Germany-based outdoor furniture maker Münchener Boulevard Möbel (MBM) was looking for an environmentally friendly substitute for the Ipé tropical hardwood it was importing, as wood harvested under the protocols of the Forest Stewardship Council had become prohibitively expensive.
About four years ago, MBM came across a wood-like product made in Malaysia composed of 60 percent cellulose from rice husks, 22 percent rock salt, and 18 percent petroleum. Virtually impervious to water, the product was being used primarily for marine docks. But MBM’s managing director Bernd Duna saw possibilities and worked with the manufacturer to refine the product’s quality and appearance for furniture use.
The result was Resysta, a waterproof, recyclable, and sandable non-wood building material. Last August MBM introduced a furniture line made from Resysta and has since brought out decking and wall cladding. MBM then spun off Resysta with help from WHEB Partners, a London-based private equity firm. WHEB has made a seven-figure euro commitment to expanding Resysta’s distribution internationally. The new company recently established a North American division based in California.
So far, architects are Resysta’s biggest advocates. “I’ve seen lots of fake decking that looks awful, but this is the most convincing non-wood product I’ve ever used,” says Max Strang, a high-profile Miami-based architect. Alexander Domin, a principal with WHEB Partners in Munich, confirms that the new company wants to expand the use of Resysta to windows and garage doors.
The product, which the company calls “The Better Wood,” is produced in Indonesia, Vietnam, and Germany. Michael Sloup, president of Resysta North America, says that the U.S. market imports four containers—about 40,000 square feet—each month. But with WHEB’s financial backing, Sloup has set his sights on greater market share. The company currently has sales reps in Florida, California, and Maryland, and in May was close to signing a rep for the Northeast and Canada. If demand warrants, Sloup says Resysta would build extrusion plants in North America.
Its market penetration is healthiest in Germany and Eastern Europe, but it’s made headway in South Africa and Australia. The product sells in the U.S. for between $4.40 and $4.60 per lineal foot, which Strang says “is positioned strategically between certified and non-certified stuff.”
Resysta has discussed distribution with “two large U.S. hardware store chains.” But Sloup isn’t sure if mass merchants can market such a specialized product effectively. “I think it might be better suited for high-end lumberyards.”
Learn more about markets featured in this article: Miami, FL.