When wetsuit manufacturing powerhouse Sheico tells us they’re creating a 100% neoprene free bio-based foam that has Neoprene-level standards in elasticity and durability, we listened. Find out all about their new material, named OCENA. Interview with Director of Sales, Jeff Shiue.
Can you give us a brief history of Sheico?
SHEICO is a professional manufacturer of water sports apparel. Established over 50 years ago, we developed our own neoprene know-how and used it to revolutionize the wetsuit industry through vertical integration. In the process, SHEICO became the largest wetsuits manufacturer in the world. We have developed innovative proprietary technologies for the production of wetsuits, survival suits, personal flotation devices, performance fabrics, and sports apparel. The company possesses the advantage of vertical integration over its competitors. Excellence in R&D, quality, and manufacturing capabilities allow SHEICO to respond rapidly to trends in the market and satisfy our customers’ needs.
How is the global wetsuit market performing?
From 2021 to 2022, COVID caused a global boom in outdoor sports and the wetsuit market benefitted. Currently, many brands are adjusting back to normal market demand and have high inventory levels. However, we anticipate significant upswings in the global wetsuit market starting in 2024.
Sheico are about to launch a new 100% neoprene free bio-based foam called OCENA, can you give us more detail on what’s it made from and how its produced?
OCENA is a new foam crafted by Sheico using FSC-certified natural rubber, and is completely Neoprene-free. Enriched with oyster shell powder and soybean oil, OCENA’s bio-based materials are USDA-certified. What’s more, OCENA contains recycled carbon black derived from scrap tires, utilizing Eco-Infinic pyrolysis technology. OCENA is the new gold standard for eco-friendly foam in the wetsuit industry.
What is the benefit of using soybean oil and oyster shell powder in the manufacturing process?
Soybean oil and oyster shell powder in OCENA reduce our reliance on petrochemicals. These bio-based materials are renewable and allow for long term sustainability.
Can you describe the physical performance of OCENA Foam?
Drawing upon Sheico’s 40+ years of foaming expertise, our aim is to create a natural rubber foam comparable in performance to Neoprene. With OCENA, we’ve achieved Neoprene-level standards in elasticity and durability, making it ideal for wetsuits used in surfing and diving activities.
Will OCENA be solely for use in the manufacture of wetsuits, or can its use be applied to other product lines?
Based on our current tests, OCENA is not only suitable for surfing and diving wetsuits but also ideal for water-related accessories such as hoods and gloves.
Sheico’s company social mission is ‘give back what you take from society’. Can you explain how this is incorporated when it comes to manufacturing your products and in relation to Sheico’s Charitable Foundation?
As a socially responsible enterprise that values ESG, SHEICO has been donating to charities and participating in community development for over 20 years. In recent years, we have also invested in energy-saving equipment and carried out various carbon footprint reduction activities as a way of showing our dedication to nature and society. By the end of 2022, the group obtained third-party verification of the ISO 14067 Carbon Footprint Standard and completed the first version of the ISO 14064-1 Greenhouse Gas Qauntification Verification report. Currently, we are implementing the ISO 50001 Energy Management System.
Sheico partner with a number of high-profile board sports brands, the likes of Patagonia, Billabong, and O’Neill. How do you forge these partnerships and maintain your relationships with them?
Sheico provides one-stop production services for our brand partners, encompassing knitting fabric, rubber foam, and finished goods. We offer a tailored manufacturing approach, enabling brands to create products that reflect their unique identity by using distinctive materials and techniques. In response to the growing environmental consciousness around the world, we actively develop eco-friendly materials like Aqua α (water-based laminating glue), sustainable fabrics, and OCENA, a Neoprene alternative. More importantly. Sheico ensures quality and performance by carefully controlling each step of the vertically integrated production process, allowing us to meet the standards of even the most demanding brands.