Polyurethane Memory Foam: A Tale of Two Densities

Polyurethane Memory Foam:  A Tale of Two Densities

The French Renaissance essayist Michel de Montaigne reportedly relished the experience of sleep so much that he instructed a servant to repeatedly wake him throughout the night so that he could catch himself in the act of sleeping.  But in this day and age, many of us would settle for a few extra minutes of shut eye.  Whether that means hitting the hay early or hitting the snooze bar repeatedly, one thing is for sure -- we love a good sleep. 

Polyurethane’s Popularity

Over the last decade, advances in mattress technology have made a good night’s sleep more likely.  Polyurethane (memory) foam mattresses’ exceptional comfort and unique ability to mold to a sleeper’s body have contributed to their rapid displacement of traditional innerspring types.  Memory foam mattresses have high levels of owner satisfaction.  80 percent of users are satisfied with their mattress, according to the bedding product review website, Sleep Like the Dead.

The high ratings come from the superior level of comfort that its body-contouring flexible foam provides.  The mattress is made of tiny foam cells that are filled with air, and when weight is applied, that air moves into adjoining foam cells.  The effect that this has on a sleeper is a reduction in pressure points, which is beneficial for people with back and other body pain.  The nature of the foam material also inhibits motion and noise, both of which can lead to less interrupted and more restful sleep. 

Given that the mattresses with higher densities of foam are more expensive and provide more body comformity and reduction in back pain, they tend to be more popular with baby boomers and other middle-aged buyers.  This means rising profits for mattress makers, as well as polyurethane material suppliers like BASF and Covestro.  According to the Freedonia industry study Polyurethane Market in the US, the amount of polyurethane material used in mattresses rose nearly 5% per year over the last decade, even though total mattress shipments grew less than 1% per year. 

Different Densities

However, less expensive low-density and medium-density polyurethane foam mattresses also continue to gain popularity.  Many of these products are sold through the “bed in a box” model, where the mattress expands upon unpacking by the buyer.  Bed in a box suppliers Leesa and Casper, for example, bypass showrooms and opt for direct to consumer sales, which has been a disruptive force in the normally plodding mattress industry.  The beds in a box have proved extremely popular with younger people, who are accustomed to making purchases online or via smartphone.  Social media has contributed to the momentum, as buyers upload and buyers to be watch mattress unpacking videos on YouTube.

For More Information: 

To learn more about the outlook this and other markets for polyurethane, check out Polyurethane Market in the US, a new industry study from the Freedonia Group. This study includes historical and forecast information for: 

  • polyurethane raw materials
  • polyurethane products
  • markets and applications
  • market share evaluation and competitive analysis on industry competitors 

For additional information, see Freedonia Focus reports Polyurethane: United States and Sleep Products: United States.  

About the Author: 

Larry Catsonis is an Industry Analyst at the Freedonia Group, where he writes industry studies focused on polymers and materials.