CANDID CONVERSATIONS BETWEEN VCPN’S ED DE GENNARO AND LEADING OPTICAL EXECUTIVES ABOUT THEIR PRODUCT STRATEGIES.
Christine Camsuzou was recruited to PPG Industries, Inc. from her business school (E.S.C.A.E) in Pau, France. Before becoming General Manager for the company’s Optical Materials division, Christine held 11 different assignments in functions as diverse as finance, strategic development, acquisitions, and quality, alternating her residence between Europe and North America during her 24-year tenure with PPG. Here, Christine talks about the prevalence of PPG’s materials.
Ed De Gennaro: Why has CR-39® material and similar products been successful for so long?
Christine Camsuzou: All the materials in this category, which we call ADC (allyl diglycol carbonate), provide a fine balance of properties at a good price. For example, they are lighter than glass without sacrificing the optical quality. Even with its 1.498 index, our research indicates that they are suitable for about 80% of prescriptions worldwide.
ADC materials are durable and impact resistant. Though they do not meet some industrial safety standards like the ANSI Z-87.1, they are largely strong materials with anti-scratch properties. Surprisingly, half the ADC lenses in the U.S. are sold without any anti-scratch coating, which proves the material has inherent anti-scratch properties.
As a producer of optical materials, PPG provides an attractive price to our casters in spite of a lot of turmoil in the chemical industry. Our customers, the lens casters, have effectively produced good lenses at a good price. These things have contributed to ADC’s lengthy success.
EDG: What is the worldwide market share for ADC lenses?
CC: As a share of all plastic materials worldwide, ADC represented 50% in 2009. In the U.S., the share was a little lower, about 40%. In Europe and South America, depending on the country, shares were from 65% to 80%. In Asia, we also saw it at 40%. Japan has the lowest usage. One reason for this is because Japan prefers higher-index materials to thin and lighten the lenses because its population has more myopia than other countries.
EDG: What’s driving the growth of Trivex® lens material?
CC: Rimless was the initial niche for Trivex material, especially in the U.S. where rimless was quite popular, but a lot of today’s growth in Europe and the U.S. is due to its weight. According to The Vision Council studies, consumers report their greatest expectation is for light, comfortable eyewear. Trivex is the lightest Rxable material in the marketplace so it meets this expectation nicely.
On the strength side, many people enjoy sports and want light but strong eyewear, so the strength and durability of Trivex material has contributed to its growth. These qualities make it ideal for building a children’s eyewear program too. Other growth categories for Trivex material are digital free-form progressive lenses and Trivex material Transitions® lenses.
In addition, labs have been quite pleased with the material because it’s also chemically resistant. It doesn’t react to acetone like some other materials, so labs know that once the eyewear is mounted with Trivex, there will be no returns for material issues.
EDG: Why has PPG started advertising NXT® lenses by saying “NXT lenses made from Trivex material”?
CC: NXT is a sun lens and it’s made with Trivex material. There are other brand name lenses made with Trivex material such as Phoenix™ or Trilogy® lenses. Phoenix is the brand name of the lenses made with Trivex material manufactured and marketed by HOYA VISION CARE, North America. Similarly, NXT is a sun lens brand made with Trivex material. That’s why we’re positioning it this way.
NXT is also a brand of eyewear frames now being made using Trivex material. It’s a great platform for eyewear because of all its properties.
EDG: What might we expect from PPG in the next few years?
CC: We feel that the trend of eyecare professionals (ECPs) going to higher-indices materials is not going to continue because the tradeoffs for higher-index materials are not worth launching new generations. Because of this, we need to offer better materials within the indices that are really needed in the marketplace, which provides a lot of opportunities for Trivex material to develop further.
Education is an important focus for this effort because it’s not made clear to patients that if they buy a high-index lens they likely will be trading off on the weight, the optical clarity, or the impact resistance. This provides greater opportunities for the Trivex material platform since none of those things are sacrificed with Trivex.
A lot of our development is being built around the Trivex material technology platform and that’s why you’ve seen more promotion and technical development on the NXT side. For example, consumers have tried and like polarized lenses so we’ve been investing in different ways of polarizing NXT lenses. NXT as a frame material is another platform we are promoting because of its lightness, along with its unbreakable and chemical performance.