Pellital were originally part of the Surfactan SA leather division but began to operate independently in 1986 when Surfactan spun-off their leather division. They still retained the support of the parent company, a family concern which recently celebrated their 40th anniversary.

Pellital’s main priority was the export market and they began to target South America, followed by Central America. However, five years ago, they began to focus on the Chinese market and, today, they have a representative and twenty agents who have achieved interesting levels of sales which are growing each year.

Although initially the Argentinian market was of marginal importance to the company, its importance has increased over time. ‘In the first five years, we sold very little in the local market and we concentrated on growing abroad. However, this trend is reversing and our participation in the local market is increasing.

‘Pellital SA has a significant annual growth in sales in both domestic and foreign markets, where it has a growing reputation as a reliable supplier of speciality chemicals for tanneries’, explains Gutierrez.

‘We began very modestly in the Chinese market but we are currently working with important companies which produce 3,000 leathers per day and sales are focused mostly on beamhouse products. We work intensively and our sales increase every year. Our technicians carry out annual visits to China and have already gathered a significant knowledge of the leather market there. In particular, our unhairing and tanning products have been successful in China although sales of auxiliaries and dyes are now also increasing.’

Pellital’s strength is the development of products for unhairing – hairsave systems which do not destroy the hair and cause little pollution – and tanning. In this field, the company are researching new products with minimal environmental impact. ‘At the moment we are working with chrome free or, to be more precise, metal free. Currently, only the automotive industry is requesting this type of leather. But there are strong indications that by the year 2010, the footwear sector will also be experiencing a growing demand’, maintains Gutierrez.

Furthermore, the company developed a process called Vetacrom, which consists of a chrome tanning process, but which avoids a prior pickling stage, replacing it with use of auxiliaries which moderate the chrome fixation and also avoid the use of sulfuric acid.

Gutierrez says this is a particularly suitable process for footwear leathers. ‘It is a novel process which is being mainly used by footwear leather manufacturers as it produces very firm leathers. In Latin America where use of sulfuric acid is restricted, the process is proving very popular.’

The company are also working on a process to reuse water from the unhairing process, by means of a primary chemical treatment, which takes just a few hours. In this way, it is possible to reduce the volumes of clean water used for the unhairing process, thus reducing the impact on the environment.

In addition to the development and manufacture of specialities, around eight years ago Pellital began to work as representatives of the German company Münzing Chemie. After two years of getting to know each other, they became licensees of their products and for the past six years they have been manufacturing some of the products under licence in Argentina. They also maintain a stock of their products which have been made in Germany.

Another reason for celebration is that the company have recently been made representatives of Dystar in Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Chile and Peru. Dyestar, also of Germany, are producers of dyes for the textile industry and have developed metal-free dyes for the leather industry. They have production plants in Germany, Indonesia, India, Portugal, China and Brazil. Dystar acquired German companies Rotta and Heim and are currently offering tanners a full range of leather finishing products.

In January 2006, they began production of finishing products at their Brazilian plant, which will enable Pelltal to enter the finishing products market with high quality products and competitive prices.

Pellital are currently closing a deal with the Danish company Novozymes, manufacturers of enzyme products. ‘This opens doors for us, because the enzyme is a product with a great future in the production of leather with low pollution levels. The unhairing process with enzymatic assistance is becoming more and more honed and this will mean less polluted waste waters’, explains Gutierrez.

The Surfactan-Pellitan group have five plants with different functions. Production of specialities for leather is carried out in plant number 2. The new plant 5 contains the raw materials store, manufactured goods, despatch, offices and an ample leather laboratory. These installations have a covered area of some 6,000 sq m on a total surface area of 8,000 sq m.

The laboratory’s five test drums are usable with various types of leathers. ‘We have a drum in which we can carry out unhairing of 10-12 whole bovine hides, always trying to the reduce pollution and looking for shorter, more economic processes which use less water.

‘We have installed a drum so we can unhair between 15-20 bovine or small skins – sheep, goat. We also have a tanning drum in which we can process up to fifteen whole bovine hides, developing new chrome and chrome-free tannages. We also have three retanning drums in which we can process whole bovine hides. We have installed a mini tannery which will be at the service of our clients enabling them to carry out tests on interesting scales.’

The laboratory includes toggling equipment for drying leathers, vacuum, staking machine, splitting machine and shaving machine. Trials of new products are carried out and the company also receive requests from their clients to update processes which are then carried out on an industrial scale. Technicians from Pellital’s representatives in Latin America attend annual seminars to update them on the latest processes.

Pellital’s effluent treatment plant has been designed to recover the wastewaters from the unhairing, tanning, retanning processes separately. The waters are taken through separate pipes to the treatment plant and a hair filter has been connected to the unhairing drum. After a primary treatment, where the pollution levels are significantly reduced, the waters are homogenised, mixed and undergo a secondary biological treatment. At the end of the process, the waters comply perfectly with the parameters specified by the health authorities.

The company plan to offer tanneries a range of products for water treatment. ‘We have been analysing proposals from Italian groups regarding their water treatment methods and the company’s engineers have designed the plant with the advice and collaboration of INTI (Instituto Nacional de Technologia Industrial).

‘The secret of our having conquered a good proportion of the market is based on the strong technical service we offer. We have a team of young technicians visiting and assisting our clients. Our technicians also participate constantly in training courses as well as exhibitions, fairs and congresses, both in Argentina and abroad’, concludes Horacio Gutierrez.