Spring 2007

Production of quartz surfaces a natural fit for Cambria®

When I learned that the Davis family, which owns and operates Cambria, is a giant in the cheese industry, I thought, “That’s one for the books.”

The knowledge begs the obvious question: “Why start manufacturing quartz surfaces after having huge success with processed cheese?” The answer is in their roots.

Commitment to Manufacturing Quality

cambriaThe Davis family produces 330 million pounds of cheese annually under the Davisco Foods International brand. From its hometown of LeSeur, Minnesota, Davisco Foods is one of the largest suppliers to Kraft® Foods. The Davis family’s history of processing cheese includes meticulous quality and process control programs.

Sixty years of manufacturing experience made the addition of natural quartz surfaces to its product line a logical fit, company officials say. This background and experience helped make Cambria a strong player in the natural stone market.

Down but Not Out

At the same time granite was gaining acceptance as a popular competitor to solid surface and laminates, the Davises were researching the viability of quartz as a competitor to granite. In 2000, a small northern Minnesota company named Techni Stone was struggling to produce natural quartz slabs. Techni Stone was in bankruptcy and, in fact, the company had never even produced a slab. However, the company caught the attention of the Davises.

Techni Stone had licensed its proprietary manufacturing technology from the Toncelli family and Breton S.p.A. When Techni Stone came up for sale, the Davis family went to Italy to learn more. The Toncellis are world leaders in the technology involving quartz surfacing and other stone materials. Marcello Toncelli’s reputation and experience as an innovator in quartz technology convinced the Davises to create a business alliance with Toncelli’s Italian company, Breton S.p.A., in 2000.

“The Davis family was inspired and interested in the technology Techni Stone had,” says Peter Martin, Cambria’s Director of Marketing Operations. “They bought the bankrupt company because they knew the strong benefits quartz surfaces had over granite would appeal to consumers. Obviously, that was a very smart observation.”

So, with the technological expertise of Breton to bolster them, the Davises moved the equipment they bought from Techni Stone to LeSeur. They built a 150,000-square-foot plant in 2000 that occupies 17 acres and opened Cambria Natural Quartz SurfacesTM in 2001. Cambria remains Breton’s only U.S. technology partner.

Colorful Manipulation

Cambria’s natural quartz surfaces are approximately 93 percent quartz, 1 percent pigment, and 6 percent resin. Quartz is the hardest nonprecious stone found in the earth’s surface. Although it is plentiful, extremely clear quartz is difficult to find. Turkish quartz is at the top of the charts, Martin says.

The pureness and clarity of the quartz Cambria uses allows them to more precisely replicate the natural color qualities of granite. Side-by-side slabs of Cambria must be remarkably similar to ensure continuity in the home or business in which it will be installed.

“Color manipulation is near and dear to us,” Martin states. “We want to develop superior colors, and the Silmar® resin we use allows us to do that. Ultimately, the clarity and performance of the Silmar resin has helped us create a very innovative color technology that sets us apart from our competition.” Silmar resin is well known for its consistently clear color and ability to be highly filled.

A Smart Alternative

Martin says that quartz countertops have 5 to 10 percent of the residential market and that solid surface and granite countertops comprise the rest. “Overall, the quartz market share continues to grow, but so do our quartz competitors,” Martin says. “Many of the newcomers are international companies; however, Cambria remains one of the largest quartz-producing plants in the world and the only natural quartz surface manufacturer in the U.S.”

Martin says potential customers often don’t understand the differences between Cambria’s natural quartz surfaces and other natural stone products. Educating them is critical.

“Cambria’s product is more durable and heat-resistant than granite,” Martin explains. “It doesn’t stain, nick, scratch, or burn like granite can. Its non-porous surface makes it resistant to bacteria and contamination, making it a naturally safer surface to have in a home,” Martin says. “The more a customer learns, the more they like our products. The benefits are hard to ignore.”

Cambria products are sold through kitchen and bath dealers and specialty retailers across the U.S. and Canada. Their customers have a high net worth, and Cambria caters to their values. Cambria is a luxury item and a significant investment,” Martin says. “Many consumers choosing quartz surfacing are using an interior designer or architect and not buying at a large building supply store.”

Cambria takes extraordinary care to select the right specialty installers and fabricators. First, they must be sound entrepreneurs. Second, they must have excellent quality controls in place for the cutting and installation processes. Last, they must be able to promote the brand and distribute the products in a manner consistent with Cambria’s corporate standards. If they can meet all three expectations, they can become part of the Cambria team.

A ten-year manufacturer’s warranty accompanies each Cambria product. “Our warranty is one of the best in the industry,” Martin relates. “We are continually evaluating and improving our products, and warranty is really not a concern. We have stringent quality controls in place and continually educate our installation and fabrication partners. We are on the right path.”

Cambria owns fabrication facilities in Minneapolis, Chicago, and Indianapolis. Independent fabricators cut Cambria outside those markets.

Choosing Green

The building industry is very focused on choosing “green” materials and technology for homebuilding projects. Customers also are becoming more educated about what environmentally friendly products are available and are asking for these products in their homes. It is an enviable position for Cambria because it is a “green” product.

Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) is an accreditation program conducted by the U.S. Green Building Council. It certifies building projects based on performance under the LEED rating system and accredits professionals committed to facilitating sustainable design who pass the LEED Accreditation Exam. For building projects, LEED points can be awarded for either Indoor Environmental Quality or for Materials and Resources.

Cambria is GREENGUARD Indoor Air Quality Certified® by the GREENGUARD Environmental Institute (GEI) under the GREENGUARD Standard for Low Emitting Products. Builders who use Cambria earn one point in any LEED-certified building project in the Indoor Air Environmental Quality category. Homeowners, especially those with respiratory concerns and those wanting to achieve Health House standards, particularly benefit from Cambria products’ low de-gassing emissions.

As a manufacturer, Cambria exercises environmental responsibility by recycling and recovering, through a series of unique settling and filtering techniques, 98 percent of the water it uses during polishing processes. The remaining 2 percent is lost to evaporation.
Steeling for Change Cambria’s NSF rating makes it a wonderful alternative to stainless steel in commercial food kitchens. Cambria also adds a warmer, more aesthetically pleasing atmosphere than stainless steel in medical offices and some types of laboratory applications. Cambria surfaces also don’t need polishing and shining to eliminate streaks and fingerprints that show up like bull’s eyes on stainless steel. These commercial applications, Martin says, are under served by the quartz category and represent a real opportunity for growth.

In fact Cambria recently doubled its manufacturing space to 300,000 square feet to accommodate this growth area and signed an exclusivity agreement with Breton through 2012. “Just keeping up with the residential orders has been demanding,” Martin explains. “The second production line we added helps ease that strain and allows us to expand our penetration into the commercial market.” The company plans to develop a commercial sales staff and is evaluating whether to re-enter the floor tile market. “Business is excellent right now, but we must always keep an eye on our future,” Martin says.

Expert Supplier Partners

Bob Braun, Cambria Business Manager, appreciates the depth of knowledge that Tim Loes, NAC Sales Representative, and the NAC organization have about resins. “When we choose supplier partnerships, the quality of the material is paramount and so is service,” Braun says. “NAC excels in both areas.”

Cambria’s staff relies heavily on Loes’ ability to understand their product goals and put together samples to evaluate. “Our goal is continuous improvement,” Braun relates. “Tim and the NAC staff are very prompt. He definitely takes care of us, and we are looking forward to expanding our relationship with NAC.”

Learn more: www.cambriausa.com www.interplastic.com