Give us a brief introduction to ASCER and Tile of Spain.
The Spanish Ceramic Tile Manufacturers’ Association (ASCER) is a diverse organisation comprising over 125 Spanish tile companies that export ceramic products to more than 185 countries worldwide. Tile of Spain is the international brand representing ASCER’s participating members, who offer the very best of Spain’s ceramic offerings to the world.
Tell us how ASCER has been driving awareness of Spanish products in the Middle East. Any challenges faced in expanding your presence in the region?
Tile of Spain’s exports to the Middle East accounted for 14.6 per cent of its exports in 2021. Sales to this market reached EUR535m (+16 per cent) in 2021 and EUR187.8m between January and April this year.
Due to the growth potential of this market, we’ve launched a specific communication plan that involves sharing information about R&D initiatives, innovations and developments in the Spanish tile sector.
On the other hand, our companies have also made great efforts to obtain the quality mark (QM) that is required to export products to Saudi Arabia, which ranks eighth among our top ten markets. Our sales to Saudi Arabia fell in 2021 by more than 14 per cent due to challenges in obtaining the QM certificate. Undoubtedly, this obstacle to trade is a brake for our exports to the country.
How is Tile of Spain making its products more sustainable?
The Spanish ceramic tile sector is determined to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. In fact, we have been making technological and innovative improvements to the production processes to achieve results that go beyond reducing its carbon footprint. Our goal is also to optimise processes in other areas, such as raw materials and water management.
For decades, the Spanish ceramic tile industry has been adopting energy efficiency measures and the best available technologies to reduce the sector’s carbon footprint and decrease CO2 emissions such as waste heat recovery, replacement with more efficient burners in furnaces, and the consequent reduction of gas consumption, high-efficiency furnaces, and cogeneration systems among others. Due to this constant application of innovative technological improvements in energy efficiency, the total CO2 emissions of the ceramic tile industry per tonne of fired product have been cut by 60 per cent since 1980.
Besides, in the product process, the use of recycled material is encouraged, turning remnants into raw material for new products to help cut down on waste. The Spanish tile sector manages to reuse an estimated 100 per cent of the clay waste before it is fired, and we make efficient use of water resources to minimise water consumption per square metre of product manufactured. The fact is that wastewater discharge in the Spanish ceramic tile production process is equal to zero.
What impact will rising oil prices and the current geopolitical scenario have on your sector?
As an industry, our gas consumption is very intensive. Gas prices have been registering sharp increases since the end of 2021. Last year, gas prices for our companies increased by an average of 91 per cent. Gas-related expenditure for our industry has also gone from EUR415m to a total of EUR939m (+126 per cent). In 2022, the expenditure may increase by another 100 per cent if we consider the current evolution of the energy markets, resulting from the crisis in Ukraine.
Companies have had to increase the prices of their final products to balance part of the costs; however, in order to stay competitive and maintain customer loyalty, the rise does not compensate 100 per cent of the current expenses.
What trends do you foresee influencing the ceramic tile sector?
As Spanish ceramic wall and floor tiles can reproduce natural materials, including stone, marble and wood, they can make a significant impact on living spaces through their colour and tactile characteristics. Additionally, I can affirm that ceramic tiles also engage observers at a visual, tactile, and emotional level. This trait will enable their continuing popularity.