Innovative coil producers pocket success from expanding global sales
BY BETSI ROBINSON
Let there be no doubt: Innersprings, especially pocketed coils and microcoils, are bouncing back in the sleep products industry around the world.
Just ask Mark Kinsley, vice president of marketing for Leggett & Platt’s Bedding Group. After seeing the specialty sleep category chip away at market share in the United States for about a decade while innersprings remained level or declined, Kinsley is delighted to report a definite reversal of fortune.
“It was led by the hybrid-mattress category creating a shift in the marketplace,” Kinsley says. “Once the hybrid concept caught on, in nine of the last 10 quarters, innersprings have beat specialty. That’s a definite trend.”
Martin Wolfson, president of Texas Pocket Springs, concurs. “The trend has now started changing to a hybrid, where you have both foam and springs,” he says. “And we have definitely seen a huge upswing in pocketed coils in spring units. I believe the reason why is because, of all the systems that are available, the pocketed coil is the only one that offers both comfort and support in the true sense of the word.”
Management at HSM Bedding Solutions has taken notice, as well. “The industry is very much like a pendulum,” says Rick Anthony, director of sales. “It swings far right, but it starts to swing back toward the middle. Proven technology from the past is beginning to resurge again.”
But now this tried-and-true technology has a new twist, Anthony says, pointing to the fact that low-profile springs are moving into comfort layers. “Fabric-encased coils can now be used closer to the sleep surface, where they have more meaningful benefits, as opposed to traditional fabric-encased coils that have always been a core layer.”
New configurations and technologies that help improve the comfort, support and durability of better mattresses are leading the way in spring innovation, with pocketed coils and microcoils the most popular among new products.
Hickory, North Carolina-based HSM’s Posturfil microcoil technology, developed with partner Spinks Springs, gives mattress manufacturers the ability to largely eliminate body impressions, Anthony says.
“All other comfort layers and filling materials over time will take body impressions. But a properly made spring unit will never take a set,” he says. “In some cases we have 3,000 microcoils in one sheet. This means the consumer benefits from the long-lasting pressure relief provided by all of those points of support.”
Wolfson believes the ability to alter the comfort and feel of a pocketed-coil spring unit makes the product an obvious winner. The Cleburne, Texas-based company’s patented Quadcoil manufacturing process allows its pocket-spring modules to be pre-assembled into zoned mattress solutions customized for a customer’s specific product requirements.
“The beauty of the pocket coil is we can actually make the compression ratio of the coil feel the same as the compression ratio of foam or latex, just by altering it—without all the downside of foam,” he says. “It doesn’t collapse. In 10 years, it will still have the same feel, whereas the foam won’t.”
The most recent innovation from Texas Pocket Springs is the glueless Quadcoil module. “We take two rows of pocket coils and we ultrasonically weld them together. There is no glue used to create a module,” Wolfson says. “The advantage of that is half of North America lives where the temperature rises to 90 to 105 degrees. If you load a truck with pocketed coils, it can get up to 153 degrees in the container—we have actually measured this. The hot-melt glue starts softening at 140 degrees. So at 153 degrees, you have actually compromised the glue itself and that unit actually starts coming apart. We have eliminated that issue.”
The reverse can be true in extremely cold climates when glue can become brittle, cracked and compromised, Wolfson says.
His company launched the glueless Quadcoil at the ISPA EXPO 2014 and now has built the machinery to produce it.
Carthage, Missouri-based Leggett & Platt has developed several products that focus specifically on extending the comfort life of the mattress, including Nanocoil, a tiny, fabric-encased coil that acts as a replacement for foam in the top layer of a mattress.
“Nanocoil is one of our newest in the Comfort Core family of products. It provides longer comfort life; it does not break down over time,” Kinsley says. “Returns due to body impressions are not good for the retailer or the manufacturer. That’s not good for anybody. Nanocoil has been proven to resist mattress sagging and settlement.”
The company’s Quantum Edge, featuring two rows of fabric-encased coils around the edge of the mattress that replace a foam encasement, addresses another concern consumers frequently raise when shopping for sleep products, according to a Leggett & Platt survey of more than 100 retail sales associates. During the sales process, the survey found, 80% of shoppers express concern about roll off and 75% worry about being able to sleep on the entire surface of the mattress.
RSAs also say the mattress edge creates a first impression that can make or break a sale, Kinsley says. “Customers touch a mattress first, then they sit on the edge. While they (RSAs) say that typically a foam-encasement unit would create a good edge, many were critical about the quality of foam used, the construction of it, the separation that can happen—all of which Quantum Edge is meant to solve.”
L&P already has customers successfully roll-packing Quantum Edge units, he adds, which dovetails nicely with the growing online market for compressible, shippable mattresses.
Around the globe
Earlier this year, L&P surveyed its employees around the world to gauge international bedding trends. Among the anecdotal findings: Fabric-encased coils are trending upward in Australia, China and South Africa; and higher-profile mattresses (7 to 8 inches plus) appear to be gaining popularity in Brazil, China and South Africa.
“In Europe, overall, bedding is the best-performing category in furniture,” Kinsley says. “Specialty is believed to hold just over half the market share, but latex is losing popularity, and box springs are trending upward.”
Mandy Huang of Foshan City, China-based Quan Li Spring Hardware Co. Ltd., confirms the popularity of higher-profile innerspring beds in that country. “Some mattress factories want to make higher spring units, thus they can save on other materials in the mattress,” she says.
