Cover Story: The Evolution Of Blu Sleep
Never a brand to stick with the status quo, Blu Sleep has always stood out from the crowd with brightly colored pillows, wellness-oriented innovations and manufacturing ingenuity. Today, its ever-expanding product portfolio includes an assortment of all-foam pillows and mattresses that provide retailers with higher margins and eye-catching selling opportunities. With the debut of its fresh new brand identity and of-the-moment packaging, Blu Sleep has reinvented itself as a bedding producer of the future.
Founded in 2006, Blu Sleep first got its start as a supplier for mattress makers. After three years of supplying the industry with latex foam components, the company was struck by how little attention was being paid to the pillow category. Armed with its specialized expertise, Blu Sleep turned its attention towards developing finished pillow offerings for small manufacturers and retailers. First finding success with private labeling in the Canadian market, Blu Sleep soon expanded its distribution to retailers in the United States as well, where it began selling the products under its own brand name. Today, Blu Sleep still has a Canadian division that sells raw materials to manufacturers, but its presence in the US is primarily focused on finished Blu Sleep products.
“It was an evolution for us. We understand what manufacturers are doing, and we understand what retailers are requesting as well. We see both sides of the fence: we are manufacturers and supply manufacturers.”
Alex Ciccolella, Blu Sleep President
As the company continued to grow its distribution, it sought out Italian foam suppliers to help develop new foams. A bio-chemist himself, company president Alex Ciccolella was able to work closely with suppliers to create and fine-tune the innovative formulations to better suit the needs of each product.
“We’re not just a reseller,” he continues. “We don’t just go to China and say, ‘What do you have?’ and then market it. We actually do our research before we put something on the market. We put new things together and test it and try it first. We try to bring together the most innovative products we can find, whether it’s in the fabrics or the foams and even zippers. And if we can’t find it, we modify things or have it done for us. It’s all about bringing the best materials together to come up with Blu Sleep products.”
This expertise allows the company to carefully construct all of its product offerings to an exact feel through exclusive features and innovative materials. Every Blu Sleep product is made with water-expanded foams. Utilizing water as an expansion agent helps to eliminate harmful chemicals, making for cleaner, more environmentally-conscious foams. All of Blu Sleep’s memory foam, latex and gels are OEKO-Tex certified, which guarantees that there is no off-gassing produced in the process. Additionally, the foams feature an open-cell structure, which renders them non-temperature-sensitive—meaning they won’t heat up during the night. The quality of these materials is what made the company stand out from the very beginning. In fact, Blu Sleep was one of the first to focus on and promote breathability as a key benefit.
Understanding that pillows make up 25% of the total sleep surface, Blu Sleep set out to create a pillow line that would actively enhance sleep quality. Over the years, the company has curated a comprehensive pillow assortment that supports every type of sleeper. Each pillow option has been dynamically designed to adapt to the curves of the head and neck, made from supremely comfortable, temperature-neutral materials.
“Our extended line of sleep accessories will give retailers the opportunity to tap into those all-important add-on sales,” explains Elizabeth Dell’Accio, vice president of Blu Sleep. “Consumers are weary of visiting multiple stores to outfit a new bedroom. These additions to the Blu Sleep line help retailers offer one-stop shopping convenience.”
In addition to its popular Nature, Wellness and Latex pillow lines, the company recently introduced the new Essential Collection. Like all of Blu Sleep’s products, this five-pillow assortment is made from water-expanded memory foam. What truly differentiates this line-up from the rest is that each pillow is infused with an essential oil—including chamomile, lavender, citrus, green tea or eucalyptus. Instead of simply spraying these essential oils onto the final product, Blu Sleep has actually infused them into the chemistry of the foams to maintain their longevity. Priced to retail at $80, each pillow is finished with a hidden-zippered bamboo cover to further facilitate a tranquil sleep environment.
In response to the popularity of Blu Sleep pillows and a growing demand for Blu Sleep mattresses from retail partners, the company debuted its new Nature Collection earlier this year. Designed to coordinate with the brand’s top-selling pillows and priced to retail from $1,499 to $2,199, this collection features five unique mattress models. Encouraging a more cohesive sleep experience for the consumer and streamlining the selling proposition for the retailer, each mattress and pillow combination share specific characteristics.
