OXIPRO Visits Major Greek Detergent Producer – Rolco

Geared up with safety shoes, vests and goggles, a group of OXIPRO scientists were welcomed inside Rolco’s production facilities outside Athens to learn how enzymes are used in environmentally friendly detergents.



The Greek detergent producer Rolco is a partner in the EU-funded project OXIPRO and interested in novel enzyme-based formulations to promote more sustainable homecare products. As part of OXIPRO’s annual meeting this spring in Athens, Rolco invited project participants for a visit to their 22,410 m2 factory.


“It was an absolute pleasure to welcome such a passionate and knowledgeable team to our ROLCO site. The energy and commitment of everyone involved were truly inspiring. Witnessing the convergence of brilliant minds dedicated to driving forward innovation in enzyme production and sustainability was a highlight for us”, says Hector Souroulidis, Chief Commercial Officer at Rolco.


Small business can make a change in a large detergent market

Rolco is a family-owned detergent producer located just 20 min outside Athens, employing over 220 people. The business has been around for close to 70 years and is currently run by the third-generation owner.


Rolco brands detergent and household cleaning products in the Greek and Baltic regions, with several niche products to support environmentally friendly cleaning and laundering. Although it is the largest homecare detergent manufacturer in Greece, they are a relatively small actor in the global market, which is dominated by major players such as US-based Procter & Gamble, and Unilever from the UK.


According to AISE[1], the international association for soaps, detergents and maintenance products, the total market value of the household care and professional cleaning and hygiene sector in Europe was estimated at €42,8 billion in 2022. It is a substantial contributor to the European economy and supports 95,000 direct jobs across 700 manufacturing facilities.


Rolco has earned a share of 10 % in the Greek market for detergents. This is noteworthy given this regional market’s substantial size, exceeding €400 million in 2023. Rolco’s success can be attributed to its strong focus on innovation, which it has prioritized to carve out its position in the competitive landscape, and the company ethos: ‘Hire for attitude: Train for skill’.


Enzymes as the competitive edge

In 1956, Rolco introduced the first industrial detergent to the Greek market: a handwash laundry powder branded as ROL. Eight years later they launched the first dishwashing liquid in Greece. In 1971, Rolco brought the first biodegradable detergent to the market. Continuing their pioneering spirit, in 2008 they introduced MyPlanet, the first eco-brand in the Greek retail market. More recently, Rolco has developed fast-acting surface disinfectants and were among the first European companies to offer homecare products with probiotics.


Today, Rolco manufactures over 200 different laundry and homecare products, including surface cleaners, laundry detergents, fabric conditioners, and dishwashing liquids. Rolco continues to innovate with new detergent formulae, and introducing new sustainable, plant-based ingredients and novel raw materials. Some of their newest raw materials include enzymes and enzyme blends selected for their eco-friendly performance combined with effective hygienisation. This has led to a recent launch of more innovative products such as enzyme formulations in hand dishwashing liquids.


Detergent enzymes as a market commodity

The use of enzymes in detergents constitutes the largest segment of the global market for industrial enzymes, and is expected to grow faster at a CAGR of 4,2 % to 2032, according to Expert Market Research[2]. The detergent enzyme market is today dominated by actors in the US and Europe.


Danish enzyme maker and OXIPRO partner, Novonesis, has a near-50% market share. According to them[3], hydrolytic enzymes are the most used enzyme in dishwasher detergents and as laundry detergents in tablet, powdered and liquid formats. This includes proteases, amylases and lipases that remove proteinaceous, starch and fatty stains, respectively. Stain-removing enzymes such as cellulases, also remove damaged organic fibers and help to soften fabric.


Unmet enzyme needs in the detergent market

One of the unmet needs of the homecare industry where Rolco operates in is hygiene delivered at low temperatures and without the use of harsh chemicals. To address this need, partners in the OXIPRO project are investigating new oxidizing enzymes for laundry products.


