Vitreous China Table and Kitchen Articles

SIC 3262

Companies in this industry

Industry report:

This industry consists of companies that manufacture vitreous china table and kitchen articles, such as bone china, vitreous china tableware, vitreous china dishes, and china cooking ware. Manufacturers of fine earthenware table and kitchen articles are discussed in SIC 3263: Fine Earthenware (Whiteware) Table and Kitchen Articles.

The manufacture of vitreous china table and kitchen articles is an anomaly in the United States of the early twenty-first century. It is a very labor-intensive industry, with skilled craftsmen perfecting work that has extremely high standards of quality. In this industry, much of the technology is the same as it has been for centuries. Many glaze recipes, clays, molds, casting, and firing processes have remained unchanged, although tools have been modernized as in the case of electric potters' wheels and jiggerblades that quickly shape the pieces.

Porcelain was being made in China as early as the ninth century. Many centuries later, the first U.S. china-manufacturing center was in the Ohio River valley, where manufacturers had easy access to kaolin, the soft, white clay that is essential to the manufacture of china and porcelain.

Vitreous china is made of clays that are glazed and fired at extremely high temperatures. The temperatures cause the glaze to fuse with the clay and become nonporous. This china is both delicate and extremely durable. For this reason, it is used in hotels and restaurants more often than the semivitreous earthenware manufactured in SIC 3263: Fine Earthenware (Whiteware) Table and Kitchen Articles.
The industry is closely tied to economic conditions because many people consider china to be a luxury. In addition, since the manufacturers sell to the hotel and restaurant trade, they suffer when there is a slump in new hotel and restaurant openings. The bridal market accounts for a large percentage of sales of bone china and other vitreous china table articles, and when this market suffers, so does the industry. Competition from abroad is intense. Imports account for about half of the U.S. market of housewares, kitchenware, and tableware. Some U.S. manufacturers have part of the work done overseas and finish their pieces in the United States.

As consumer confidence waned amid the U.S. economic downturn that began in 2000, the industry declined. The value of industry shipments, which had dropped from $1.48 billion in 1997 to $1.44 billion in 1999, declined to a low of $834 million in 2003 before rising slightly to $902 million in 2004.

By 2008 only 62 firms remained in the industry. Volatile economic conditions translated into volatile industry shipment values in the middle and late 2000s. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, industry shipments dropped from $624 million in 2008 to $546.6 million in 2009. The vitreous china tableware sector had the highest value, followed by vitreous china dishes for commercial or household use, china cookware, and bone china.

Current Conditions

According to Dun & Bradstreet, 61 U.S. establishments were involved in manufacturing vitreous china table and kitchen articles for use in households and commercial institutions in 2010. Together these firms employed 961 people and generated annual revenues of $38.9 million. New Jersey accounted for the largest number of employees (307), followed by Ohio (227) and New York (122). New York and California had the most establishments in the industry, with nine each, and Illinois accounted for the largest revenues in sales, with $15.8 million. North Carolina had $7.1 million in revenues, and Arizona had $6.9 million.

Vitreous china table and kitchenware was the largest category in the industry in 2010, accounting for 44.3 percent of businesses and 33 percent of industry revenues. The second-largest category in terms of number of establishments was commercial or household vitreous china, with 29.5 percent of the nation's total businesses in this industry. Sales for this category accounted for 35 percent of total revenues. Vitreous china tableware, bone china, and china cookware comprised the remainder of sales, with 16 percent, 14 percent, and 2 percent of revenues, respectively.

Industry Leaders

Most industry leaders have been in the business for many years. Pfaltzgraff, founded in 1811 and headquartered in York, Pennsylvania, is said to be the oldest continuously operating pottery manufacturer in the United States. A merger with the privately held company Susquehanna Broadcasting led to the corporate name change to Susquehanna Pfaltzgraff Co. The company purchased another well-known chinaware manufacturer, Syracuse, in 1983. By 2010 Pfaltzgraff was operating under parent company Lifetime Brands, Inc.

Lenox China, founded in 1889 in Trenton, New Jersey, was bought by Brown-Forman in 1983. Lenox was sold to Clarion Capital Partners in 2009 after declaring bankruptcy. However, it continued to produce fine china under the original Lenox name.

Other industry leaders were Oneida and Homer Laughlin China Co. Oneida, which bought Buffalo China in 1983, was founded in 1848 and was originally known for its quality flatware. The Homer Laughlin China Co. was founded in 1871 in West Virginia. Top companies in the early 2010s were Corning Inc., of Corning, New York, with $6.6 billion in 2010 sales, and Lifetime Brands Inc. of Garden City, New York, which purchased Mikasa in 2008. Other well-known Lifetime Brands names were Cuisinart, Farberware, KitchenAid, and Pfaltzgraff.


Industry jobs include machine operators in the sliphouse; mold runners, casters, and jiggermen, who shape and form the clay; cutters and finishers, who dry and secondary shape; glaze grinders and decorators; kiln firemen and loaders; inspectors, selectors, and stampers; and packers.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 5,711 people were employed in this industry in 2009. About 79 percent of these were production workers earning an average of $15.29 an hour. An estimated 1,000 establishments produced vitreous china in the first decade of the twenty-first century, as well as fine earthenware, which is discussed in SIC 3263: Fine Earthenware (Whiteware) Table and Kitchen Articles.

America and the World

The U.S. industry has significant worldwide competition, especially from Japan, Taiwan, China, and England. However, a weakened U.S. dollar has meant that exports from the United States have increased, especially to Taiwan, Canada, and Mexico, while foreign products have become more expensive, making domestic products more attractive at home.

Research and Technology

In the early twenty-first century, some manufacturers were looking at new technological directions to beat foreign competitors, such as Pfaltzgraff's dry press system, the first in the industry. The system formed, finished, decorated, glazed, and fired china in one continuous process, vastly increasing productivity.

© COPYRIGHT 2018 The Gale Group, Inc. This material is published under license from the publisher through the Gale Group, Farmington Hills, Michigan. All inquiries regarding rights should be directed to the Gale Group. For permission to reuse this article, contact the Copyright Clearance Center.

News and information about Vitreous China Table and Kitchen Articles

Monthly sector analysis: this sector analysis includes acquisitions and buyouts announced between 29 November and 31 December. UK public offers completed between these dates are included, whereas new and pending offers are excluded. The transactions are classified according to the US sic code identifying the industry sector in which the target company is principally engaged. (Monthly sector analysis).(Statistical Data Included)
Acquisitions Monthly; April 1, 2002; 700+ words
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