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Foam, down fills come together

Visco-elastic foam and down have long co-existed in the world of pillows as separate products. This market, however, visco-elastic suppliers and manufacturers are trying to differentiate by combining the two fills.

For their part, down pillow manufacturers are trying to give consumers more bang for the buck by adding more value.

One of the companies to introduce the down/visco-elastic pillows was West Long Branch, NJ-based Sleep Innovations. Knowing it had a potentially hot item on its hands, Sleep Innovations' president Michael Fux applied for a patent for his particular construction. Hudson Industries and Carpenter Co., both of Richmond, VA, have also unveiled their own versions.

"I thought it was a natural, no pun intended," Fux said of his visco/down line, which is labeled Novaform Naturals. "I think it was the newest thing anyone had done in pillows when we came up with it."

Fux said the natural softness of down combined with the support and resiliency of foam caters to many preferences.

According to Dan Schecter, vp of sales and marketing for Carpenter's consumer products division, the Perfect Down pillow's unique feel is what attracts consumers.

"There's lots of perceived value there since you not only have the down ticking but, in our version, the full-sized insert," he said. "It's a lucrative area to get into for retailers since the margins are good."

Hudson Industries further differentiates this market by offering a molded visco-elastic foam pillow with surrounding down.

"Foam is sort of a foreign product," said Lonnie Scheps, vp of sales and marketing for Hudson, which offers the Deluxe Cradle Pillow. "But once you introduce the down you mix in a familiar element that's very well known and has all these great qualities. We knew that that was the future of the specialty products arena."

Rather than trying to find the next "hot" product, down bedding suppliers have focused their efforts on adding value through new product offerings, such as United Feather & Down's Remmy Bedding Collection, or through different fills, like Hollander Home Fashions' cluster polyester fill mattress pad.

"We're trying to develop better structural ways to manufacture product so they add more value and have more functionality," said Brandon Palmer, executive vp of United Feather & Down.

"We've opted to stick with the traditional down products and add more value," said Dave Sides, president of Hollander's Basic Bedding division.

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