Home Finance & Investments Continued investment at Stephenson helps maintain strategic growth within the soap base...

Continued investment at Stephenson helps maintain strategic growth within the soap base and speciality ingredients sector

Stephenson's new Durosoft production plant

Global soap base and speciality ingredients manufacturer Stephenson is continuing to expand by investing in production methods at its UK headquarters.

Based in Leeds, the fifth-generation family-owned business has invested over £750,000 in upgrading its Durosoft production facilities, with the objective of producing more technically advanced and improved natural products. This latest round of investment completes a £1 million commitment in furthering its manufacturing technology, with a particular focus on advanced automation systems.

As a key product in Stephenson’s range, Durosoft uses naturally derived polyglycerol esters to produce ingredients for creams, lotions and foaming oil-based formulations offering specific value for natural and sustainable raw material claims.

Combining innovation, technical expertise and a flexible approach, Stephenson delivers tailor made solutions for personal care brands and manufacturers worldwide by employing the use of what it describes as ‘creative chemistry.’ Its expertise embraces world-class innovation for a wide range of industries. Reliable supply of these cutting edge, speciality personal care ingredients is underpinned by distribution channel partners worldwide, alongside facilities in North America, Europe and China, that assist prompt delivery to customers in more than 50 countries.

From its manufacturing base in Horsforth, Stephenson has pioneered nine new naturally derived ingredients as part of its Durosoft range which includes emulsifiers, thickeners, emollients and solubilisers.

The launch of Durosoft is an exciting new development in the personal care and cosmetics markets as it has been developed to allow manufacturers and brands to meet the growing demands of consumers who are becoming increasingly environmentally conscious. The diverse product range includes natural and RSPO (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil) certified ingredients.

The recent introduction of a new evolutionary soap free syndet (Syndopal) has also confirmed Stephenson’s reputation as a leader and innovator, delivering product applications across cosmetic face, body, pharmacy and mass markets around the world. The company has just launched its new product and formulation guide to help cosmetic brands and manufacturers maximise their product portfolios.

The past year has also seen a rebrand for the 164-year-old business. In 2019, Stephenson Personal Care and Stephenson Group rebranded as Stephenson in a move aligned to its long-term business strategy, namely, to focus energy on the growth of its personal care division. The sale of Stephenson’s textile chemicals business in December 2018 underpinned this strategic focus on personal care ingredients. Natural and sustainable ingredients are key drivers in the global personal care and cosmetics market which is worth an estimated $350 billion with an annual growth of 5%.

In addition to the investment already committed on site so far this year, an entirely new computer system has been installed with 24/7 automated capability of receiving and processing customer orders, scheduling and prompting production. The latter half of 2019 also saw ongoing investment in Syndopal® technology and machinery. The result, as of the beginning of 2020, is a markedly different looking business in terms of the equipment and systems that are used than this time 12 months ago.

Stephenson’s Chief Executive Officer, Jamie Bentley commented: “In order to facilitate diversification and growth, continued investment is critical whether that is in technology, recruitment, staff training or plant and equipment.”

Reinvention is a concept one that runs throughout the history of Stephenson as a business, and it has been this realisation of the need to diversify over the years that has positioned it at where it stands today. The strategy to make soap bases for the personal care industry began some 20 years ago, establishing the core offering around the manufacturing of niche, organic and sustainable raw materials. It was approximately five years ago that enough critical mass was created in this area to become 100 per cent focused on personal care activities.

Added Jamie Bentley: “It’s vital to keep innovating in such a fiercely competitive sector as the personal care market, which is evolving all the time and changing rapidly, largely due to sustainability issues.

“We export approximately 85 per cent of everything that we make, with roughly one third going to customers in Europe, one third to the United States and the remainder to the rest of the world. We also have a unique situation whereby not one of our customers makes up more than seven per cent of our business, and this gives us a hugely varied base of brands and companies to work with.

“A business of this size makes its own fortunes and creates its own opportunities and investment plays a big role in this. Investing in automation is not at all about reducing staff, it is about improving efficiencies so that we can make larger volumes within the infrastructure that we possess and reduce batch times significantly through the use of analytics and data. As we work with natural raw materials, there will always be a level of variability when it comes to the chemical mixing process, therefore if we are able to control the dosing and processing of these we are able to create a more consistent product. Consequently, it means that we have raised our skill level, which allows us to begin to manufacture more complex products.”

Stephenson will be exhibiting at In-Cosmetics, Barcelona between March 31st and April 2nd.