06 / 03 / 2023

Interview II – 100 Years of Oropal



We continue with our series of interviews with employees, suppliers, and clients of Irurena Group to commemorate the 100 years of OROPAL. This time, it’s the turn of Pablo Villar and Mikel Larrañaga, Research and Development technicians.

With these two, we delve into the evolution of the brand from the perspective of production and raw materials. They explain how “the manufacturing of paints has ceased to be a process driven by improvisation to become a controlled and precise science.”

The current formulas are much more complex. They combine resins, solvents, and are filled with additives to assist in production and prevent defects. This complexity in their elaboration allows for minimizing risks for users, but above all, reducing environmental impact. Not in vain, OROPAL stands out among brands with the most products in the market bearing the Ecolabel, an international label certifying maximum performance and sustainable development.


Pablo and Mikel look to the future with the self-imposed challenge of being able to leave a slightly better company for those who come after, perfectly adapted to the times and with all the possible solidity to fulfill, at the very least, another 100 years.

Pablo Villar. Técnico I+D de Oropal para Irurena Group.


– How has OROPAL evolved from its origins to today?

Pablo: Firstly, the manufacturing of paints has transitioned from being a virtually artisanal process, carried out in a small workshop, to a much more automated production system with high production capacities, conducted in industrial facilities expressly prepared for this purpose.

Raw materials have also evolved from those initial oils and natural resins to the current resins, of which there is a wide variety with practically exclusive properties for each use.

In summarizing it in some way, I would say that over all these years, the manufacturing of paints has shifted from being a process driven by improvisation to becoming a controlled and precise science.

 Mikel Larrañaga. Técnico de I+D de Oropal para Irurena Group

Mikel: In order to reach 100 years in such a competitive industry, there is no choice but to be able to evolve at the pace of society, adapting to technological, scientific, cultural, and regulatory changes. And being capable at all times of providing satisfactory solutions to the demands of each era.

Just think about what the world was like 100 years ago: polymers, which are now the basis of paints, were in a completely incipient phase, barely known and therefore not available as raw materials; manufacturing techniques were entirely different; social awareness regarding environmental matters was practically nonexistent…

Today, while it is possible to generate resins and additives tailored to specific needs thanks to the scientific development that occurred during the 20th century, the demands are much higher. Substances are much more regulated, so while the range of possibilities for providing specialized solutions has increased, so have the formulation challenges.

In essence, times have changed a lot in these 100 years, and at all times, OROPAL has known how to adapt to these changes, incorporating the materials, technology, and knowledge necessary to offer the products that society demanded.

– What innovation did OROPAL introduce to the paint market?

P: I believe that the versatility, flexibility, and quick response provided by a brand like OROPAL are key to staying in the market for so many years.

M: At all times, OROPAL has been attentive to technological developments, new raw materials… so it has always been at the forefront. Which is, without a doubt, one of the keys to remaining active for 100 years in an industry like this.

– What features did OROPAL paints have, and what do they have now?

P: Fortunately, despite the gray hair, I am still young enough not to remember the paints made 80 years ago. I remember seeing a black-covered notebook containing formulas from the 1940s, which we would now define as the ‘know-how’ of OROPAL from that era.

In the majority of these formulas, basically, the same three components were combined to a greater or lesser extent: linseed oil or standoil, zinc oxide (Litopon), and turpentine. To a lesser extent, titanium dioxide and also chromium greens or mercury oxides appeared. Each formula had at most 5 components.

Now the formulas are much more complex. They combine resins, solvents, and are filled with additives to assist in production and prevent defects. This allows meeting the demands of an increasingly demanding sector in terms of paint performance and risks. Now the hardness, gloss, and resistance of paints are not assumed; they must be based on international standards and certified by accredited technological centers.

M: It is clear that raw materials and the method of production greatly influenced the type of products that could be developed in the early days of OROPAL. They were much more polluting and simple products, with more limited performance, and oriented towards a more local market since their stability would also be worse.

Today, however, OROPAL offers cutting-edge products, tailored to various uses, certified through third-party tests, with a wide range of sustainable products that provide the same or better performance with less product consumption. As a result, these are products that extend the life of the materials they protect and reduce their environmental impacts.


Pablo Villar trabajando

– What does it mean for you to work for a brand with 100 years of history?

P: In a way, it is both pride and responsibility at the same time. I want to believe that if the company is still alive after 100 years, it’s because things have been done right, and it’s our duty to continue doing them well. The company has overcome a war, the post-war period, several crises, and I hope that, if not another hundred years, which is a lot to say, it will last at least until my retirement.

M: Personally, you do feel the responsibility to value all the work developed over so many years by so many people and be able to give it continuity. In that sense, looking to the future, a very motivating challenge appears before us to be able to leave a slightly better company for those who come after, perfectly adapted to the times and with all the possible solidity to fulfill, at the very least, another 100 years.

– What did it mean for Irurena Group to continue with the commercialization of OROPAL, taking charge of the brand?

P: I believe that Irurena Group has fully embraced the OROPAL brand since its acquisition in 2015, giving it a more dynamic and modern feel. At that time, PINTURAS OROPAL was a family-owned business without generational succession, led by a manager and a sales director on the verge of retirement.

From my perspective, the acquisition had the same effect as applying a defibrillator to someone whose vital signs were failing. This injection of energy managed, not without a lot of hard work and effort from everyone, to reverse the downward trend that the company had been experiencing since the 2008 crisis and make it rebound, infusing it with the spirit of a younger company.

M: Joining Irurena Group brought the solidity of its structure, synergies in both knowledge and raw materials, which allowed the optimization of formulas and facilitated the adaptation that such mergers generate from the very beginning.

Various strategies and projects have emerged, such as the development of new products, new designs and catalogs, product reformulations optimizing the management of raw materials, product certifications, collaboration with technological centers…

In essence, Irurena Group revitalized the brand to be able to improve the response to customer demands, keeping us at the forefront of the industry and increasingly guiding us towards a more sustainable future.


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