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Mattress News Future of the Memory Foam Mattress Industry

Published on October 10th, 2013 | by Mattress Journal


Future of the Memory Foam Mattress Industry

The memory foam mattress industry has been steadily growing since its creation in the 1990s. Over the past 10 years, memory foam has become a mainstream bedding option, and has also extended into spring mattresses and other furniture applications. But, many are left wondering whether the memory foam industry has reached saturation, or if new technologies will continue propelling growth.

Double-Digit Growth Forecast for Memory Foam Mattress Industry

Research and Markets, a research and data firm based in the UK, recently released a detailed market report covering the past year and forecasting the future for the memory foam industry. The report suggests that the US memory foam industry will see growth of nearly 12% between 2012 and 2016. They cite the growing rates of sleep disorders in the US as a leading driver of memory foam mattress sales in recent years.

Newer introductions like gel and plant-based memory foam mattresses are also mentioned as a growing trend. Research and Markets expects plant-based memory foam mattresses in particular to see significant growth due to benefits including using less petroleum products, less off-gassing odor, and greater breathability, with plant-based foams sleeping 20-25% cooler than traditional.

Why is memory foam popular?

The rapid and continuous growth of memory foam is largely tied to significantly higher consumer satisfaction rates for memory foam as opposed to innerspring beds. While spring mattresses remain the top sellers nationwide, only 60-65% of consumers report satisfaction, while 80-85% of memory foam mattress owners report satisfaction ( [SLTD]). The most significant differences between the two mattress types lies in how the material supports sleepers and the overall durability and longevity of the beds.

Memory foam responds to a sleeper’s weight by contouring to the sleeper’s body and spreading the pressure across the surface of the bed. Springs respond by compressing under pressure, actively resisting the sleeper’s weight and placing the greatest pressure on the heaviest areas of the sleeper’s body. This difference is the reason memory foam excels at pressure-point relief and pain relief. The contouring properties of memory foam also allow the sleeper’s body to settle into a natural, neutral position that maintains lower-back support.

The other significant difference is the durability of quality memory foam beds versus spring beds. One of the leading reasons for dissatisfaction with innerspring mattresses is early wear (within 1-3 years), marked by compression of pillowtop layers that results in increased pain and discomfort. According to SLTD, 25% of spring mattress owners report significant sagging with 3 years, and an overall average lifespan of 6-7 years. In contrast, mid- and high-density memory foam mattresses have an average lifespan of 7-12 years, with less than 15% of owners reporting sagging (all densities).

What is plant-based memory foam?

The Research and Markets report specifically forecasts growth for plant-based memory foam beds, an industry sub-sector that began gaining popularity in the past 5 years. Plant-based memory foam replaces a percentage of petroleum-based chemicals used in the creation of memory foam with plant oils and extracts, often from soy or castor beans. The resulting material is more temperature-stable, meaning it does not require body heat to contour or become softer or firmer with room temperatures. This greater stability makes for more responsive memory foam that returns to its original shape quicker, reducing complaints of difficulty moving or feeling “stuck in a hole”. The larger cell structure and reduction of petro chemicals creates a more breathable foam, while odors associated with petroleum-derived VOCs are also reduced, as are material costs.

Comparison of Memory Foam Mattress Types

In a previous article examining Serta iComfort reviews, we compared gel to traditional and plant-based memory foam mattress brands on several factors, finding similar benefits as Research and Markets. This detailed chart below, borrowed from our article on Serta iComfort, compares a leading brand of each type of memory foam: Tempurpedic’s traditional memory foam, Serta iComfort’s gel foam, and Amerisleep’s plant-based memory foam.

  Serta iComfort Tempurpedic Amerisleep All Memory Foam
Type Gel Traditional Plant-Based
Density 3.0-5.0 lb 2.5-7.0 lb 4.5-5.3 lb 2.5-8.0
Responsiveness Medium Slow Quick Slow-Quick
Warranty 25 yrs ltd 25 yrs ltd 20 yrs ltd 10-20 yrs
Price, Queen $1074-2774 $1099-7499 $849-1899 $300-8000
Heat Complaints 6% 12% 2% 10%
Odor Complaints 5% 18% 3% 15%
Durability Complaints 9% 11% 1% 10%
Consumer Rating 4.1 / 5 3.8 / 5 4.5 / 5 4.0 / 5

The percentages were derived from an analysis of each brand’s customer reviews. Consistent with the reported benefits, the plant-based memory foam mattress option showed significantly lower complaints of heat retention and odor, and they also had higher average reviews compared to the gel and traditional options. The prices for comparable Amerisleep models were also 20-50% lower than Tempurpedic or iComfort, which could help reduce the leading growth challenge identified by Research and Markets, which is the perceived high cost of memory foam.

Ultimately, the memory foam trend does not appear to be slowing anytime soon. Many traditional spring manufacturers have also began incorporating memory foam pillowtops or entire memory foam product lines into their offerings, signaling greater consumer demand and competition. While no one can know for sure where the future of the memory foam industry is headed, it seems reasonable to expect growth, and plant based memory foam mattresses are in an excellent position to reach today’s greener, value-focused consumer base.

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