Sienna Tuscany laminate flooring, shown here, is part of Kronotex's Formica Flooring line.

After exiting the North America laminate flooring business two years ago, Formica is back. This time it's teaming with Kronotex USA to create the new upscale laminate brand Formica Flooring. With the help of extensive distribution agreements and an ambitious marketing program, the line also marks Kronotex's entry into the specialty retail channel.

"The one-two punch of manufacturing excellence and brand-name recognition allows the new Formica Flooring brand to take its place at the top of the premium flooring category," said Norman Voss, president and CEO of Kronotex USA, who predicted that the line will become "the distributor and retailer favorite."

With 38 highly styled SKUs across five lines, the collection includes high-quality stone and travertine looks, hand-scraped visuals and 6-foot-long, embossed-in-registered planks. Renee Hytry, Formica's senior vp of global design, said the collaboration was forged with an eye toward creating the best mix of products. "Formica Flooring is a mix of Formica's aesthetic sense coupled with Kronotex's manufacturing clout," she said. "In that sense, the finished product captures both beauty and brawn."

In addition to designs inspired by Formica's most popular countertops, items in the line include other enhanced features, according to Kronotex's marketing manager, Keith Wiethe, "Formica Flooring is not only innovative from a design and color perspective, but includes a new locking system on our highest-end product, Quintessa." He described the Formica Flooring brand as the "Lexus of our assortment."

The flooring will be produced at Kronotex's 360,000 square-foot Barnwell, S.C. facility, a newly opened, vertically integrated plant that has been designed to accommodate further expansions.

According to Frank Riddick, Formica Corp.'s president and CEO, the vertical integration of the Barnwell plant was a key factor in the decision to work with Kronotex Riddick noted that the absence of a vertically integrated facility is why Formica opted out of the flooring business in 2004. He added that Kronotex will help "make the Formica Flooring brand soar."