bio-based actually is would be helpful to avoid confusion when talking about related topics like sustainability, natural resources and alike.


Event tip: The EC Technology Forum | Bio-based coatings on 22 – 23 October will give you an clearer picture of existing bio-based materials, help you understand the ongoing research and provide the opportunity to connect with some of the most important experts in the industry.


Bio-based becomes cheaper

Sustainability is great, but unfortunately often more expensive. Away from a niche of particularly environmentally friendly customers, costs therefore play a key role when it comes to switching to bio-based raw materials. The majority of respondents (40 %) expect the cost-benefit ratio of bio-based raw materials to be acceptable in five years’ time. A total of 38 % say that it will take three years, while almost 22 % of respondents think it will take another seven years.

bio-based coatings survey cost-performance  

It is noticeable that the paint manufacturers themselves still answer the question more conservatively than the raw material manufacturers. Not even 30 % believe that the costs will be more acceptable in three years, that it will take at least seven more years said about 26%. The raw material manufacturers themselves are much more optimistic. Almost 47 % believe that there will be a better price/performance ratio in three years’ time. One user commented “Once the volumes will increase, prices would most probably go down for bio-based materials. Companies should credit that”, while another one also said, “CO2 taxes could increase the economic interest in raw materials with a significantly lower carbon footprint.”

High costs are threat number one

The survey participants were also very clear in their view that the costs were also the greatest danger for a switch to bio-based raw materials. On a scale from one (highest risk) to four (lowest risk), this factor ended up at 1.84. Second place went to supply chain risks with 2.52, followed by close life cycle assessment (2.77) and the impact (2.88) from agriculture and social impacts. For all threats, the participants gave a wide range of ratings. This is also shown by multiple comments from some of the participants.

bio-based coatings survey threads  

Especially the possible competition to the food supply is controversially discussed. One user commented “In Europe, but also other countries, there is enough agricultural land available for growing and using bio-based raw materials”. This user also pointed out that vegetable oils are very cost-efficient. Another user writes “To me, it is more than necessary to promote bio-based raw materials that are able to have a low environmental impact by not supporting industrial intensive agriculture or forestry”.

Production of bio-based raw materials

But how will bio-based raw materials for paints and varnishes be produced in the future? Basically, there are two ways to choose from. First, they can be produced as drop-in substitutes. The biological raw materials are fed into an established production process for fossil raw materials and chemically identical products are produced. For paint manufacturers, this is a comparatively simple process, since the binders or additives produced in this way do not differ from the fossil precursors. The formulation of the coating therefore does not have to be changed.

A good 51 % of those surveyed consider this to be the more important production process. On the other hand, 49 % of those surveyed believe that completely new raw materials are more likely to produce new properties. The way to such raw materials thus offers interesting potentials but cannot rely cost-efficiently on already running production processes and plants and presumably also requires more development work.

bio-based coatings survey potential  

Raw material manufacturers have answered this question somewhat more strongly in the direction of a drop-in solution (60 %), so the desire to continue using existing processes is more predominant here. Distributors and “other” players in the coatings industry (many research institutions and consultants are hidden here) tend to see the advantages of the new chemistry.

Biggest push from end users

However, there is broad agreement on the question of the most important industrial segment for bio-based solutions. Across all industry segments, the B2C market is regarded as the most important source of impetus. Overall, just over 64 % consider it to be the most important.

bio-based coatings survey potential



Labels not that importantfor bio-based coatings

A somewhat surprising result is, that labels are not seen as important for pushing more bio-based coatings into the market as one could think. All sectors of the industry think that end-user demand and regulations are much more important.

bio-based coatings survey main driver  

Bio-based Binders have the greatest potential

Which raw materials have the greatest potential to increase the proportion of bio-based coatings? With a very clear 77 %, the industry answers this question with binders. Nearly 18 % of those surveyed see the greatest potential in additives, while pigments or other raw materials share the remaining 6 %.


Event tip: a number of bio-based binders and other raw materials will be presented at the EC Technology Forum | Bio-based coatings on 22-23 October2019 in Berlin, Germany


bio-based coatings survey potential  

Different range of products

There is quite a difference in how many bio-based products the companies already offer. In terms of carbon content, the raw material producers offer considerably more bio-based products than the coatings manufacturers. However, the survey does not provide completely accurate values.

bio-based coatings survey share paints  
bio-based coatings survey share raw materials  


This evaluation is based on inputs from 160 participants. The largest group of respondents were paint manufacturers, followed by raw material producers. The evaluation regarding distributors should be treated with caution, as relatively few of this group participated in total and the values may indicate a rough statistical direction but are certainly not sufficiently representative. 

Detailed evaluation

The graphs do not include participants who have not indicated exactly where they work, or who are active in another sector of the coatings industry (Others). According to the majority of the participants, these “others” were people from the academic environment as well as consultants. Also, a small number of end users of paints and varnishes is hidden here.  

All graphics are available in a more detailed version under the following link:

bio-based survey detailed results.pdf 512 kB

The answers of these participants as well as the totality of the participants are also shown here.

Jan Gesthuizen

Event tip

The EC Technology Forum | Bio-based coatings on 22 – 23 October will give you an clearer picture of existing bio-based materials, help you understand the ongoing research and provide the opportunity to connect with some of the most important experts on this topic in the industry.

Hersteller zu diesem Thema

This could also be interesting for you!