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Waxes: Types, Major Markets, Demand and Supply

Monday, December 23, 2013

Waxes are a class of chemical compounds that are plastic (malleable) near ambient temperatures. They are also a type of lipid. They melt above 45 °C (113 °F) to give a low viscosity liquid. Waxes are insoluble in water but soluble in organic, nonpolar solvents. All waxes are organic compounds, both synthetic and naturally occurring and consist of long alkyl chains. Natural waxes are typically esters of fatty acids and long chain alcohols. Synthetic waxes are long-chain hydrocarbons lacking functional groups.

Wax Properties

·         Solid at ambient temperature

·         Liquid at higher temperatures, characterized by melting points

·         Insoluble in water, repels water

Type of Waxes

Petroleum waxes: Paraffin waxes and Microcrystalline waxes

Mineral waxes: Lignite, Montan waxes, Peat and Ozocerite

Animalwaxes: Beeswax, Lanolin and Tallow

Vegetable waxes: Carnauba, Candelilla and Soy

Synthetic waxes: Fatty acid amide waxes, Polyolefin waxes, Fischer-Tropsch waxes, Polar synthetic waxes


Waxes are mainly consumed industrially as components of complex formulations, often for coatings. The main use of polyethylene and polypropylene waxes is in the formulation of colourants for plastics. Waxes confer matting effects and wear resistance to paints. Polyethylene waxes are incorporated into inks in the form of dispersions to decrease friction. They are also used as slip agents, e.g. in furniture, and corrosion resistance.


Waxes and hard fats such as tallow are used in making candles, used for lighting and decoration.

Wood Products

Waxes are used as finishes and coatings for wood products. Some waxes are food-safe and are used to coat wooden cutting boards and other items that come into contact with food. Beeswax is used as a lubricant on drawer slides where wood to wood contact occurs.

Other Uses

Waxes are used to make wax paper, impregnating and coating paper and card to waterproof it or make it resistant to staining, or to modify its surface properties. Waxes are used in shoe polishes, wood polishes, and automotive polishes, as mold release agents in mold making, as a coating for many cheeses, and to waterproof leather and fabric.

Wax with colorful pigments added is used as a medium in encaustic painting, and is used in the manufacture of crayons and colored pencils. Carbon paper, used for making duplicate typewritten documents was coated with carbon black suspended in wax, typically montan wax. Lipstick and mascara are blends of various fats and waxes colored with pigments, and both beeswax and lanolin are used in other cosmetics. Ski wax is used in skiing and snowboarding. Beeswax or coloured synthetic wax is used to decorate Easter eggs in Ukraine, Poland and the Czech Republic. Paraffin wax is used in making chocolate covered bon-bons. Wax is also used in wax bullets, which are used as simulation aids.

Major Wax Market

Markets for wax are diverse, ranging from simple fuel in manufactured fire logs and candles, to applications such as adhesives, anti-oxidation agents in tires, and sizing in construction materials, to even more exotic uses in cosmetics and foods. Some Major Wax Market are-

Building materials: Wax is added as a water repellent in the production of wood-based manufactured composite boards such as particle board, medium density, oriented strand and other board products.

Candles: One of the oldest uses of wax. Candles are the fastest growing segment of the wax market with new decorative and therapeutic uses.

Chlorinated Paraffins: The largest application for chlorinated paraffins is as a plasticiser and flame-retardant in flexible PVC. It is used as an extreme pressure-additive for metalworking fluids and other lubricants.

Corrugated board: Food-grade wax is applied to corrugated containers in order to provide strength and waterproofing for food packaging during transportation.

Coatings: Wax is used to form a coating that allows oxygen to pass but not water; generating numerous applications in such diverse areas as cosmetics, food, packaging, furniture, time release properties, etc.

Flexible packaging: Food-grade waxes and wax blends are used in laminating compounds and surface coatings to provide strength, to waterproofing, and improve appearance and moisture-vapor transmission.

Cosmetics and Pharmaceuticals: Fully-refined wax is non-toxic, and many products are approved for direct use in food and personal care formulations. Waxes are used in the cosmetic industry in products such as lipstick, mascara, moisturizing creams and sun block.

Chewing gum: Chewing gum base is a compound of elastomers, resin and food-grade wax to which other materials are added to produce chewing gum. Hard, high melt-point waxes are used in this application, including microcrystalline and candelilla waxes.

