Cool, Sustainable, Feature-Rich Foams in Demand » BedTimes Magazine

Value-added offerings help manufacturers bolster higher-priced mattress collections

Value-added polyurethane foams are in high demand in the mattress marketplace, producers say. And they are adding features that today’s consumers want, such as cool-sleeping and sustainable foams and foams offering a variety of health benefits.

Producers say they have added foams and will introduce more soon to help mattress makers stand apart from the competition and to bolster their mattress offerings at higher price points.

While consumer demand for mattresses is down, the polyurethane foam producers are not slowing their efforts to develop innovative products for mattress makers, they say.

“Customers are looking for products and solutions that offer them some sort of value added,” says Chris Bradley, executive vice president of consumer products at Mount Airy, North Carolina-based NCFI Polyurethanes. “Whether that’s reduced cost or a tangible benefit such as cooling, customers are looking for an advantage.”

Polyurethane foam producers are not slowing their efforts to develop innovative products.

And the Covid-19 pandemic has put greater focus on products offering wellness perks, he adds.

“Given the circumstances of the last 2 ½ years, buyers are also looking for health benefits,” Bradley says. “Therefore, we are seeing the growth of products containing copper, graphite and other additives. Multiple studies have shown that copper and graphite can provide anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory benefits, and consumers are seeking those benefits. As the overall economy slows, those that can differentiate themselves are the ones that will prosper, and our goal is to help provide those solutions for our customers.”

He says NCFI is investing heavily in research and development and is analyzing new raw materials that can either reduce costs or improve performance.

“We have several new foams that we introduced at the Las Vegas summer market with others set to debut near the first of the year,” Bradley says. “At NCFI, our emphasis has always been on growth driven by innovation and quality and that will not change as we prepare for continued reductions in demand.”

“Customers are
looking for products
and solutions that
offer them some sort of value added.”

— Chris Bradley

NCFI’s newest products are in its CoolRest line of performance foams. CoolRest Hybrid combines the properties of memory and high-resilience foams, providing pressure relief without sleepers sinking into the foam. CoolRest Breeze is a high airflow foam designed to give pressure relief and maximum cooling properties. Its cousin, CoolRest Bounce, is a latexlike polyurethane foam with high resiliency properties, officials say.

Brent Limer, chief sales officer at Lavonia, Georgia-based Latexco US, a producer of polyurethane and latex foams, says customers are looking for features that support higher-end products. Customers want “value-added innovative products to be used in higher retail price point mattress builds,” he notes. Products offering temperature regulation, particularly with cooling features, are also in demand, he says.

Latexco US produces a range of specialty polyurethane foams which are used in those higher price point mattresses, Limer says. The company plans to continue its focus on
innovative products as a value proposition for its customers, particularly in the premium end of the market.

“Our customers are looking for value,
innovation and
sustainability.”

— Mike McQuiston

Latexco’s latest polyurethane foam, shown at the ISPA EXPO earlier this year, is Snofom, which offers the best airflow of any of its polyurethane foams and thus promotes cooler sleep, the company says.

At Future Foam, customers have been asking for cooling and sustainable materials that are proven to work, officials say. For cooling foams, Future Foam offers its high airflow Allay product, along with a topical gel loaded with phase-change materials in its Future Gel with Therminium line. Both of these products demonstrably aid in cooling, the company says.

“We are partnering with our customers to drive sales on projects where they can move their products,” says Mike Urquhart, national accounts manager at Council Bluffs, Iowa-based Future Foam. “Future Foam is also taking this time to refine our product and processes on our Allay and our Sustain materials. We believe these products will help Future Foam and our customers obtain long-term growth.”

The Sustain foams are a new generation of foams made with plant-based polyols, the company says.

“We are partnering with our customers to drive sales on projects where they can move their products.”
— Mike Urquhart

At Carpenter Co., “our customers are looking for value, innovation and sustainability,” says Mike McQuiston, vice president of bedding at the Richmond, Virginia-based company. “They want to take these features and build out their merchandising and marketing plans to better enhance their brand.”

Carpenter is well-positioned to help its customers do just that, McQuiston says.

“There is no other foam company in our industry that has the upstream vertical integration and R&D team that Carpenter has,” he says. “We’ve put our assets to work and are bringing more innovation to the market. We have just rolled out our new Performance Core hybrid line and have developed new comfort foams to hit key price points. We’re also excited about our new hybrid foam technology that will be rolling out late 2022.”

Foam Outlook

Customers want “value-added innovative products to be used in higher retail price point mattress builds.”
— Brent Limer

Polyurethane foam producers say the mattress market is challenging these days, with falling consumer demand and significant inflationary pressures taking a toll.

But on the plus side, they say, the foam supply chain has stabilized and there should be enough foam available to meet industry needs well into next year.

“Based on falling consumer demand across both bedding and furniture, we see the market as soft through the end of 2022 and into 2023,” NCFI’s Bradley says. “While the overall supply chain for foam raw materials has stabilized, we still see pockets of specialty materials that continue to be volatile and hard to find. Barring another catastrophic event, capacity in North America for polyurethane foam will not be an issue into 2023 and beyond.”

Carpenter’s McQuiston has a similar take.

“The mattress market is going to remain very sluggish through the remainder of 2022 and into 2023,” he says. “The list of inflationary factors is long, and it will continue to limit discretionary spending well into the next year.”

Future Foam’s Urquhart also anticipates a soft market for the rest of 2022.

Carpenter Co.’s Performance Wave foam core reflects one of the ways foam products can provide alternatives to encased coil offerings, the company said.

“This is due to two major factors,” he says. “The demand for mattresses and upholstered furniture has fallen and neither market is expecting a major uptick in demand in the coming months. The second, and likely larger issue, is the demand destruction of polyurethane foam caused by chemical (price) increases in 2020 and 2021. These increased prices are causing many of our customers to use other materials, such as polyester fibre, where polyurethane foam was used in the past.”

Latexco’s Limer also sees decreased demand.

“Industry forecasts continue to show slower conditions than we have experienced in the last two years,” he says. “Inflation and energy costs are causing consumers to pick and choose where they can afford to spend their money. Decreased demand will cause foam producers to look for ways to use up on-hand raw materials and grab for market share.”

Limer believes that polyurethane foams will represent the majority of the comfort layers in mattress builds at mid- to lower-end retail price points.

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