The fight against growing old boosts Croda

STRONG global demand for anti-wrinkle creams boosted sales and profits at natural chemicals firm Croda International as more people turn to science to beat the signs of ageing.

Steve Foots, chief executive of Croda, said anti-wrinkle creams are not just for women with the men over 35 market one of the fastest growing.

The Snaith based firm, one of Yorkshire’s biggest PLCs, said strong innovation is driving profits and it has seen record sales of new products.

Sales of new, patented products increased by ​over 20 per cent year-on-year​ to a record 26 per cent of group sales.

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​Croda’s chief executive Steve Foots said ​anti-wrinkle creams are not just for women. One of the fastest growing markets is men over 35.

One of Croda’s key products is Matrixyl, which is the core ingredient in Boots’ award-winning Protect & Perfect Serum​.​

Matrixyl​ recently won the “25 Years of Innovation” award, which recognises products that have had the greatest impact on the ​p​ersonal ​c​are market in the last quarter-century.

​“More and more people want to reduce the wrinkles on their face,” said Mr Foots. “Skin ageing is an ever growing trend.”

Croda is now moving into the hair care market with a new product called Apiscalp which reduces dandruff and scalp problems such as itchiness. The product, which comes from celery cells, is part of a growing pipeline of new products.

On the industrial side, Croda is working on Phase Change Materials, which can be used in air conditioning units and clothing.

Chief technology officer Keith Layden said: “They absorb heat when you’re warm and give out heat when you’re cold.”

Croda cheered shareholders with the announcement of a 7.3 per cent jump in pre-tax profits to £135.7m in the six months to June 30.

Sales rose 5.2 per cent to £564.6m and the group’s shares closed up 5.6 per cent at 2951p.

The group increased its interim dividend by 5.1 per cent, reflecting its confidence in the future.

“We are seeing broad based growth, led by research and development,” said Mr Foots.

“We have opened new laboratories around the world as we try to get closer to our customers.”

Croda increased its customer numbers by 1,000 over the past year to over 20,000 customers. They include personal care giants such as Unilever, L’Oreal and Procter & Gamble.

In addition to new product development driving growth, Croda has benefited from the improving global economic environment.

“Billions are starting to go back into the economy partly as a result of depressed fuel prices. Everyone has got more money and we hope it’s the start of a pick-up in consumer spending,” said Mr Foots.

Analyst Martin Evans at JP Morgan said: “With four per cent growth in personal care in the second quarter, up from 1.8 per cent growth in the first quarter, Croda appears firmly back on track.

“From here, the second half, although seasonally weaker, is likely to see continued progress, as Europe recovers and further progress is seen in new and protected products.”