What Is a Specialty Chemical Company?

  • March 10, 2022
  • Blog

Many businesses think of their product as special, though they’re usually considering utility or uniqueness on the market. When you require a specialty chemical to create your product–or to be your product–that is a specific need that only a specialty chemical company can address. 

We’ll show you how to proceed in such cases and why specialty chemicals play such a crucial role in industries across the globe.   

What Are Specialty Chemicals?

Like a doctor whose specialty is the appendix, or an accountant whose specialty is forensic accounting, specialty chemicals are chemicals created to serve a particular function. This is why they’re sometimes called “performance chemicals.” 

A specialty chemical may accomplish its intended task on its own, or be used in a formulation to influence the final product, which is often a high-value formulation.

Specialty Chemicals vs Commodity Chemicals

A specialty chemical generally has one or two core applications. A commodity chemical, on the other hand, may be utilized in dozens of different ways. These ‘run-of-the-mill’ chemicals are just that: common, everyday chemicals that can be and are mass produced by a wide range of chemical manufacturers.

In commodity chemicals, production qualities are virtually identical from manufacturer to manufacturer because the continuous production process is standardized and straightforward. 

In contrast, specialty chemicals are usually made in small-volume batches, in a process that is often not automated due to its complex nature. 

As a percentage of the total volume of chemicals in the marketplace, commodity chemicals vastly outweigh specialty chemicals.


Specialty Chemicals vs Commodity Chemicals: Overview

Specialty Chemicals Commodity Chemicals
Applications Specific (one or two) General
Production Volumes Small  batches Large batches
Manufacturing Process Non-automated Automated
Number of Companies with Manufacturing Capabilities Small Large
Product Variation Between Producers Large Small
Chemicals Market Share Low High

Examples of Specialty Chemicals

The types of specialty chemicals that hold the largest market share include specialty polymers, electronic chemicals, industrial and institutional cleaners, surfactants, and flavors and fragrances. 

Among these sectors, products include:

    • food additives (e.g. thickeners and stabilizers, sweeteners, colors, emulsifiers, antioxidants, preservatives)
    • adhesives and sealants (e.g. levelers, fillers, caulks, grouts, thread lockers)
    • nutraceuticals (e.g. enzymes, supplements, carotenoids)
    • catalysts (e.g. refining catalysts, chlorofluorocarbons)
    • cosmetics (e.g. formaldehyde, sulfates, parabens)
    • thermoplastics and plastic additives (e.g. polyethylene, polyphthalamides, nylon 46, polyarylamides)
    • industrial coatings (e.g. resins, antimicrobial coatings, cellulose ethers)
    • industrial cleaners (e.g. acids, alcohols, bleaches, disinfectants)
    • lubricants and oil additives (e.g. dispersants, detergents, oxidation inhibitors, antiwear agents)
    • oilfield chemicals (e.g. clay stabilizers, biocides, scale inhibitors, friction reducers, corrosion inhibitors)

What Roles Do Specialty Chemicals Manufacturers Play?

As might be expected, specialty chemical manufacturers offer more specialized services than straight toll blenders, for example. 

For one thing, they may be able to aid in the development of chemistry development, such as introducing innovative production techniques or tools into the process to make it more cost-effective. 

A specialty chemical company may also own some intellectual property in the form of proprietary chemicals they are able to manufacture and sell to you, either as a raw material or finished product. In this case, they will be able to provide you with critical insight into the marketing and technical aspects of the chemical.  

And speaking of raw materials, a specialty chemical company will often be able to source the necessary raw materials to make either your custom product or their proprietary molecule, as well as handle packaging for you.

What Do Specialty Chemicals Manufacturers Do?

So what kinds of things do specialty chemical companies do for you, specifically? Besides the actual manufacturing, here are a few types of services:

Testing and analysis

Will your specialty chemical work as intended? Your manufacturer should be able to tell you definitively based on testing the chemical composition/physical properties, trace analysis, contamination and formulation analysis, and more. This technical and analytical support will also allow you to verify your product meets or exceeds your quality, safety, and sustainability standards.

Process optimization

A fast-moving market with stiff competition can force businesses into finalizing formulations before they’ve been optimized. In post-design, a specialty chemical manufacturer can tweak your production process using process modeling, computer-aided simulation, and/or mathematical programming to maximum cost-effectiveness while maintaining or improving performance.


There is an enormous market for new specialty chemicals that offer particular advantages that meet the demands of modern consumers–whether it’s performance, environmental-friendliness, cost, applicability, or something else–and a specialty chemical manufacturer may be able to help you develop that blockbuster product.

As just one example, the paints and coatings industry has seen an explosion of new offerings such as biocide-free antimicrobial coatings, instant-set resins, fast-curing polyaspartic technology, PTFE-free wax additive alternatives that will satisfy new EU regulations, and more. 

A specialty chemical manufacturer may even be able to offer this support via cutting-edge digital technology that uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to rapidly innovate new molecules and formulations. This is a new field, but some traditional chemical companies are beginning to invest in this capability.

Finding a Specialty Chemical Company

In the U.S., you can find specialty chemical companies by searching the directory of SOCMA (Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates).

SOCMA members who are dedicated to continuously improving employee safety, community health, their environmental footprint, and security at their facility may apply for certification through the organization’s ChemStewards program.

As a specialty chemical manufacturer ourselves, Seatex is proud to be counted among SOCMA’s members.

In addition, we have completed the multi-year certification process for becoming ChemStewards certified and maintain our certification by submitting annual performance improvement metrics reports. We are also ISO 9001:2015-certified.

Learn more about Seatex’s specialty chemicals manufacturing capabilities.