The Vitória Stone Fair — Marmomacc Latin America was held from February 3 to 6, 2015 in the state of Espírito Santo, Brazil — a region rich in stone production. This year’s exhibition attracted nearly 25,000 attendees over its four-day duration.

Among international visitors, the U.S. had the strongest showing with 25%. Italy followed with 14% as well as China (6%), Mexico (5.5%) and Venezuela (5%). To further break it down by continent, a total of 35.08% of visitors were from North America, 34.64% from Europe, 18.19% from Asia, 10.48% from South America, 1.05% from Central America, 0.93% from Africa and 0.69% from Oceania.

The Vitória Stone Fair always provides an arena for product launches, including many beautiful exotic and specialty stones as well as classic materials such as granite, marble and slate. The 2015 edition featured 420 exhibitors from 126 different countries. Exhibitors hailed from places such as Turkey, Italy, Argentina, Canada, Portugal, China, India and Oman, among others. The fair showed the exuberance and strength of the Brazilian natural stone segment, according to Milanez & Milaneze, the company which organized the event in partnership with the Group VeronaFiere.

“We are preparing to bring more business opportunities for the next edition, said Cecilia Milaneze, director of Milanez & Milaneze. “This year, we had a 3% increase in foreign visitors in our pavilions. In 2016, we will have business roundtables within our Buyers Club program, and we will have present environments created by architect and designers, showing the applicability of different materials in architecture.”

Milaneze also shared strong promotional efforts in Latin and Central America which will be developed for the 2016 edition. “We want to increase substantially for the Latin American public at the fair, either through visitors, buyers delegations and/or exhibitors,” she said.

A global indicator

The natural stone sector is responsible today for more than $ 1.2 billion in business abroad in 2014. Espírito Santo is considered a main region for exporting and processing natural stone. Because Vitória Stone Fair – Marmomacc Latin America 2015, is one of the first events for the stone industry in the calendar year, it serves as a sales thermometer throughout the year.

The main buyer of granite slabs sold by the Brazilian companies is the U.S., which comprises 80% of the business, followed by Canada (4%) and Mexico (2.7%). China, however, stands out in buying blocks, with a share of almost 55%, followed by Italy (20%) and Taiwan (10%).

Industry professionals are confident that business in 2015 will be on the same level as last year. “The fair always contributes to the sales throughout the year,” said Samuel Mendonça, the president of Sinirochas, who promotes the exhibition along with Cetemag. “It is a space to showcase new materials, machines and equipment for the industry. The sector should export around $ 1 billion this year, considering the retake of the North American economy and strong Latin American public.”

Educational component

In addition to viewing the latest stone products, the Vitória Stone Fair — Marmomacc Latin America also provided an opportunity for learning. Abirochas presented a workshop entitled “Understanding the U.S. Stone Market” at its booth during the exhibition. The Brazilian stone association collaborated with the Marble Institute of America (MIA) on the project.

The workshop began with a global overview of the MIA, which was given by Jim Hieb, CAE of the MIA, and Dan Rea, 2015 MIA president and vice president of sales and marketing for Coldspring. They talked about the “Supplier to Buyer” stone manual the MIA is currently creating. “We are halfway way through developing that,” said Hieb. “There isn’t anything like it in the world.”

Mark Schama, owner of StoneSpecUSA in North Carolina then spoke on “U.S. Market Oppor-tunities,” including economic and growth projections, opportunities for Brazil, importance of designers for large projects, specification and selection of stones and selling strategies. “In the early 90s, the quality of [Brazilian slabs] wasn’t so good,” he said. “We had to buy Brazilian slabs from Italy. The availability of colors wasn’t great. Distributors started to change the business market. Once consumers saw the material, they were will to spend money. You can’t unscramble the egg. Once the material was on the market, you can’t go back. The demand is there.”

Schama also explained that Brazilian stone producers need to make the availability of their products known to designers. “They have a lot of power in the U.S.,” he said.

Following Schama, Martin Howard, Partner and Executive Vice President of the David Allen Co. in North Carolina, spoke about “The Market of Large Projects in the U.S.” “It is important that you expose your material to contractors like me,” he said. “Market your material to large design firms and contractors. Update ASTM technical data [of your stones]. Contractors want to access ASTM data.” Howard also explained that participating in U.S. trade shows is a potential way to meet contractors.

The session was attended by a full crowd, and overall, the MIA was considered the show a successful trip. “Thirty-five MIA member companies exhibited at the show, and I had the chance to visit with many of them,” said Rea. “Several Brazilian companies joined our organization at the show and were able to experience the vision of the MIA and how we can help.”

Both Rea and Hieb were grateful for the hospitality Abirochas extended to them during their visit to Vitória. “We are developing several plans to strengthen the relationship between the Brazilian stone industry and the North American market,” explained Rea. “We were able to showcase several key initiatives the MIA will be undertaking in 2015.”

The MIA is hoping to partner with several key companies to translate its Dimension Stone Design Manual into Portuguese. This will make communication about industry standards much easier.

The 2016 edition of the Vitória Stone Fair — Marmomacc Latin America is scheduled for February 16 to 19.

The kick off the 2015 “Buyers Club”

Milanez & Milaneze, in partnership with the Chambers of Commerce of the consumer countries organizing delegations to Vitória Stone Fair-Marmomacc Latin America 2015, launched the “Buyers Club” this year. After careful identification and selection of potential buyers in countries of interest to the industry, industry professionals were invited to visit Vitória Stone Fair — Marmomacc Latin America.

Participants in the first year of the “Buyers Club” were American, Arab, Canadian, Serb, Polish and Russian buyers. The buying project was supported by Support Service to Micro and Small Business of Espírito Santo (Sebrae-ES), from the Brazilian Association of Ornamental Stones Industry (Abirochas) and the Marble Institute of America (MIA).