One of the most recognizable brands in pool plaster has become the latest casualty of the economic downturn.

3M Co. announced it will discontinue its ColorQuartz line of plaster additives and exit the pool and spa plastering business at the end of December 2009.

“The combination of reduced customer demand and the cost of supporting this business contributed to this decision,” said Kevin Ries, division vice president at 3M Industrial Mineral Products Division. “We plan to work directly with our customers to ensure a smooth transition.”

The brand is not being sold because the proprietary blend in Colorquartz is used in other 3M products, according to a company representative.

While the company has three months to wind down operations in the plastering sector, the initial announcement came as a bit of a surprise to many of its customers.

“We are their largest distributor, so you’d think we would have heard by now,” said Don McChesney, national sales manager of National Pool Tile Group, based in Anaheim, Calif. “[Still], I wouldn’t find it inconceivable, given today’s economy.”

The National Plasterers Council, whose annual conference receives sponsorship from 3M, also was not given any advanced warning.

While pre-mixed, pre-packaged blends have grown in popularity, 3M had a relatively strong position among additive products for plain white plaster.

“3M has had a corner on the market for a long time … as an additive,” said Mitch Brooks, NPC’s executive director.

The ceramic-coated Colorquartz products provided marble mixes with both color and additional hardness — advantages that will be missed by a number of applicators.

“It was always a good product for us,” said Rob Burkett, owner of Burkett’s Pool Plastering in Ripon, Calif. “I thought it was the most durable quartz color out there.”

However, in the past three years, permits have plummeted more than 80 percent in the three counties where Burkett works, and new construction remains sluggish throughout the country.

Furthermore, many budget-conscious customers have been forgoing upgrades on their pools and deferring to bare-bones marcite, according to 3M account representative Luke Crofoot.

“In some ways, the white plaster has taken a larger share of the lower end of the market, I think,” he noted. “That’s a symptom of how the economy is pressuring people and influencing their choices for upgrades.”

3M has trimmed its domestic work force across all divisions by more than 10 percent this year. The company is based in St. Paul, Minn., and employs 34,000 U.S. workers.