Quan Li’s 4-Strains Advanced Pocketed Spring Coil, consisting of four wires twisted together, boasts “162 times the strength” of a regular pocket spring and “unprecedented” comfort by effectively blocking surface vibration, the company says.
Nowhere was the growing enthusiasm for innerspring beds more apparent than at Interzum Cologne last May. Indeed, a number of innovations greeted buyers at the largest home furnishings components show in the world.
Spinks Springs, with headquarters in Leeds, England, is breaking new ground with wrapped microcoils. Two years ago, it won an Interzum Intelligent Material & Design award for Posturflo Mesh, mini microcoils for the bed’s top comfort layer wrapped in a see-through, breathable fabric mesh. This year, the company expanded its Posturflo lineup with a less expensive, perforated nonwoven version, and won a second Interzum award for new Posturflo 3D, which pairs microcoils with lofty spacer fabric. A nifty concept bed in its showroom used Posturflo 3D as both panel fabric and cushion layer.
While Posturflo 3D can be used either externally, replacing the bed panel’s fabric, or internally in the bed’s top comfort layer, another new Spinks product, Quiltech 3D, definitely is designed for the bed panel. The pocketed microcoil unit is quilted with a plush, double-knit fabric.
Herrljunga, Sweden-based Starsprings introduced a number of product innovations at Interzum, and shined a spotlight on its new My Spring program.
My Spring is a step-by-step process in which the company works closely with customers to brainstorm and develop a patent-worthy, unique innerspring design to fill a manufacturer’s individual needs, says Johan Dahlin, Starsprings sales and marketing manager. “We have offered it on a smaller scale in the past, but now it is a major focus.”
In other news, Starsprings unveiled the next generation of S-matic, an unusual pocket-spring core with zoned adjustability. In its previous iteration, launched at Interzum 2013, S-matic’s adjustability rested in the bed base, but after further research and development, the company moved the feature up into the mattress core.
S-matic enables sleepers to customize the firmness of their bed via tightening or loosening braided cords—made from super-strong Dyneema fiber—that run through the wrapped-coil core. The S-matic Zone bed uses a wireless remote to adjust the hip and shoulder areas. S-matic LS has an adjustable lumbar zone only. S-matic Auto is a feature that can be applied to either model and makes the bed automatically adjustable to the sleeper’s body type.
Starsprings also rolled out patented S-cut encased coils. The coil wrappers have a long, vertical vent that allow for greater airflow and flexibility in the 4-inch and 8-inch units.
Boycelik, based in Kayseri, Turkey, which supplies wire and a large array of innersprings to mattress producers around the world, featured a new layered, wrapped-spring unit called the Duo Pocket System.
Duo Pocket sold very well at Interzum because of its supportive comfort, says Idris Babacan, Boycelik area sales executive. A tall layer of support coils are layered with higher-gauge, plush-feeling coils on top.
“There are twice the number of top coils for softness and pressure relief,” Babacan says. The larger, heavier gauge coils below “provide needed support for the heavier parts of your body—hips and shoulders.”
In many of the markets it serves, Turkish wire and innerspring producer Metal Matris, with headquarters in Kayseri, is seeing strong growth in wrapped coils for better bedding, says Aytekin Marasli, international sales chief. The company has made recent capital investments that allow it to flat-pack and ship its springs around the world.
Metal Matris introduced four wrapped-coil configurations at Interzum. Wave Balance and higher coil count Wave Balance Smart have coil rows in alternating heights to improve airflow and create a “latex-foam feel.” New Edge Support Smart has more supportive springs on the border for better mattress-edge support. And Smart Zone allows mattress makers to design their own zoned, encased-coil core.
Innerspring supplier Agro, based in Bad Essen, Germany, introduced Squareflaex, a wrapped mini-microcoil unit with square pockets. The company uses horizontal ultrasonic welding, not glue, to seal the spring pockets—a technique it uses on taller units for vertical welds.
Minus the glue and with a special softspun fabric, the 1-inch tall spring unit is extra quiet and flexible, says Sven Tiemeier, Agro sales manager. The unit works best in mattress toppers and in the top cushion layer of the bed.
Historically, in most of Europe, polyurethane foam has been the mattress core of choice. But beginning in Central Europe about four years ago, Tiemeier says he has witnessed growing interest in innerspring mattresses—as well as traditional box springs. Now, the interest is spreading, from Russia to Spain, Tiemeier adds.
The road ahead
As for the future, HSM’s Anthony predicts further advancements in microcoil technology that will allow manufacturers to “build beds we’ve never seen before.”
“Quite frankly, in some cases, that means building mattresses without any sort of filling or traditional comfort layers like foam or fiber,” he says. “I think building mattresses with just springs is around the corner.”
Kinsley says the focus will remain on mattress comfort life, and he “can’t wait to share” what’s next for the company.
“We are very encouraged by the trends we’ve seen, the move toward hybrids, the move toward Quantum Edge and Nanocoil,” he says. “We love that the market is responding to that. Outside of product, our mission is to be sure that people get a good night’s sleep. And consistency is a big part of that—making sure you have a durable sleep surface that feels the same way every day.”
Though less specific, Wolfson is equally optimistic about what lies ahead: “We are still busy working on the patents themselves. But we are working on things now that hopefully will revolutionize the way innersprings are produced and the way they actually work in a mattress.”