Italy’s Iris Ceramica Bets Big on Thin, Large-Format Porcelain Tile in the US

Italy’s Iris Ceramica Bets Big on Thin, Large-Format Porcelain Tile in the US

Among decorative tile product types, porcelain will remain the fastest growing in the US through 2023, when demand is expected to reach $1.3 billion. While smaller-format porcelain tiles have historically been very popular with consumers, their larger counterparts did not see much use, as their heavy weight made them hard to handle and liable to crack.

However, technological advancements have allowed large, lighter-weight thin porcelain tile (TPT) slabs to gain in popularity in recent years. In addition to enhancing the durability of these products, the improved design has made them:

  • more resistant to impact and water damage
  • easier to install and maintain than traditional tile types, as fewer tiles are needed and fewer grout lines need to be cleaned
  • more aesthetically appealing to consumers, as they require less grouting than smaller tiles

US Demand for Large Porcelain Tile Historically Satisfied by Imports

In the past, US demand for large TPT slabs was exclusively supplied by foreign-based producers.

A large share of these products came from countries like Italy and Spain, which have a reputation for high-quality, stylish tile products. Others came from countries with lower production costs than the US, such as Mexico.

Iris Ceramica Sees an Opportunity for Growth

Iris Ceramica, the largest Italian porcelain tile supplier to the US, decided to take steps to improve local consumer access to these increasingly popular products. In September 2018, the company – through its StonePeak subsidiary – opened a large-format TPT panel production line at its Crossville, TN, facility, making it the first company to do so in the US. This $70 million investment enhanced the production capacity of the company’s sole US tile manufacturing plant by 20%, adding manufacturing capabilities for 120”x60” panels, as well as large-format panels with 6mm thicknesses.

Making these products in the US (as opposed to importing them from Italy) allows Iris Ceramica to:

  • offer shorter delivery times
  • decrease shipping costs
  • better respond to US trends in TPT designs

Effects on Iris Ceramica’s US Tile Market Position

Prior to its addition of a large TPT production line, Iris Ceramica was already a key player in the US tile industry, offering a wide array of tile sizes, textures, and designs that can be used in such application as walls, flooring, and backsplashes. By expanding its US production capabilities to include large, TPT slabs – the segment of the domestic porcelain tile market with perhaps the best growth opportunities – the company is expected to strengthen its position as a market leader.

For More Information

To learn more about the US decorative tile market, check out The Freedonia Group’s recent study, Decorative Tile, which offers:

  • historical demand data and forecasts for the US decorative tile market
  • discussions of growth opportunities and the factors affecting demand
  • analysis of major industry players and activities

About the Author:

Nick Cunningham is an Industry Analyst at the Freedonia Group where he covers the US and global construction and building products industries.