Distelhorst was the first-ever speaker on the important U.S. market at this, the most important stone show in Latin America.
The U.S. market for dimension stone, currently at $12 billion annually, is growing about eight percent a year and despite competition from so-called engineered stone products will continue that pace in the foreseeable future according to Gary Distelhorst, executive vice president of the Marble Institute of America, who addressed the Vitoria 2006 Stone Fair in Brazil, February 14-17.
That prospect was of particular interest to Brazil, since the country leads in exports of granite to the United States. In 2004, Brazil supplied 596,079 metric tons of granite to the U.S., followed by India, Italy and China in that order. Brazil’s total accounted for 33.7 percent of exports of granite to the U.S.
According to data supplied to the Marble Institute of America by the organization’s consulting economists at the Hudson Economics Group, the effective cost per ton FOB the factory from Brazil was $449.50 -- lower than any of the four countries except India, he said.
Distelhorst said global issues facing the industry included industry and product branding, quality assurances, certifying country of origin, standardized nomenclature of stone, renewable mining/quarrying practices as well as inroads made by engineered stone into the U.S. residential market.
“Today, we are beginning to see market pressure from manufacturers of engineered stone and other manmade surfaces,” he explained.
One promotional answer to that challenge may be branding of the industry in the next decade. He said that product branding, like industry branding, needs to be addressed if the consumer is to understand the differences between natural stone and other surface materials.
Distelhorst told the attendees that addressing these issues is going to require a good deal of international cooperation and thought. He said MIA is anxious to work with the Brazilians and other groups in successfully implementing programs and practices that are understandable and represent value-added to the consumer.