Other new players are running with razor-thin profit margins in an attempt to gain market share.
Sta-Care introduced its Vision solid surface product at SSIE with a twist. The material is available in standard '-in. thickness, but with a flexible size program, with varying lengths and widths, in an effort to avoid material waste and cut costs.
E-Stone gains momentum. Several manufacturers said solid surface is much more of a commodity today and has tighter price margins because of increased competition. So one area that they seem to be moving in that gets them away from commodity pricing is engineered stone, which is experiencing growth in high-end residential applications.
Quartz surfacing was a very hot ticket at this year's show. Hanwha and Formica are two solid surface manufacturers that have recently thrown down the e-stone gauntlet, and LG HI-MACS is not far behind, with plans to release a line of quartz surfacing by year's end.
Hanwha's Kevin Park, vice president of sales and marketing, said, "Because solid surface has become more of a commodity, we are focusing on our line of HanStone."
He recalled one customer that last year would not even consider getting involved in e-stone and this year, like many shops, is fabricating plenty of it. Ed Wright, president of INcounters, a large Texas fabrication shop, said a few years ago he was a loud opponent of engineered stone and now it is 70 percent of his business.
Numerous show attendees said their shops have recently expanded into stone, or they are investigating the possibilities of doing so. What's more, a number of attendees who don't fabricate stone said they are templating and installing countertops for stone fabricators so they don't have to turn away business.
Tony Basilio, with DuPont Surfaces, said the company is even assisting its Corian fabricators that want to ad Zodiaq to their offerings.
Like solid surface material, quartz surfacing also faces price pressures, which are compounded by availability problems.