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Interview with Ross Stewart, Neolith

Installer Kitchen & Bathroom recently caught up with Spanish sintered stone specialists, Neolith to discuss their renowned product values and their increased visibility in the UK KBB market.

Installer Kitchen & Bathroom’s Andy Bishop chatted with Ross Stewart, Neolith’s UK & Ireland Sales Sr. Manager.

1. Can you explain the many applications of Neolith products, and which ones apply specifically to the KBB sector? 

Neolith lends itself to a multitude of applications, the easiest way of explaining where it can be used is to say that if a flat sheet material is suitable for the application, Neolith has a solution. Focusing specifically on the KBB sector we have solutions for kitchen countertops, table and furniture tops, kitchen cabinet door dressing, bathroom countertops and vanities, interior wall cladding, interior and exterior flooring for both indoors and outdoors kitchens, the list is endless.

 

2. What are the main qualities of Neolith sintered stone products and what advantages do they hold over other solid surfaces? 

The main qualities are the durability with high heat resistance, high scratch resistance, near zero porosity, meaning Neolith his very easy to clean and highly resistant to staining. It’s also UV and frost and thaw resistant, which means it can be used in outdoor kitchens, which are becoming more and more popular in the UK market and being adopted into the offering of a lot of KBB retailers. The advantages of Neolith over other solid surfaces are down to where other solid surfaces have their limitations. Neolith also has the NSF Certification and the NeolEAT technology, which is aimed at mitigating the proliferation of food bacteria. It is a lightweight surface, and it can be acquired in different thicknesses, which turn it into a very versatile material.

Other surfaces, either man-made or natural stone-based, have a high percentage of crystalline silica in their composition, which is causing markets in other countries to review their health and safety standards when working with these materials, and some countries are even considering banning them because of the risks to the people working with it. Neolith has reached the lowest silica content range in the market, below 9%, and continues to evolve its sustainability roadmap, leading the change in its industry by minimising the silica content as technically feasible.

 

3. Are there certain Neolith products that lend themselves to the UK market? Which products and finishes are the most popular? 

We try to offer the best decors to the UK market with constant innovation and R&D to ensure we are also moving forward and have the correct offering in place as trends change. The most popular decors are still the marble look materials. End consumers love them, and designers can confidently specify them without the fear of staining or acid etching thanks to the superior technical features Neolith counts on with, that, on the contrary, can be the downfall of the most popular marbles. Our Ultrasoft finish is by far the most popular, as it offers a very soft matt finish that looks stunning and feels amazing to touch.

 

4. Do installers require specialist fabricators to work with Neolith products? 

In short, yes. We work with a pretty much every stone fabricator in the UK and Ireland, who will be able to lend their expertise to ensure that every worktop is skilfully produced from Neolith slabs. If any fabricators ever have any difficulties working with sintered stone, we have a technical specialist based here in the UK who can give additional support and training and get them in to a position to work confidently with sintered stone.

 

5. There is a high demand for responsible, sustainable manufacturing of products in the KBB sector, how does Neolith ensure that their products comply with today’s customers’ expectations? 

According to a Global Sustainability Study of 2021 made by Simon-Kucher & Partners, one-third of consumers are willing to assume an extra cost to purchase sustainable products, and companies must work to make sustainability an expectation rather than the exception.

Neolith does not understand innovation, if it is not sustainable. Besides keeping on minimising the residual amount of crystalline silica and providing safety guide and training for working with the products, Neolith invests highly in R+D to craft a sustainable product. Neolith uses 100% natural raw materials with no added quartz sand or resin in its formulation and, therefore, its surfaces are fully recyclable. Also, some of its models contain up to 98% of recycled content, preserving the physical and aesthetical properties of the material. So, talking about Neolith is directly linked to sustainability, innovation, and premium design.

Regarding production processes, Neolith also strives to achieve a total decarbonization of all its production activity and a circular economy. That’s why all the water used in the production process is recycled and more than 96% of the industrial waste is either recycled or reused. Plus, 100% of the electricity used comes from renewable sources. Neolith is also Carbon Neutral for its main scopes.

All in all, Neolith develops an environmentally friendly business strategy based on policies to reduce its impacts regarding both materials in terms of reusing and reducing materials used,

and taking care of the environment, so customers can rest assure they are opting for one of the most sustainable surfaces in the market.

 

6. You have recently joined Neolith after many years’ experience in the sector. What changes are you making to Neolith’s UK operational structure and what should customers expect in terms of customer service and support? 

That’s correct, I joined Neolith in January of this year, so I am approaching the one-year mark very soon. It’s been a very busy year of restructuring Neolith in the UK to ensure that all partners in the supply chain have the correct support and service. I’ve introduced promoters into the retail segment ensuring they have the time that is needed for designers to be able to fully appreciate Neolith and experience the service level they can expect. I introduced Regional Sales Manager’s as the point of contact for the fabricators and built a team with decades of industry knowledge and experience, to ensure that this segment could lean on us for our wealth of know how. I also expanded our managers within the A&D community, where we have been received with open arms. Alongside this, we have expanded our operational team in preparation for opening our northern centre in Leeds, which is very exciting. All in all, we have trebled the number of employees in the region with further plans to expand that over the coming years.

 

7. How can UK customers understand more about Neolith products and their manufacture?  (Neolith Experience?) 

We are always happy to give extensive training to designers and fabricators. We also offer a RIBA approved CPD to the A&D community. But the best way to experience Neolith is to arrange a visit to our factory in Castellón, Spain. The Neolith Experience is an exciting journey to Neolith’s core, to its products and how they are crafted, as well as giving a masterclass on the history and values of this family-owned company and its meteoric rise to become a global corporation, present today in more than 100 countries. The visit includes a guided tour around Neolith’s production plant, where the manufacturing process is explained in detail, showing how the natural minerals are transformed into premium sintered architectural surfaces. The tour also includes a visit to the headquarters’ showroom, where the guests can see for themselves the versatility of the surfaces and the difference Neolith makes.

 

For more information about Neolith head to Neolith.com 

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