The bedding industry is always looking for the "Next Big Thing" and it stands to reason; Retailers seek differentiation from their competition so they push manufacturers to make products better, more cost efficient, unique and now more natural. Manufacturers then push their component suppliers to innovate and so fourth.
All of this pressure is the result of large swaths of data on how consumers are behaving, but also what they are directly requesting. Below, a poll from the International Sleep Products Association revealed recently that there is real and growing demand generationally for sustainable practices and materials, as consumers are reporting they would pay more for those products.*article here
This data flies in the face of what retailers have reported for years, that green products do not draw a premium for the largest segment of their buyers.
BUYERS MAY KNOW WHAT THEY WANT, BUT THEY MAY NOT KNOW HOW TO GET IT
Polls are great as additional data points to consider when merchandising products for retailers, and they may serve as leading indicators, but the most important data is THE RECEIPTS! Consumers vote with their pocketbooks, and the success of natural with brands like Avocado, Awara, Birch, Saatva and PureCare notwithstanding, the data purports that when presented with products that are "more sustainable" versus "more advanced solutions at a lower cost", the majority vote cheaper/better-performing.
Consumers absolutely want their products to be better for the environment, but not at the expense of performance and as a whole are certainly not interested in paying more for an underperforming product.
Sustainability is at the forefront of consumer consciousness, and as Stephen Ferguson discusses, there are 3 C's to selling a mattress: Comfort, Comfort, and Comfort. The comfort of the product performance, the comfort of the price and the comfort of the product's overall impact on the planet (sustainable, recyclable, fair trade, etc.).
What most consumers don't realize is that the process of making a product more sustainable is often met with cost increases or removing components/processes from development that reduce its performance/durability. They know what they want, but they don't have enough options to satisfy all of their concerns.
"If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses."
-Henry Ford (When asked about customer input in the development of the Ford Model T)
WHAT ARE THE CURRENT ECO-FRIENDLY OPTIONS?
Products with "Natural & sustainable stories" are beginning to appear en masse at bedding conventions, online and retailers are starting to carry them, however these products are often purchased by a small minority of general bedding shopper and represent a marginal product share of the floor.
NATURAL FILLERS: Natural oils like Caster oil and Soy oil have been recently used to act as fillers in the mattress foam pouring process. The idea is commendable, replace a percentage of petroleum-based chemicals with a natural oil and reduce the product's overall negative impact proportionally. The problem is that these types of oils are often either imported, grown with GMOs & pesticides, or constitute a small percentage of the overall foam product that it does not make a significant impact. Furthermore, it adds virtually no value to the performance of the foam, in fact, the more Soy Oil used, the worse the product performs. This negative correlation is common when adding natural products into foams. And to top it off, Soy Oil often costs significantly more than the product its replacing (Polyol) so generally, products that have it have imperceptible amounts of it 1% - 3% by weight, (less by volume) simply for the marketing story.
RECLAIMED MATERIALS: New products are being introduced like Orbis, which has the noble pursuit of collecting, recycling and repurposing plastic bottles into a wide variety of consumer goods like bedding materials. Although this is applauded, the drawback is the effort required, cost and it's not a natural story, rather an "eco-responsible" narrative. The continued challenge for these type of products is to create a comfortable feel without significant manipulation of the material while keeping the cost in line with products that it aims to displace (visco memory foam, hybrid foams, gel foams, etc).
ALL NATURAL MATERIALS: Since the first rubber-based Latex foam was introduced into the bedding space by Englander, its use has seen incredible adoption. Today, the product used in ~95% of bedding application is a "Latex Blend" due to the cost of a 100% natural latex product. Latex also includes a few other nuances like additional bounce/buoyancy which can create increased disruption for sleeping partners and the pungent off-gassing smell emitted from the latex development process. Today's shoppers are shown to be seeking slower responsive materials like HD memory foams that offer more conformance and less motion transfer.
HOW CONSUMERS CAN HAVE THEIR CAKE...AND EAT IT TOO!
The average consumer has proven to prioritize performance and price above tertiary considerations like environmental and sustainability concerns. The large majority of mattress shoppers want a great-performing bed within their budget and just do a little better for the environment.
Hemp Foam, LLC. has recently launched a groundbreaking product called Hempur Material™. This technology aims to assist foamers, bedding manufacturers, and retailers in delivering high-performance bedding products while keeping costs low and being environmentally conscious.
Hemp Foam incorporates 100% natural hemp fibers in the form of cellulose powder into various types of foam, including poly foams, visco, and latex. Unlike mere fillers, hemp fibers bring their own set of advantages to the material, such as antimicrobial properties, moisture-wicking abilities, odor absorption, exceptional durability, and more. Moreover, the product is biodegradable within weeks during the recycling process.
After two years of development, Hemp Foam's innovative solution for "naturalizing" bedding foams received high praise from renowned retail and manufacturing brands at the 2023 Vegas Summer Market. The product was showcased in Kingsdown mattresses under the name "Blue Zone" and in shredded memory foam pillows by PureCare, both leaders in the bedding space with commitments to creating products that support their retailers, customers and the planet.
Utilizing Hemp Foam offers several compelling reasons:
The performance of the product remains unaffected despite the addition of Hempur Material™.
The foams can be tailored to meet a wide range of density, ILD (indentation load deflection), and response rate requirements.
Hemp Foam harnesses the eco-friendly potential of one of the planet's most sustainable natural materials.
Hemp is a cost-neutral alternative to petroleum-based Polyol, unlike expensive metals and other additives.
The entire process, from cultivation to production, takes place in the United States, eliminating supply chain concerns.
LEARN MORE ABOUT HEMP FOAM HERE
As bedding companies lean heavier into their ESGs (Environmental, Social, Corporate Governance) goals, and consumers seek to improve the ecological impact, bedding companies should pursue solutions that can deliver!