Some oxidoreductases are currently used in detergents, but to a much smaller extent. Some of these are used as enzymatic bleaching system. These include heme-containing peroxidase for bleaching coloured dyes and stains and inhibiting dye transfer between fabrics.


LEITAT leverages the power of oxidoreductases to produce nature-derived disinfecting molecules from currently used detergent ingredients. Glycerol, a common humectant used for its fabric softening properties, can be transformed into hydrogen peroxide, a reactive molecule that inactivates microorganisms releasing water and oxygen as a result. This process can take place at 30 degrees, allowing not only a reduction in polluting chemicals, but also in power usage.


Eco-system for detergent innovation

At Rolco’s facility, the OXIPRO team was welcomed by the third-generation owner and CCO Hector Souroulidis. He presented the mindset and innovation strategies at Rolco, and clearly demonstrated how research and development has spiralled their product development and market position.


Rolco aims to be a one-stop-shop for their consumers, offering solutions on demands, and have a quick turnaround time in development of new products. One of their competitive advantages is the capacity to do all the development, production, quality control and packaging under one roof.


Partnering with research institutions is essential to Rolco’s innovation strategy. In OXIPRO, Rolco teams up with highly skilled biochemists, technology developers, and consumer experts, to co-develop solutions and leverage their next generation products in the eco-friendly brands.


Learning from bottle-openers and the pandemic

Directly and indirectly, household care, professional cleaning and hygiene products facilitate the modern lifestyles of the 448 million EU citizens every day. In the wake of COVID-19 and the measures taken by government authorities, detergents have witnessed a rise in demand also due to focus on hygiene.


“Understanding the needs and expectation of consumers is key to succeed with new product launches”, says Principal Researcher Silvia Vílchez Maldonado from the fast-moving consumer goods division of LEITAT who is specialized in R&D in Detergency and Cosmetics sectors.


Using focus groups Rolco has learnt what the Greek consumers are expecting from products. In Greece, efficacy of products is the single most important choice criteria of detergent products. It is therefore evident that environmental friendliness cannot compromise the cleaning performance of washing products.


For consumers in the Greek region, the aromas of detergents matter more than in other European regions. This consumer group, the so-called ‘bottle openers’, are appreciating brands with microencapsulated aroma formulas that keep textiles refreshed all day. Price also matters, but it is evident that consumers are willing to pay more for added value, such as eco-friendly or healthy products.


Such knowledge about consumer concerns and needs are important focal points also for research and development, as it shapes the boundaries of innovation. This aligns well with the OXIPRO model, which engages an ecosystem of actors encompass broad knowledge along the entire value chain to ensure that the enzyme solutions that are developed fit to the societal expectations.


Understanding the industrial process is key for new bio-solutions

Finally, after being introduced to the Rolco history, product innovations and strategies, the production manager Sofoklis Tsatiris guided the group of scientists through the premises to demonstrate the real-life application of enzymes in their business line. OXIPRO visitors could see with their own eyes the blending of surfactants, dosing of enzymes, formulation of the final detergent, filling, labelling, and packaging of detergents.



“Seeing how a factory works with enzymes helps us design better solutions that can be taken up by the market, and not just left as a lab project”, says OXIPRO Coordinator Gro Bjerga from NORCE Norwegian Research Centre.


In addition to learning about the detergent production, the team also got an insight into the strict quality controls that are set up at multiple stages during the process to ensure evenly prepared products.



“Hopefully OXIPRO’s new enzyme solutions will be available for detergents in a grocery store near you in the future, providing you performance and great value always under the spectrum of a modern eco-friendly lifestyle”, says CCO Hector Souroulidis


This significant visit was also reported in the Greek national media .


[1] https://www.aise.eu/

[2] https://www.expertmarketresearch.com/reports/detergent-grade-enzymes-market

[3] https://biosolutions.novozymes.com/en/dish/insights/article/beginners-guide-enzymes-detergents

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