Beyond puffery: Pillows play powerful role

Whether it’s $3 or $350, there is a pillow for every purse. Today’s frugal consumer may be postponing a mattress purchase, but she still will indulge in a new pillow. And many mattress manufacturers and industry suppliers have added offerings to assist shoppers in their quest for the perfect pillow.

“Pillows started getting important about five years ago,” says Dave Young, chief executive officer of mattress kit and pillow supplier VyMaC Corp., based in Fort Atkinson, Wis. “Consumers are waking up to the fact that a good mattress and a bad pillow yield a really bad night’s sleep.”

Research shows that consumers are very attached to their pillows, says Kevin Stein, vice president of marketing and research and development at Latex International, a foam supplier with headquarters in Shelton, Conn. Many admit to bringing their pillow with them when they travel and say they are pillow possessive—to the point of engaging in pillow “fights” with their sleeping partner.

“Pillows have become integral to the mattress sale and can be 10% to 20 % of the ticket. They are the No. 1 sleep accessory,” says Herman Tam, vice president of sales and marketing for Leggett & Platt’s Consumer Products Group, which is based in Carthage, Mo.

Enlightened consumers are learning to give up their lumpy old pillows sooner and they are interested in matching new pillows to the comfort materials in their mattresses, product suppliers say.

“Pillows are consumable products with an intelligent sell that can drive consumers back to mattress stores when it’s time for replacement,” says Dan Schecter, vice president of consumer products at Carpenter Co., a Richmond, Va.–based supplier with more than 2,600 pillow SKUs.

Foam pillows have power

Foam pillow lines are proliferating and, not surprisingly, interest in latex mattresses is spurring interest in latex pillows.

Since 2003, Sleep Comp West LLC has distributed a line of 100% natural latex pillows to mattress manufacturers. The latex pillows are made in Sri Lanka by Latex Green and are available in classic and contour (the neck area is higher than the head) profiles. A zoned latex pillow with a firmer perimeter for neck support was introduced in 2008 and a Talalay version will be available this fall. The company also offers a memory foam collection.

“Pillows are about 5% of our business and growing,” says Roger Coffey, president of the Buena Park, Calif.–based company, which does business as Latexco West, a division of Latexco–US. “Especially on the West Coast, with the growing demand for natural latex mattresses, consumers are asking for a 100% natural pillow.”

In 2009, Latex International added a 100% natural latex pillow with a 100% cotton cover to its Rejuvenite line. The company launched Rejuvenite in 2005, but has manufactured latex pillows since 1975. Rejuvenite is marketed to retailers, as well as directly to consumers via a Web site, (, with a “pillow personalizer” function. Suggested retail prices range from $79 to $149.

Perfect Fit Industries, a soft goods manufacturer and distributor with three plants in the United States, has a “soup to nuts” pillow product line, says Jeff Chilton, senior vice president of sales and marketing for the Charlotte, N.C.–based company. It also distributes a line of latex pillows manufactured by Latexco in Lavonia, Ga., and Tielt, Belgium. One Latexco offering, the Oodles pillow, is filled with extruded latex “spaghetti.” In a recent appearance on the Home Shopping Network, 18,000 Oodles twin packs sold for $54.99 each.

During the Las Vegas furniture market in September, Carpenter added the Avena foam pillow to its large selection. The core is a new formulation that is “more comfortable than both latex and visco,” Schecter says.

Bedding manufacturer Tempur–Pedic’s iconic contoured neck pillow has long been a key driver of the company’s mattress sales, says Dan Setlak, vice president of marketing and direct sales for the Lexington, Ky.–based company. “Our research has validated that consumers who first experience Tempur–Pedic via a pillow purchase are 40% more likely to purchase our mattress when they are next in the market.”

Diamond Spring Co., which has headquarters in Zele, Belgium, offers a line of pillows with cores made with its patented foam “springs.” The springs are formulated with both firmer polyurethane foam and softer visco–elastic foam to give the pillows a variety of feels. The cores are then wrapped in polyester fiber and encased in 100% cotton or CoolMax covers.

“This is a durable pillow that keeps its shape, evacuates moisture during sleep and keeps the head in perfect position, eliminating any pressure on shoulders and spine,” says Eric Van Speybroeck, Diamond Spring sales manager.

L&P stamped its brand name on pillows for the first time when it introduced the Leggett & Platt Home Collection earlier this year. Pillows are available in synthetic, foam and down fill. The Classic Memory Foam pillow has bio–based content and an open–cell structure.

