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Battelle Bares Secret to Whiter Whites, Giving Companies a Leg Up on Competitive Analysis

Posted on May 6, 2010


DUXBURY, MA., 6 May, 2010 – Thanks to Battelle, there are few secrets in the detergent industry. For more than 20 years, laundry, dishwashing and household detergent, and soap makers have come to Battelle to get the dope on exactly how the other guy got  “cleaner, brighter, fresher-smelling” into his box or bottle, or what “industrial strength” really means.

Battelle’s Duxbury, Mass., laboratory is the only lab in the world testing and analyzing and then selling the results to industry subscribers.

“We have some big names.  Some of the largest chemical and detergent companies in Europe and the United States subscribe to the service,” said Franco Pala, who heads up the Battelle Worldwide Detergent Program (or BWDP as it is called). Subscribers include not only the makers of final products but also the companies that supply the chemical ingredients – surfactants (cleaning chemicals)builders (water softeners)bleaches, enzymes, optical brighteners, polymers and fillers that go into modern laundry, dishwashing and household cleaning products.

Market intelligence is important information for any company developing new products.   “Everybody wants to know what the competition is doing,” Pala said.  However, maintaining a laboratory that does nothing but analyze competitors’ products is expensive.  With the BWDP, subscribing companies end up sharing the costs and—in return—they get comprehensive formulation information at a cost four to five times less than it costs to run a laboratory. 
The detergent industry is highly competitive, mostly recession proof and always changing. For example, the latest push, especially in Western Europe and the United States, is to introduce super-concentrated formulae to reduce packaging and transport costs.

Battelle scientists analyze a changing mix of 260 of the most popular and/or newest products found worldwide. Three or four times a year Pala meets with groups of customers and fills them in on the latest tweaks in the industry. Subscribers especially want to know trends.  For example, are competitors using a particular surfactant or are they using more or less bleach or enzyme?

“The analysis is so detailed that the makers of the same chemical (for example, the same surfactants) can be identified, allowing several competitors to learn how and where it is being used,” said Heliana Kola, Pala’s predecessor, who now heads up marketing efforts for the program.

Worldwide, there are substantial differences in detergents from region to region. Western European detergents often have more surfactants, polymers, and enzymes than those in Latin America and Asia. Phosphates are still used in some Eastern European countries while zeolite, a mineral containing aluminum and silicate, has completely replaced them in Western Europe laundry products.

The business started in 1989 at Battelle’s Geneva Research Centre, in Switzerland, when European companies wanted to know what their competitors were doing to reduce levels of water-polluting phosphates in detergents.  The operation was moved to Duxbury when the Geneva lab closed in 2008.

The BWDP serves many large companies, but there’s also a push to enroll smaller detergent manufacturers and chemical makers worldwide.  New, highly automated equipment at Battelle Duxbury that improves turn-around time will help to increase capacity.  “A detergent formulator wants to know what’s in a competitor’s new product almost immediately,” Pala said.  “They need to know in three weeks not three months.”                                         

About Battelle

As the world’s largest independent research and development organization, Battelle provides innovative solutions to the world’s most pressing needs through its four global businesses:  Laboratory Management; National Security; Health and Life Sciences; and Energy, Environment and Material Sciences. It advances scientific discovery and application by conducting $6.2 billion in global R&D annually through contract research, laboratory management and technology commercialization. 

Headquartered in Columbus, Ohio, Battelle oversees 22,000 employees in more than 130 locations worldwide, including seven national laboratories for which Battelle has a significant management role on behalf of the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Battelle also is one of the nation’s leading charitable trusts focusing on societal and economic impact and actively supporting and promoting science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education.

Media Contacts

For more information contact Katy Delaney at (614) 424-7208 or, or T.R. Massey at (614) 424-5544 or



Media Contacts

Katy Delaney
Director, Media Relations
Office: 1.614.424.7208

T.R. Massey

Senior Media Specialist
Office: 1.614.424.5544