New Forms, Formulations Enhance Latex

Producers tout natural, yet functional, features in mattress.

Cool. Breathable. Sustainable. That’s a concise summary of what customers are looking for these days. And latex foam producers are rolling out fresh foams to meet those needs. Further, they agree the material has a strong future, despite some challenges in the current marketplace.

Latex in beds helps mattress makers support premium-priced offerings, a nice benefit in a market where traffic-deprived retailers seek to boost the size of their sales tickets.

Latex foam makers spotlighted some of their new offerings at the International Sleep Products Association EXPO, held in Orlando, Florida, earlier this year. 

They introduced designs for latex foam cores, including cross-linked ventilation channels for additional breathability and a solid latex construction that encapsulates encased coils.

Latex foam producers also debuted a number of cool-sleeping latex foams and foams made with natural latex.

Mountain Top Foam, based in Mountain Top, Pennsylvania, used ISPA EXPO to relaunch its brand by focusing on three core product groups.

“We offer a broad selection across three product families, each with a range to meet all our customers’ (and the consumers’) needs,” says Bob Quickstad, director of sales and marketing. “Our Natural product family fulfills the growing demand for 100% natural latex.

“Our Mixto family is formulated with a blend of pure natural latex and synthetic latex, which can be a cost-effective option for those wanting natural latex, but not the price point,” he continues. “And our Performance family allows our customers to offer affordable mattress options with the same level of quality, comfort and support as our natural latex products. So, we can provide better sleep to everyone.”

The breathability in the company’s latex foams comes from its formulations and its proprietary continuous-pour process called Perpetua. The natural ventilation that’s inherent of the process “produces a latex with enhanced airflow and breathability to help with that persistent consumer complaint of ‘sleeping hot,’ ” Quickstad says.

He notes that the company’s brand revamp “was met with great success” at the show.

Latex With Soul

Latexco U.S. also spotlighted new foams and designs. Its offerings included Soul Spring, a solid, latex-encapsulated pocket spring mattress that can be compressed and roll packed. In addition, its mattress core, Silhouette, combines cross-linked ventilation channels with seven body-shaped zones of comfort and support.

Latexco also debuted LatexCool, which integrates cool-sleeping phase change materials with two applications. One features a surface coating and the other is infused into the latex foam. Of note, the company’s NaturalFoam carries Global Organic Latex Standard certification. 

Performance Latex is one of the new categories of latex foam recently introduced by Mountain Top Foam. Designed to deliver a stronger, more consistent product, it comes in six firmness levels.

Brent Limer, chief sales officer at Lavonia, Georgia-based Latexco, says his customers are looking for several features: premium products that command higher price points, natural products and those incorporating some percentage of natural materials, durable components, and temperature-neutral or temperature-regulating elements.

They also want properties that he says are inherent in latex foams, such as antimicrobial and naturally hypoallergenic properties, flexibility, resilience and pressure relief.

“We will continue the positioning of latex as the premium component used in mattress production,” Limer says, summarizing the company’s overall plans for its latex foam offerings. “With our global resources as an organization, we have the resources to provide excellent quality, service, cost and innovation in the latex category.”

International offerings

Netherlands-based Vita Talalay showcased its latex lines at ISPA EXPO, including its Natural Vita Talalay Origins offering, which carries Forest Stewardship Council certification, as well as certification by the Global Organic Textile Standard. The foams in the Origins line can be used in organic mattresses and pillows.

Vita Talalay products also feature Natural Vita Talalay FR, with expandable graphite, a natural fire retardant, added to the natural latex, the company says. 

Ila Farshad, commercial director for Vita Talalay, says his company’s products stand on their own.

“In our opinion,” Farshad says, “Vita Talalay needs no gimmicks. We can prove that our material is already temperature neutral, naturally cooling, and does not sleep hot like other latex or memory foam. It does not require copper since Vita Talalay improves blood circulation because of its pressure point–relieving qualities.” 

The Origins line is sourced from latex plantations in Guatemala, which visitors to the company’s booth could visit by donning virtual reality headsets. Consumers shopping for latex beds in retail mattress stores can see a video version of the VR tour. Farshad says that it’s part of the company’s commitment to consumer education.

“We keep supporting our brand with a lot of training and tools to help the sales associates to upsell in the category,” he says. “The VR experience for consumers is an example of this. We also offer a lot of digital pictures and videos on our YouTube channel.” 

Farshad says the round, open-cell structure of Talalay latex provides pressure relief, breathability and durability in a temperature-neutral foam. “It works for everyone,” he says.

Based in Mumbai, India, Foam Home India (Pvt.) Ltd. also exhibited at ISPA EXPO. The company showcased its Ergoshell technology, which features a three-component mattress design. The mattress shell can be made from latex, flexible polyurethane foam or memory foam. Its construction also features support blocks made of polyurethane foam and a comfort layer that can match the foam used in the mattress shell.

This design creates a comfortable and supportive sleep system, according to the company website. 

Bright future

Looking ahead, latex foam manufacturers believe business conditions in the short term will remain challenging, but they say their product is well-positioned to help retailers on the sales floor.

“The forecast continues to show slower conditions than we have experienced in the last two years,” says Limer of Latexco. “And inflation and energy costs are causing consumers to pick and choose where they can afford to spend their money.”

He feels latex foams will continue to be premium products used in higher-priced sleep sets, and those foams can help retailers trade consumers up to more luxurious beds.

Foam Home India’s Ergoshell design can be molded with latex foam, flexible polyurethane foam, high-resiliency foam or memory foam. The support blocks that fit inside the shell can be made from any cushioning material, but flexible polyurethane is most suitable for this design.

Vita Talalay’s Farshad says that current challenges facing the category include high costs for latex, transportation, energy and labor. He doesn’t expect to see those prices drop in the near future.

While the Covid-19 pandemic boosted spending on items for the home, that is changing. “Now that people can get out more, the money they spend is going elsewhere,” Farshad says. “This is across the board, so it is also true for latex. What we do see, though, is that latex category business levels are higher than in pre-Covid days, and that is something we could have only hoped for.” 

He adds: “I expect that business will stay strong in both the luxury category as well as at lower price points where a combination of 2 inches of Talalay with a pocket coil makes a very comfortable, yet affordable mattress.”

In sum, latex foam producers agree that the long-term outlook for the material is strong.

“The future of latex looks positive,” says Quickstad of Mountain Top Foam. “We believe this category will continue to grow as consumers continue to seek more natural and healthy sleep solutions, even more so in the post-Covid world. Consumers are looking for natural, safe products overall. And they are focused on their own health and the health of their family, recognizing more than ever before how important it is to sleep well. Latex hits on all cylinders here.” 

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