“It’s shaved, not molded,” Tam says. “The core has no skin, rendering the bun highly breathable for cooler sleeping.” The company introduced a line of Talalay latex pillows at the fall Las Vegas Market. Suggested retail prices for pillows in the entire collection range from $59 to $99.

Fiber gets fancy

The lion’s share of pillows sold continues to be made of inexpensive polyester fiber fill. But in recent years, manufacturers have been rolling out premium, lofty synthetic fills or down alternatives that command higher prices—some as much as $59 in standard sizes. Premium polyester fill and natural down also are used in combination.

United Feather & Down, which has U.S. headquarters in Des Plaines, Ill., introduced a premium down alternative three years ago called MicroMax. It comes in four grades: good, better, best and luxury.

Carpenter launched its Beyond Down pillow collection in 2007. This year, the company added an “exploded polyester cluster” fill pillow called Celestial that offers greater loft and support at a moderate price point, Schecter says.

Leggett & Platt Home Collection’s plush Micro Gel Fiber is actually a polyester fiber with coil–like strands that add extra loft and softness, Tam says.

VyMaC manufactures a number of proprietary pillow designs that are sold through its associated Verlo Mattress Factory Stores. It also markets a full line of synthetic pillows through retail, hospitality and other sales channels.

Its EverLoft pillows, introduced in 2006, are filled with a down alternative called Everlon—a product developed by the Danish company Fossfill A/S. The pillows are lofty, durable and launderable, Young says.

Pillows made with fill from recycled plastic bottles are popular and the quality of the fill is greatly improved. Those bottles may one day be the source of all synthetic pillow fiber, pillow makers say.

Cambridge, Ontario–based mattress and bedding accessories maker Natura World offers five pillow collections with wool, latex and memory foam cores. But its newest pillow, the Eco–Green, is filled with a synthetic fiber made from recycled bottles.

Turner Fiberfill, a regional manufacturer and distributor of synthetic pillows based in Montebello, Calif., also offers eco–friendly pillows made from recycled plastic bottles. They cost about the same as other synthetic fills, the company says.

The ups and downs of feathers
Demand for feather pillows has been reduced in recent years by consumer concerns about bird flu and hygiene, a number of soft goods suppliers say.

But a white goose down pillow is still the ultimate pillow, says Bob Hickman, United Feather & Down, vice president of sales and marketing. The company is both a manufacturer of pillows and a supplier of feathers and down to other soft goods manufacturers. It processes feathers and down that it purchases from suppliers around the world using a 15–step cleaning cycle, Hickman says.

Feather and down fills are a natural, renewable resource that come in a complex array of grades and qualities.

“Goose down is considered most desirable, yet good duck down from Europe is of better quality than goose down from China, where birds are slaughtered young,” Hickman says.

United Feather & Down’s top–of–the–line offering is a 100% white goose down pillow, which retails for about $169 in a standard size. A 50/50 blend of small feathers and down is considered “best” quality and is a top seller to the hospitality industry, Hickman says.

Leggett & Platt Home Collection uses Canadian white goose down and feathers in its pillows because they “have an excellent quality reputation,” Tam says. “The feathers are treated with an agent that makes them hypoallergenic and anti–microbial, too.”

McRoskey Mattress Co., a manufacturer and retailer based in San Francisco, carries a down sleeping pillow line manufactured by Northern Feather Canada. Pillows are available in four sizes, three firmnesses and retail priced from $125 to $195. McRoskey also offers a selection of synthetic pillows and a travel version.

“We promote buying the $25 pillow protector along with the pillow by offering a 15% discount when they are purchased together,” says Robin Azevedo, McRoskey president. “Pillows have been a good product for getting people to come back to the store between mattress purchases.”

Shape changers

In addition to the wide variety of components used, pillows come in a multitude of shapes and constructions. There are neck pillows, travel pillows, knee pillows, lumbar pillows and body pillows. And there are gusseted, multichambered, foldable and adjustable versions.

VyMaC and Turner Fiberfill offer a “boomerang” or U–shaped breastfeeding pillow that cradles a nursing infant. VyMaC also has a “dog bone” shaped pillow that will accommodate a person wearing a type of breathing mask used to treat sleep apnea.

“Pillows that help position the body are increasingly important,” VyMaC’s Young says. “Especially in Europe and Asia, we are seeing a lot of body pillows for side sleepers and they’re growing in importance in the U.S. They fill voids and help maintain a comfortable posture.”

An unusual body pillow with fingerlike appendages is a top seller on a home shopping network in Japan, Young says. It’s designed and marketed by Fossfill. Sleepers can wrap and tie the pillow around them or use it in any number of sleep positions.

