Unicera, the International Ceramic Bathroom and Kitchen Fair, celebrated its 25th anniversary this year. The exhibition, which is held annually by Tüyap Fairs at the Tüyap Fair and Convention Center in Istanbul, Turkey, took place from February 27 to March 3, 2013 and attracted a number of foreign exhibitors and attendees. The exhibition is held in association with the Ceramics Federation of Turkey and the Association of Plumbing and Construction Materials Suppliers (Timder).

“This is an historical day for us that we are now celebrating our 25th year,” said Zeynep Bodur Okyay, Chairperson of the Ceramics Federation of Turkey. “We would like to thank all the contributors who helped us realize it.”

The 2013 edition was comprised of 309 exhibitors from 21 countries, including Austria, Bulgaria, China, Egypt, France, Germany, India, Italy, Poland, Singapore, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, the U.S. and Vietnam as well as a large contingency from Turkey. In the last four years, the show has significantly increased the number of foreign visitors. A little more than 65,500 attendees walked the 10 exhibition halls that spanned just over 925,000 square feet.

Turkish tile exports

During the opening ceremony at Unicera, Zafer Caglayan, Minister of Economy, addressed an audience regarding Turkey’s tile exports. “We are the third largest in Europe and the sixth in the world for ceramic tile exports,” he said. “There are two larger ones, Italy and Spain, which are ahead of us.”

More specifically, Turkish exports to the U.S. have increased by 60% in recent years. “We have been quite affected by the upswing,” said Bahadir Kayan, Chairman of the Turkish Ceramics Promotion Group. “These are numbers equivalent to 2008 — before the global crisis.”

According to Kayan, the U.S. is currently ranked as the eighth largest market for Turkish tile exporters, while in 2006 it was number one. “We believe U.S. distribution centers are going through changes,” said Kayan. “They are more competitive now with China and Mexico. We have a nice number attending Coverings. Turkey is diversifying. They really can do anything that is needed. They are going for restaurants and business centers. Through promotional efforts, we are putting more emphasis on architects and projects, and we are trying to keep the industry up to date in terms of technology.”

Current trends

 “The economy is very good in Turkey these days.. We grew our exports by 22%. We grew in Canada, and at the moment, we are re-entering the U.S. market. "

---  Ihsan Karagöz, Chief Marketing Officer of Building Materials at Kale

When walking the show floor at Unicera, it became apparent that stone-look tile remains popular among Turkish tile lines. Graniser Seramik offers several collections that are ideal for the U.S. market.

“North America is one of our main markets,” said Bora Fistikci of Graniser Seramik, adding that he has noticed an improvement in sales to the U.S. We sell 25% [of our exports] to the U.S. and Canada. The wood and stone look is popular as well as neutral colors.”

Ege Seramik also caters to those seeking stone and wood varieties. The company’s Essence Collection resembles the look of natural slate.

“This is a very big seller in America right now,” explained Alparslan Ergul, Sales Manager at Ege Seramik, adding that the collection also does well in Canada. The Turkish tile manufacturer, which has a U.S. office in Atlanta, GA, introduced 10 new product lines at Unicera. The Everest Collection possesses the softness and veining of marble, while the Country and Fossilwood Collections offer the appearance of wood.

“We have done a lot of digital technology the last four or five years,” explained Ergul. “We are converting the entire factory to digital rather than standard printing.”

According to Ergul, Ege Seramik produces approximately 215 million square feet of tile per year, and the company is the number one exporter in Turkey. “A total of 50% of all Turkish tile exported to the U.S. comes from Ege Seramik,” he said.

Kutahya also offered several strong stone- and wood-look lines. “The U.S. market prefers natural stone effects,” said Fatih Özcelebi, Export Director for Kutahya. “In the South, they like light colors, and as you go North, they like gray.”

The Turkish tile manufacturer also offers its Digital Imaginary series, which through digital printing allows it to make customized tiles. “With that, we can put anything on tile,” said Özcelebi. “We prefer to make them on 30- x 60- or 30- x 75-cm tile.”

Another large Turkish tile manufacturer, Kale, also displayed an array of new innovations. Its C-Extreme Collection combines the look of cement, wood and travertine — offering a surface finish with subtle and unique texture.

According to Ihsan Karagöz, Chief Marketing Officer of Building Materials at Kale, the company ranks third among Turkish tile producers in Europe and 12th in the world. “The economy is very good in Turkey these days,” he said. “We grew our exports by 22%. We grew in Canada, and at the moment, we are re-entering the U.S. market. It is one of our 15 markets. We are going to Coverings this year, and [overall], we will have a stronger presence this year.”