The marble and ceramics industry is a large and profitable sector in the Middle East and North Africa as its luxurious finishes and surfaces appeal to the general preference for plush materials among Arab consumers.
RAK Ceramics, a Ras Al Khaimah-based $1bn global conglomerate that supplies to over 160 countries, is a beaming example of the success that working in the region’s ceramics sector can lead to.
According to Chandni Khurana, senior PR and marketing executive, RAK Ceramics, the manufacturer has a global annual production output of 117 million square metres of ceramic and porcelain tiles, 4.6 million pieces of bath ware and 24 million pieces of tableware.
Khurana adds: “As the market has evolved over the years, tiling is not only considered a safe, durable option but also something that offers multiple aesthetic opportunities. Tiles have invaded our living space with options in various sizes, colours, textures and matching decors to enhance the look of the space.”
So where is the ever popular marble and ceramics industry headed? And what trends are currently prevailing in the growing sector? CID speaks to regional professionals about the future of the rapidly expanding industry. According to Khurana prevailing trends in the ceramics and marble industry are becoming more nature-oriented.
She says: “There is a recent trend to use the interiors inspired by nature, so interiors made of wood, natural stone and marble are all popular choices.
Most of the architects and designers are leaning towards wall-and-floor designs which are closer to nature, too. The use of natural looking tiles is increasing in comparison to natural materials like wood and natural stones, as they are eco-friendly and easy to maintain.”
Colour choices are also reflecting the trend as they are focusing on earthy palettes that include brown, green and grey as inspired by natural stone.
Mohammed Elshamy, the managing director of Arteco Ceramics, a leading UAE supplier of high quality interior products and building materials, agrees that the industry is moving toward nature. He adds: “Natural stone crystal quartz and quartzite is a rapidly growing trend in the building materials and interiors industry.”
Elshamy also points out that lighting the material from behind is quickly approaching the trends list. He notes: “This growing trend for crystal quartz is due to its ability to enhance wall décor as it can also be back-lit, allowing for even greater interior design effects.
There are actually many ways that crystal quartz can be installed to be a central feature in the home or office; back-lighting creates a very nice effect and we are currently noticing this trend in the UAE market. It is also gaining ground as furniture for its use for table tops, counter tops and even sofas.”
Every expert that CID spoke to agrees on the material’s advantages. A spokesperson from Turkish Ceramics Promotion Group, which was established to communicate the quality of Turkish ceramic tiles on a global scale, noted that ceramic tiles carry a number of benefits including durability, hygiene and aesthetic—which, all together lead to desirable end products.
A statement from the Turkish Ceramics Promotion Group states that “today, ceramics products are being used in various shapes and forms at different locations for different purposes due to these advantageous practicalities.”
According to Ali Maarrawi, general manager Middle East, Consentino, ceramics and marble are great choices for exterior and interior flooring, wall cladding and vanities. He adds that while current trends are pointing toward nature-inspired creations, they’re also centred on thin tiles and plain colours, as well as replicating textures and finishes of other materials like wood and leather.
So how are ceramics and marble being treated to imitate other materials? Well Khurana says: “Digital printing technology has certainly taken the ceramic tile industry to a whole new level of competitiveness.
Customers are now spoiled for the widest range of choices for designs that range from the sublime to the outrageously imaginative. In general, digital printing technology has helped create a surge in demand for designs and effects that are closer to natural elements like wood, marbles and stones.”
The new printing technology, which can print on any material, is ideal for creating such designs and effects because of its ability to work in high-definition print quality and maintain print consistency, explains Khurana.
He further adds that tile manufacturers will also benefit from the enhanced productivity and efficiency of operations as they transition to the digital printing technology.
Currently, the various experts are sourcing their material from different regions. While RAK Ceramics supplies from the UAE, Europe, Far-East and Asia, Consentino sources its quartz from Spain as the Spanish company owns the quarries there. Arteco Ceramics transports its high quality ceramics from Brazil and the Turkish Ceramics Promotion Group is working to promote its local material.
Khurana says: “A significant percentage of clay and limestone raw materials are locally sourced in Ras Al Khaimah, which creates significant cost savings that are passed on to customers as it becomes more cost effective to manufacture the products and there is less inventory to be maintained with the source just nearby. Locally sourced clay and limestone are used as major raw materials for tile production.”
The successful market is also set to see massive growth. The region’s construction sector is entering another boom, and with it the design and build sectors will experience massive growth over the next few years. Marble and ceramic tiles are likely to see an increase in demand along with the economy’s overall boost.
Elshamy says: “As the construction industry enters another growth period, the demand for quality building materials is also increasing. Another advantage for the growth of crystal quartz in the market is that the use of these materials is diversifying as entities and individuals look to enhance interior décor through wall applications and furniture in addition to the more traditional use of these materials in flooring.”