Across all of its mattresses, Blu Sleep delivers three construction features that are essential to sleep comfort: pressure relief, airflow and temperature regulation. By blending high-quality foams together with exclusive technologies, the company has crafted a mattress collection that provides tangible value to the consumer.
Creating more substantive support and enhancing the durability of the sleep surface, each mattress in the collection is made with a minimum two to two and a quarter pound base foams—nearly double the weight found in standard foam beds. By including a layer of the company’s trademarked AirPods, the mattresses provide unparalleled pressure point relief. Each foam pod works independently from one another, allowing the mattress to contour to the unique size and shape of the body.
“Each mattress will adapt to a wider variety of sleepers,” Ciccolella explains. “The bed will always completely adapt to the body. It’s just a question of what firmness the consumer prefers in their mattress: softer or firmer.”
In addition to contouring comfort, cooling was another key consideration for Blu Sleep when developing this new line. Sleeping hot is a main concern for today’s consumers— and this worry can often deter people from purchasing all-foam beds, as they have been known to heat up more drastically than their innerspring counterparts.
“There are two factors that make your bed hot,” Ciccolella explains. “One is heat retention and two is humidity. If you eliminate those two factors, it makes for a much more comfortable night sleep.”
To eliminate these factors, Blu Sleep focused on airflow and phase-change materials. While there are plenty of high-tech cooling treatments available in the market, air is the most efficient medium for evacuating heat absorbed in a mattress. In addition to providing an adaptive comfort feel, Blu Sleep’s AirPods also allow air to circulate continuously throughout mattress, with air channels running left to right and head to toe. This helps dissipate any built-up heat and eliminates humidity, which enhances comfort and prevents bacteria, mold or mildew from accumulating.
Dedicated airflow further enhances the inherent breathability of all of Blu Sleep’s foams and gels. While some mattress makers opt for thick layers of gel to provide an immediate “cooling” sensation, those materials often lose that effect over the course of the night. The lack of airflow means that it will simply absorb the heat emanating from the body—and will eventually become warm. Other gel products are little more than memory foams infused with gel beads, which oftentimes do not provide adequate cooling. Blu Sleep took an entirely different approach with its IceGel foam. Made from highly breathable, open-cell foamed gel and featured as a full layer at the top of the mattress, this unique gel formulation delivers real cooling and ensures that the air is consistently moving the heat away from the bed.
With an internal construction designed to regulate temperature, Blu Sleep’s mattresses up the ante on cooling on the outside as well. Each mattress cover is treated with a cooling yarn made from phase-change materials. Rather than simply delivering the coldest possible feel, the company tested varying degrees of cooling to see what was most appealing to consumers.
“When it comes to the coolness of the bed, we view it as more of a marathon than a sprint,” Ciccolella explains. “We didn’t want to go with something too cold, or something that feels cold for just three, four, 10 minutes. We want to put you on a mattress that will keep you cool all night. So we went with something that is as high as you can go in the PCM so that, instead of having that initial shock and then warming up within seconds, you’ll stay cooler longer.”
Attention to detail has always been a cornerstone of the Blu Sleep brand—and that extends beyond the comfort and support components to include the styling as well. For the Nature Collection, the company searched high and low for a specific type of fabric for the covers. Using machines to knit and laser cut each cover individually, they were able to eliminate the need for seams between the top layer, waterfall and border. This creates a sleeker look to the overall mattress.
“We wanted to make our beds and pillows visually appealing so that consumers are automatically drawn to them,” Ciccolella says. “Then we provide them with a product that is exceptional at a very good price for what they’re getting.”
While eye-catching product design has always been the company’s forte, Blu Sleep recently enhanced its overall aesthetics to make an even bigger impact. In addition to the new pillow and mattress collections, the company also debuted a stylish new brand identity at the Winter Las Vegas Market.
