GUANGZHOU, CHINA (May 4, 2:20 p.m. ET) — A Taiwanese startup firm, Polyteak Co. Ltd., has developed a proprietary process to make 100 percent polystyrene outdoor furniture that looks and feels like wood, and it's opened an extrusion factory in southern China to try to expand its market.
Polyteak, based in Taichung, Taiwan, opened the new facility with 10 extrusion lines in Jiangmen, China, in February, creating its first large-scale commercial production for its tables and chairs, according to Executive Vice President Anthony Yu.
He spoke in a May 2 interview at the company's booth at the Canton Fair in Guangzhou, China.
The company has invested about 15.7 million Chinese yuan ($2.5 million) in the Jiangmen factory and a facility at its headquarters in Taichung, Taiwan, Yu said.
In Jiangmen, it uses space in the factory of Kogee International Group, a Taiwanese manufacturer of sporting goods like trampolines, basketball stands and swing sets for children. Kogee executive Zhu Guo Yi is a major investor in Polyteak, Yu said.
While the plastic furniture market is crowded, Yu said he believes Polyteak can differentiate itself because it's one of the few firms extruding high-quality all-plastic material that looks like wood.
The company spent two years developing a process to make its high-impact polystyrene boards hollow, significantly saving material without compromising strength, he said.
It does not mix its plastic with wood flour like many other furniture manufacturers because the wood flour makes the product weaker and less durable, he said.
The company also developed its own formula of glue to hold its furniture together, he said.
Right now, Polyteak exports its furniture to Germany, the Middle East and Japan, but hopes to broaden that.
Yu said he had a long background in the outdoor furniture industry before starting Polyteak, but is new to plastic materials.
He said Polyteak's furniture has been well-received in the market but he said his distributors tell him that consumers need a lot of education because it's a new type of product.
Polyteak's booth at the Canton Fair, for example, had many signs in both English and Chinese announcing that its products were “100 percent plastic.”
“I have so many customers who love the product but they say they need to educate their customers,” he said. “They tell me they need more time.”
The company's Taiwan factory does not make furniture but rather focuses on extruding its PS boards for the building industry, he said. It has 60 employees in Jiangmen and 20 in Taiwan.
Besides the Canton Fair, held in April and May, the company exhibits at the Spoga garden and outdoor products fair in Cologne, Germany. It debuted its products at the Germany firm in fall 2011.