Tempur–Pedic listened to consumer feedback and redesigned its body pillow earlier this year, Setlak says. The fabric cover, pillow loft and length all were tweaked based on user input.

Perfect Fit recently introduced an electric body pillow that is slated to appear on the shopping outlet QVC later this year. It retails for between $79 and $99.

United Feather & Down recently added the Bed & Body pillow to its Personal Comfort Sleep System pillow program. The new model has a dual chamber that unzips to become a full body pillow. Also new to the line is the Pillow–Top pillow, which is gusseted and firmer on one side; a plush pillow–top on the other.

Latex International’s Bliss pillow has a latex core covered in a down outer layer. Perfect Fit sells a pillow that looks like a minimattress, with a quilted cover filled with microdenier fibers and a core of high–loft polyester.

And Leggett & Platt Home Collection offers the Triple Chamber: The center holds Canadian white goose feathers; the top and bottom layers contain goose down.

United Feather & Down introduced Utopia in August. A combination of a down pillow with an inner chamber that holds two removable layers of memory foam, it’s the “world’s first completely adjustable sleep pillow,” Hickman says.

Pillows provide more than
just a place to lay your head

Pillow manufacturers and suppliers tout not only the comfort of their products, but various health benefits, as well. There are pillows that are said to reduce aches and pains, enhance breathing, regulate temperature, prevent snoring, alleviate sleep apnea and provide aromatherapy.

Body posture during sleep is important, says Roger Coffey, president of Sleep Comp West LLC, which does business as Latexco West and is based in Buena Park, Calif.

“A good neck pillow will keep the head and neck in a neutral position, maintaining the neck’s natural curve,” Coffey says. “Without that support, neck muscles can tense up, leading to headaches and migraines.”

Mattress maker Tempur–Pedic, which is headquartered in Lexington, Ky., offers the SidePillow, designed to cradle the neck and shoulder, relieve pain and prevent the sleeper from rolling onto his back and snoring.

In addition to its Sleep Better Signature collection, which was designed by sleep doctor Michael Breus, Carpenter Co. offers the Ambient Comfort pillow. It’s filled with trademarked Holofiber material, said to increase oxygen levels in the body. Carpenter is based in Richmond, Va.

United Feather & Down, a soft goods manufacturer and feather and down supplier with U.S. headquarters in Des Plaines, Ill., combines synthetic fill with silver to create anti–microbial and anti–odor Silverfill. The fill can be paired with the company’s Silverweave pillow cover.

Soft goods manufacturer Perfect Fit Industries, which has headquarters in Charlotte, N.C., introduced the Ironman pillow at a recent Las Vegas furniture market. It incorporates the Ironman sleep technology developed by T3 Recovery Products. The collection includes standard and neck pillows designed to provide quick recovery and better sleep.

I Care Sleep Products LLC, a division of Hickory Springs Mfg. Co. in Hickory, N.C., offers specialty pillows designed to partner with its mattresses, says Jim Wall, I Care general manager. The company’s pillows have suggested retail prices between $40 and $80.

“Our newest pillow is the Cool Flash introduced this year,” Wall says. “It’s a synthetic fill pillow covered with temperature–regulating Outlast fabric that is displayed with the Cool Flash mattress.”

Other I Care pillows include the Pretty Pillow with a copper–containing cover and contoured shape meant to be gentle on facial skin and the Peace & Quiet Pillow, which is intended to alleviate snoring.

Mattress and bedding accessories manufacturer Natura World offers aromatherapy with lavender or ylang–ylang essential oil in some pillows. Versions containing aloe vera are intended to provide a measure of skin care.

“Many consumers use these pillows without a pillow case, especially the aloe vera pillow—I do,” says Julia Rosien, communications director for the Cambridge, Ontario–based company.

Temperature–regulating IsoCool pillows are a No. 1 bests eller at Carpenter, says Dan Schecter, vice president of consumer products. The pillows have a layer of phase–changing material beneath the fabric cover.

European Sleep Works, a pillow maker based in Berkeley, Calif., retails and wholesales its Oxygen Pillow with a tag line that promises “deeper sleep through deeper breathing.” The pillow was introduced in 2005.

“I started yoga several years ago—it’s all about breathing and it’s made a big difference in my life,” says Michael Lavin, company owner and pillow inventor. “In the research we’ve done, we discovered the unaddressed need in sleep is breathing.”

The $130 Talalay latex pillow has a tri–layer core with “lateral cuts and hinge effects” and an “interior grid system support structure” that “opens the chest and facilitates diaphragmatic breathing,” Lavin says. The pillow is adapted for side and back sleeping and is covered in an organic cotton stretch knit that is said to facilitate air flow.

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