Crayons: Food grade wax provides the solid structure for a crayon and, since most crayon users are young children, its non-toxic characteristics are critical.

Fire logs: A modern convenience product, wax acts as both a binder and as fuel.

Food: Food grade wax is used to cover certain types of cheese that would dehydrate if not properly protected. It is sprayed on citrus and other fruit to protect from oxidation and enhance appearance, and in meat and bone wraps.

Hot Melt Adhesives: Waxes are present in most hot melt adhesive formulations to control the viscosity of the adhesive and contribute to open time, flexibility and elongation.

Inks: Graphical printing inks include wax in their formulation as an anti-scuff agent.

Investment Casting: In the "lost wax" method of casting jewelry, and other industrial products, a wax model of the piece is made and used to create a clay mold. The wax is melted out and the clay is used to cast the final piece.

Polishes: The application of waxes to wooden floors to improve their appearance and provide protection dates back several hundred years. It serves to retard the penetration of air and moisture, thereby increasing the life of the flooring material as well as preventing abrasion by surface grit.

PVC: Two different lubricants are used in the manufacture of polyvinyl chloride thermoplastic: internal and external; and two different types of wax are used in the lubricants. Internal lubricants are formulated to help PVC flow in the manufacturing process by forming a solution with PVC. External lubricants are not soluble in PVC and can produce a film between the PVC and its extrusion equipment.

Tire and Rubber: Wax is a vital component in rubber tire formulations and is added for protection from atmospheric ozone that will "dry" unprotected rubber, causing cracking that compromises the strength of the tire. Wax creates a physical barrier between the tire surface and the atmosphere.

Demand and Supply

The global wax market continues to be transformed. Synthetic waxes are growing rapidly, supplanting petroleum waxes which enjoy a dominant, but declining market share. Hydrogenated and natural vegetable waxes are also making inroads. The global wax supply is growing at a Compounded Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 0.7%. Petroleum waxes represent 73% of global supply. Synthetic waxes global market share increased to 13%, riding on eroding petroleum wax supplies and growing Fischer-Tropsch and polyethylene wax capacities. On the demand side, candles represent 46% of global wax consumption. An estimated 80% of candles used today are for decorative or religious purposes. Reduced petroleum wax supplies have created a greater demand for synthetic and vegetable waxes making them the fastest‐growing segments within the waxes market. Renewable alternatives to wax are enjoying new opportunities as a result of a raft of factors. In the candle market, where 50% of the global wax supply is being consumed, companies are moving to vegetable-based materials such as soybean oil, palm oil, beeswax, and even tallow. Vegetable-based waxes account for only 2% of global wax demand, and animal-based waxes 1%. Petroleum-based waxes account for 87% of demand, while synthetic waxes hold 10% of the market.

As the global supply of petroleum wax shrinks and the supply of other waxes, including vegetable and synthetic waxes increases, the relative prices of these substitute waxes continue to reflect the relative performance benefits or cost-of-usage of these waxes in comparison to petroleum wax.

Regional supplies of waxes do not conform to regional demands, leading to significant movement of wax across the world. A net wax surplus of more than 1,500 million lbs came from Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. Despite its decreasing market share, petroleum wax still accounts for approximately 97% of both imports and exports.

Future Markets

The global waxes market will be valued around US$13.5 billion by 2018, with the industry set to be primarily driven by the introduction of various synthetic formulations, rising demand from end-use segments, and the successful adoption of gas-to-liquid (GTL) technology, will provide high-quality wax at a low cost.

Demand within the global waxes market reached an estimated 9,590 million lbs in 2010. Mineral waxes (including petroleum) account for an estimated 85% of this global demand, with synthetic waxes accounting for 11% and animal and vegetable waxes, accounting for 4%. Waxes are used in thousands of applications around the world, with candles being the predominant application on a global basis. Candles are estimated to account for 43% of wax consumption. Global wax production is driven by GTL technology, which converts natural gases into liquid fuels. The technology is capable of commoditising the wax market by providing high-quality wax at a low cost.

Some Manufacturers of Wax Products

Accurate Industrial Products

Indian Wax Industries



Kraycol Stationary Pvt. Ltd.

Major Global Manufacturers of Wax Products

Foncepi  Comercial  Exportadora


Dow Corning

Source: NPCS Team

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