ACCOUNTABILITY, AUTHENTICITY, ASSURANCE
By Gretchen Kast
Just over a decade ago, it might have been difficult to find an organic bed on a retail showroom floor. For years, mattresses have been exclusively sold on two selling points—comfort and price—as consumers looked to buy something comfortable and supportive to sleep on, without breaking the bank. But the market is changing.
Sales of organic goods as a whole have seen explosive growth over the past ten years—with more than 80% of American households choosing organic, whether it be food, personal care, cleaning supplies, or mattresses. No longer relegated to a small subset of “environmentally conscious” consumers, all-natural products now appeal to a wide range of demographics—from millennials to baby boomers. As a whole, people are getting smarter about their purchases, researching how they’re made and how they affect both the environment and their own health.
Since founding OMI in 2003, President Walt Bader has strived to create a company that offers consumers the finest organic latex mattress money can buy. A longtime sufferer of Multiple Chemical Sensitivity himself, Bader was one of the first to shed light on the concerns he had regarding mattresses that off-gas from the ingredients used in their manufacturing. Freedom Press has published his two books on this subject: Toxic Beds in 2007 and Sleep Safe in a Toxic World in 2011. “We don’t sell our mattresses using information in my books to scare people or put down the competition.” Bader explains, “we just want to give organically preferenced consumers an organic mattress choice.”
OMI was founded on the belief that people choosing to incorporate organic products into their lifestyle should be given the opportunity to purchase an organic mattress as well. In addition to comfort and price, Bader puts health and consumer choice at the top of the list of selling points—and it’s this unique trio of characteristics that sets OMI apart from its competition. Bader and his team have pioneered a unique product to inform the general public that not only do organic mattresses exist, but they are a growing part of the future of the bedding industry.
With an organic mattress, consumers are not making any sacrifices in terms of price or comfort (as it was once thought). High-end and ultra-luxury prices for mattresses have become more common—placing OMI’s beds squarely in the mid-range price point of specialty beds. Each mattress features high-quality organic knit covers, certified-organic wool quilting and layers of comfort materials that include 100% certified-organic latex and certified-organic cotton. OMI’s customers receive the coveted “Purity Guarantee” that says, “If you find a product purer than ours we will give you our mattress for free.”
With “safety” and accountability” as two of the most important tenants of OMI’s business model, Bader set out to make sure he could provide the necessary proof to effectively back up his claims. OMI has worked tirelessly over the years to combat “greenwashing” in the bedding industry to give retailers and consumers confidence that they are purchasing authentic, organic products.
When first starting out, though, “most retailers weren’t concerned with organic certifications,” Bader says. “Their customers just weren’t looking for them.” But the company continued to invest in research and advanced technology to improve the quality control throughout the entire supply and production chain, ensuring that every single step was safe and organic. And, in the past few years, the demand for transparency has skyrocketed, changing the market drastically. It’s no longer enough for companies to simply slap unsubstantiated promises onto their products. With a wealth of information at their fingertips, consumers are more discerning than ever, and as we saw last year, the Federal Trade Commission is cracking down on companies falsely claiming that their products are “organic”.
OMI produced the first mattress to receive the Global Organic Latex Standard, which was, itself, the first certification of its kind. Working with third-party auditors, OMI assures that they are strictly adhering to this standard’s guidelines. The GOLS certification requires more than using sap from USDA-certified rubber trees, OMI must be able to trace the raw rubber sap components to their sources and suppliers, and verify that no non-organic materials have been commingled or exposed to contamination throughout the full supply chain. OMI utilizes quality control systems to identify and minimize the chemicals used to process the latex and execute effective environmental practices for reducing and recycling waste. Additionally, safe working environments must be upheld throughout the entire process.
In addition to GOLS, OMI boasts a long list of comprehensive certifications. In 2005, the company produced the first organic mattress in the United States to receive the stringent Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) certification. The GOTS certification ensures that every aspect of the textile supply chain is organic: from harvesting to manufacturing to labeling. OMI’s exclusive ozone sanitation chambers assures that raw materials are protected from potential contamination from mold, yeast and bacteria. The compressed air is even sterilized so that pollens or other outside air contaminants are never forced into mattresses under normal manufacturing processes.
OMI unveiled the culmination of all of this hard work at the 2014 Winter Las Vegas Market with the introduction of the Certified-Organic Latex Mattress Collection, which has quickly become the company’s most successful launch ever.
The OMI Certified-Organic Collection is comprised of twelve beds, each of which adheres to the premium Global Organic Textile Standard and features a fully certified-organic Dunlop latex core. This doubled their number of third-party certified offerings, providing consumers with a level of choice that is not often associated with this niche.
