The US-based food processor Cargill is continuing its push into biobased chemicals with plans to acquire the bioindustrial business of the British specialty chemical maker Croda for about $1 billion.
Croda’s bioindustrial division makes industrial chemicals including antistatic, antifog, and slip agents for polymers, and friction-reducing additives for engine oils. The business, which went up for sale in May, also makes building blocks for polymers that improve flexibility and water repellency in coatings, adhesives, and sealants.
About two-thirds of the raw materials used to make those products are biobased and renewable. Using its advantage as a producer of fats, oils, and starches, Cargill has already made several moves to expand its biobased materials business. The company describes the Croda acquisition as another significant step in that direction.
Cargill bought Arkema’s epoxidized vegetable oil business in October for $39 million. Earlier this year, it launched a joint venture to make biobased 1,4-butanediol. In 2020, Cargill licensed technology from Procter & Gamble to make biobased acrylic acid, and the company’s joint venture NatureWorks has been making biobased polylactic acid for decades.
Croda says canola oil is the most common feedstock for its bioindustrial products. That’s a good match for Cargill, a major vegetable oil producer with two canola processing plants and a third slated to open in 2024. Cargill also makes sorbitol, another raw material for Croda.
ADM, a major Cargill competitor, also has been moving aggressively into biobased chemicals. ADM is partnering with outside companies to make biobased versions of acrylic acid, polylactic acid, and furandicarboxylic methyl ester, as well as polyesters, polyamides, and surfactants. It also invested in the plant-based fiber company Spiber.
Cargill’s acquisition includes five Croda plants in Europe and Asia. Croda will retain about a quarter of its bioindustrial business, including a Delaware plant that produces biobased ethylene oxide for Croda’s core life sciences and consumer care divisions.