Last week I was in Brazil to attend the Vitoria Stone Fair/Marmomacc Latin America. This was my first time to Brazil, or South America, and it was a memorable and worthwhile experience. For starters, it gave me an excuse to leave the snow and frigid temperatures we are experiencing on the East Coast, but on a more serious note, it was a great learning experience.

As most of you know, many exotic and unique-looking stone types are quarried in Brazil. At the exhibition, many Brazilian exhibitors were displaying new stone introductions. White remains a "hot" color for countertops, so it was not surprising to see several new granites and quartzites in this shade.

In addition to attending the trade show, I had the opportunity to visit two factories. One is owned by the Italian company Antolini, and the other one is operated by Granito Zucchi -- a leading Brazilian stone producer. For both stone manufacturers, the U.S. market comprises more than 50% of their exports.

One thing was evident at both plants; a great deal of thought, planning and investment are put into each stone production process. Both companies specialize in exotic and high-end stone material. Each has devised its own system to ensure their customers receive top-quality products. From the moment a slab enters the factory until it is loaded in a container, great care is taken throughout the production process.

At Granito Zucchi, I learned the company collaborated with a leading machinery manufacturer to create a custom processing line for its exotic and specialty stones. Rather than using rollers, slabs are placed on benches, which keep them stable during the production process. With an investment such as this, it is obvious superior quality is important to the company.

Both factories I visited each have large warehouses lined with what seems like endless rows of slabs. Many were bundled and ready to be exported. Most of the stone producers I spoke with in Brazil said they have been busy since the beginning of 2015 with customers who have come to visit. These customers are U.S. fabricators and distributors who are looking for premium material they can purchase and offer to their customers, such as architects, designers and homeowners. From what I heard, it sounds like there should be a diverse range of stone available -- something to satisfy everyone's different tastes. It might be worth a trip to your local stone supplier to find out.