“As the growth of the organic Latex segment continues,” Bader explains, “we felt these consumers deserve to have organic bedding options that would meet their individualized needs as well, and this market is seeing the introduction of five certified organic pillow tops and certified wool and cotton pillows.”
Over 80% of OMI’s retailers have experienced double digit sales growth in the first six months of the year, and the new certified-organic accessories introduced at this market will further add to the average dollar sales realized from these products.
“OMI proves to consumers that they can have a mattress made of comfortable, or ganic materials in the same price range as other luxury specialty beds,” Bader explains.
Working closely with retail partners, OMI is dedicated to helping raise the awareness of the existence of organic bedding and its growing consumer interest. The company recently introduced the Organic Demographic Study (ODS), which allows retailers, for the first time, to calculate the size of the organic market around their showroom floors. This service analyzes the retail area based on a wide range of local geographic factors, including the number of other organic stores, demographics, median income, age, etc. All of this research informs the retailer about how likely it is that their customers would be interested in organic bedding—if only they know it existed.
“The fact that so many organic shopping options, such as Whole Foods, are opening throughout the United States proves that independent bedding retailers can successfully address this important mattress segment for their individual communities,” says Bader.
Over the years, the bedding marketplace has transformed in many different ways. On one end of the spectrum, giant chain stores and monolithic retail brands have taken over a large part of the retail sector—while the Internet has overtaken many brick-and-mortar retailers. In the middle remain the small mom-and-pop stores and the independently-owned regional chains, many of which are looking to find a way to differentiate themselves. It’s these kind of retailers with whom OMI fosters relationships, providing them with unique, high-quality organic mattresses that will help set them apart from many big-box or online stores. Today, OMI mattresses are sold in retail stores across North America, including Bilt Rite Furniture, California Mattress and Long’s Bedding.
Recently, the company has also partnered with a growing list of high-end specialty furniture stores: Elte, ABC Home and Carpet and HD Buttercup, among others. These placements have re-enforced OMI’s distinct positioning in the market. “These leading retailers are not selling us exclusively as an organic brand,” Bader explains, “but placing us right next to other luxury brands as a latex option with a great story.” Retailers across the board are looking to offer “authenticity” in their sleep products, as consumers are becoming more informed about the products they purchase. OMI provides them with an option to embrace this growing latex niche.
By spending more time with the consumer and identifying the organic prospect, OMI is helping retailers grow their average dollar sales—with one of their retailers already making a $64,000 sale this year. “Word of mouth” has become a major part of OMI’s success, as almost half of all the company’s sales are referrals and repeat purchases. As a company, they have built a sense of trust with their customers—people who understand the unique benefits of an OMI latex mattress and, in turn, spread the word among friends and family to bring new customers into retail stores.
Through its certification and educational efforts, OMI is also raising the bar for other mattress manufacturers—offering a superior level of assurance that will (perhaps) one day be required of all mattresses. But for the time being, OMI offers retailers a way to connect with a growing niche of consumers, a way to differentiate themselves among a changing market, and a full line-up of beds at a variety of price points and comfort levels—all of which move on showroom floors.
“OMI continues to prove to the retailers throughout North America that organic latex mattresses sell!” Bader says.
The success of the Certified-Organic line is proof that the perspective on organic mattresses has improved—and will continue to do so, as OMI shifts its efforts to Point of Purchase and expanding distribution in the coming months, with a focus on educating the consumer.
Despite its strong sales number, Bader still considers OMI a “sleeper line”, simmering just under the radar. As the consumer interest in organics and latex continues to grow, though, and the rest of the industry continues to follow his lead, it looks as though this won’t be the case much longer.
New for the Las Vegas Market: Certified Organic Latex Mattress Toppers
OMI is expanding its best-selling Certified Organic Mattress Collection at the Summer Las Vegas Market, adding five new third-party certified organic pillow tops that will retail for $575 to $1,175 in queen.
“The certified organic mattress and accessory segment, following strong growth of organic purchases in the U.S. organic market last year, is continuing to experience sales growth significantly higher than overall industry performance,” Bader explains.
The introductory Verona topper features 2-inches of GOLS-certified organic latex encased in certified organic cotton knit fabric. The Allura topper features 2-inches of GOLS certified organic latex encased in OMI’s signature OrganicPedic knit quilting. The Wave model is the highest profile topper in the collection, featuring 3-inches of GOLS certified organic latex encased in the company’s exclusive certified organic cotton knit fabric and a body-conforming sculpted surface to ease pressure points and increase air flow under the sleeper. The Wooly is made with 3-inches of hi-loft third party certified organic wool encased in a hand tufted certified organic cotton cover. The Wooly Lite is made with 1.5-inches of hi-loft third party certified-organic wool encased in a hand tufted 100% certified organic cotton cover. The line will also include third party certified wool and cotton pillows.