commissioned to carry out market research into latex by an academic
entrepreneur developing a novel process for latex extraction from guayule, a
plant native to Mexico. Guayule, which can grow in southern Europe, produces a
very elastic, soft and hypoallergenic latex that can be used for a range of
applications including close-fit surgical gloves. NNFCC was tasked with
identifying current markets for natural rubber latex and a similar elastomer emulsion
called synthetic polyisoprene (PI) latex. The geography of interest was Europe.
companies using natural rubber latex and synthetic PI latex in Europe,
including manufacturers of condoms, babies’ pacifiers, sports equipment,
medical devices, various other ‘dipped goods’, adhesives and latex foam.
Companies were interviewed for their use of natural latex versus the more
expensive synthetic PI latex, as well as other synthetic rubbers or synthetic
latex. Companies mentioned raw material costs, product specifications, consumer
trends and compatibility with manufacturing equipment as reasons for choosing
one material over another.
In a follow-up
project, NNFCC looked at potential emerging markets for latex as a textile /
textile coating, as an ingredient in personal-care products, and as a material
for a wider range of baby products, such as rubber toys and mattresses.
As a result of our
work, the academic group felt more confident in their knowledge of the European
market for guayule latex and were able to spin-out a new company. They are
currently scaling up guayule cultivation and latex extraction.