Oleochemicals Market Opportunities in Turkey


“Oleochemicals” refer to chemicals derived from natural oils and fats of both plant and animal origin. Often, activated carbon is used for purifying, decolorizing, and deodorizing the fatty acids and derived chemicals. They are biodegradable and exhibit low toxicity, thus, considered to be environmentally friendly. These products are viewed as natural, green, organic, safe, renewable, and biodegradable by scientists and consumers.

In the last decade, the oleochemicals industry has been growing steadily due to increased global demand for more environment-friendly products. This is because of oleo chemicals’ attractive traits;

  • Derived from renewable resources
  • Non-toxic;
  • Readily biodegradable.

As such, oleochemicals are greener alternatives to petrochemicals, which are obtained from exhaustible or non-renewable fossil fuels. The major raw material is used to produce oleochemicals are palm oil, palm kernel oil, and coconut oil.

The main oleo chemicals manufactured in Southeast Asia are fatty acids, glycerine, methyl esters, and fatty alcohols. Traditionally, oleochemicals have been used for applications such as surfactants, personal care, soaps and detergents, and food additives. However, various new applications of oleochemicals such as bio-lubricants, biopolymers, and biosurfactants are emerging as replacements of petroleum-based products creating exciting growth opportunities.

Oleochemicals Market in Turkey

In Turkey, oleochemicals are used in a variety of applications such as manufacturing soaps & detergents, personal care products, cosmetics, lubricants, and also used in pharmaceuticals; and food and beverages. Therefore, the demand for oleochemicals has been driven by growing needs from the end-user industries.

Growing consumer applications coupled with an increasing shift from conventional petroleum-based products towards environment-friendly substitutes will drive Turkey’s oleochemicals market until 2025. The vegetable-based oleochemicals market in Turkey is over US$1 billion out of which  65%- 70% of the vegetable-based oleochemicals are being imported and the remaining balance is produced domestically by the contribution of foreign investors. It is estimated that the oleochemicals market will reach US$1.5 billion by 2025 owing to the growth of the personal care and food industry, rising consumerisms, and the advantage of import duty reduction under the Malaysia – Turkey Free Trade Agreement (MTFTA).

The Turkish oleochemicals market is dominated by the fatty acid segment due to the easy availability of raw materials such as vegetable oil coupled with the growing habit for organic personal care products across the country. Besides, fatty acids can function as detergents and soaps owing to their amphipathic properties. Moreover, fatty acid serves as a crucial raw material to produce several downstream derivatives including elastomers, toiletry, biocides, softeners, and wax for diversified industries, which is anticipated to continue growing over a couple of years.

Turkey’s İmports of Oleochemicals

Between Jan-Dec 2021, Turkey’s imports of oleochemicals from the world accounted for over US$1 billion, or an increase of 48.3%. Malaysia was 3rd largest import source of Turkey for oleochemicals after Germany and China. (Table 1)

Table 1:  Turkey’s İmports of Oleo Chemicals from the World (by Top 8 Country)           

Rank Trade Partner United States Dollars (Jan-Oct) % Share
2019 2020 2021 2019 2020 2021
  World 599,116,880 685,471,643 1,016,466,098 100.00 100.00 100.00
1 Germany 82,453,232 85,979,697 158,972,921 13.76 12.54 15.64
2 China 47,400,365 64,715,201 126,190,362 7.91 9.44 12.41
3 Malaysia 72,346,767 81,442,038 117,722,102 12.08 11.88 11.58
4 Korea, South 36,406,742 29,679,076 69,563,606 6.08 4.33 6.84
5 France 38,415,338 39,262,445 50,627,844 6.41 5.73 4.98
6 Indonesia 20,522,064 28,613,424 49,756,392 3.43 4.17 4.90
7 Belgium 25,772,027 28,151,546 45,928,516 4.30 4.11 4.52
8 Poland 16,495,150 21,037,761 44,830,067 2.75 3.07 4.41

Source: Turkish Statistical Institution (TUIK)

Table 2: Turkey’s Imports of Oleo Chemicals from Malaysia (by product)

Product Description United States Dollars % Share
2019 2020 2021 2019 2020 2021
Oleo Chemicals Total imports from Malaysia 72,346,767 81,442,038 117,722,102 100.00 100.00 100.00
382311 Stearic Acid 25,499,034 25,953,303 42,792,374 35.25 31.87 36.35
382319 Industrial Monocarboxylic Fatty Acids, Nesoi;
Acid Oils From Refining
6,949,450 9,766,335 39,522,446 9.61 11.99 33.57
340120 Soap In Forms Nesoi, Including Powders And
20,675,540 20,708,907 13,628,209 28.58 25.43 11.58
382312 Oleic Acid 2,243,768 3,207,753 6,464,170 3.10 3.94 5.49
340213 Nonionic Organic Surface- Active Agents, Whether Or Not Put Up For Retail Sale 6,159,441 11,749,716 6,284,289 8.51 14.43 5.34
290545 Glycerol 7,596,440 6,948,222 3,691,203 10.50 8.53 3.14
291570 Palmitic Acid, Stearic Acid,
Their Salts And Esters
780,594 1,084,183 2,502,355 1.08 1.33 2.13
291590 Saturated Acyclic Monocarboxylic Acids, Their Anhydrides,
Halides, Peroxides And Peroxyacids; Their Halogenated,
Sulfonated Etc. Derivatives, Nesoi
1,061,772 1,096,130 1,636,943 1.47 1.35 1.39
382370 Industrial Fatty Alcohols 1,329,938 663,396 890,260 1.84 0.81 0.76

Source: Turkish Statistical Institution (TUIK)

Between Jan-Dec 2021, Turkey’s imports of oleochemicals from Malaysia grew by 44.5% to over US$117.7 million. Stearic acid (HS code – 382311) was the main import item among the oleochemicals by Turkey amounted to US$42.8 million, an increase of 64.8% between January to October 2021. It is followed by industrial monocarboxylic fatty acid (US$39.5 million) and soap in the form of NESOI (US$13.6 million). (Table 2)


Oleo chemical-based products offer a significant diversification opportunity for chemical     companies. Asia is the preferred hub, with a growing market and availability of feedstock.

Industries such as lubricants, polymers, and surfactants are likely to be impacted by replacement products based on oleochemicals. Companies that capture major portions of the value chain or spot trends early could benefit significantly in the long run. To capitalize on this opportunity, Malaysian companies can explore a business partnership with oleo chemicals-based companies or establish their footprint in Turkey which could provide them a first-mover advantage and position them as a strong integrated player.

A joint venture option could be explored, with a technology provider for setting up an oleochemical derivatives manufacturing unit close to customers in Turkey. This will help meet the unique needs of specialty chemicals customers. This is because oleo chemical- based products provide significant diversification opportunities for chemical companies. Various levers, including partnerships, acquisitions, and organic growth, can be used to establish a presence in this segment.

Prepared by: Hakan Alkan

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