“The rebranding process gave us the opportunity to self-examine and refresh what everyone thinks about the brand,” says Dell’Accio. “We did a brand audit and the results were clear: yes, we had beautiful, colorful products— but the messaging was not so direct. To address that, we created consumer messaging that speaks to all the features of our products and the culture of Blu Sleep and who we are.”
While the distinctness of Blu Sleep’s products comes from its technical prowess, the average consumer is rarely swayed by manufacturing acuity. With the rebrand, the company translated its key assets into a consistent and evocative aesthetic, expressing clear brand values and product benefits that consumers connect with. While the technical process behind its water-expanded foam is unique, it may not be entirely accessible for consumers. Reflecting the more restorative aspects of the materials, Blu Sleep crafted new branding assets that illustrate how its products work together to create a truly luxurious sleep environment . Inspired by the coastal beauty of Southern Italy (where most of the foam is manufactured), the company’s new streamlined logo touts a refreshing blue color supported through oceanic imagery. These visual assets not only highlight the aquatic element of Blu Sleep’s products—they emphasize the sense of tranquility consumers can experience by choosing to sleep on them.
Blu Sleep’s stronger visual identity further differentiates the brand in the increasingly crowded bedding marketplace. Designed to reinforce the notion that sleep is an integral part of any health and beauty routine, the overall look of the branding associates the products with other wellness products, a popular category. It has an aspirational quality to it; even if your day-to-day life is hectic, at least you can pamper yourself as you sleep. Blu Sleep makes self-care more attainable.
“Our products support your overall wellbeing, not just a good night sleep. Having a healthier product, using breathable foams that are water-expanded and infused with essential oils, makes it sort of like a wellness ritual. When people sleep our products, we want them to feel like they’re in a spa. By sourcing the finest and healthiest sleep product components from around the world, we deliver a personalized pampering experience to consumers.”
-Elizabeth Dell’Accio, Vice President of Blu Sleep
As today’s bedding marketplace continues to evolve, it’s imperative that manufacturers learn how to adjust to better support their retail partners. Part of that is understanding what consumers really care about. Coupling its high-level expertise in the manufacturing sphere with a fresh new look, Blu Sleep has created a more compelling narrative around its products—a more engaging way to communicate with consumers of all ages.
Beyond connecting with consumers on the aesthetic level, Blu Sleep also understands how people shop today. Its mattresses now come roll-packed. While many industry veterans have viewed the bed-in-a-box as a low-end option, Blu Sleep took a very different approach. In order to offer the compact and convenient option while maintaining the level of quality for which the brand is known, Blu Sleep invested more time and effort in selecting the proper Indentation Load Deflection (ILD) rating for the foams—the firmness of the foam and how many pounds of pressure is required to indent it—and making sure that the products would not break down over time.
“When it comes to roll-pack mattresses, the biggest issue was shelf-life,” Ciccolella says. “After a certain amount of time, the compression can start to break down the foam so that it comes back uneven. That is why we only use high-quality foams: so there is no question that this bed will come back. When we make our foams, we consider that the mattress will be roll-packed and we choose the ILD rating of our foams with that in mind. So when the retailer or consumer opens the mattress, it will feel the same as when they tried it in store.”
By pre-compressing the foam layers before boxing the bed, Blu Sleep guarantees that its mattresses will maintain their comfort feel and firmness even as they are packaged. As a result, consumers do not have to let the mattress settle or break it in before enjoying it. Opening up a more convenient fulfillment solution, roll-packing is not just for e-commerce. In addition to cutting down the cost of shipping to the retailers themselves, boxed packaging saves space in warehouses, allows for drop-shipping straight to the consumer and gives retailers an in-store cash-and-carry option.
Blu Sleep works closely with all of its retail partners to curate and customize the best assortment of products for their needs. With a wide variety of different pillow constructions, models and comfort options, Blu Sleep has a pillow for every sleep need and preference— and mattresses to match. So how does the brand onboard new retail partners?
“No two retailers are identical or work the same way,” Ciccolella explains. “We try to figure out how they work and what has worked best for them with their sales staff in the past. First, we assess what the retailer’s customer base is and what they have on their floor. We want to work with what they already have—we don’t want to move against what they’re already doing. If they’re putting our mattress and pillows on the floor, we will try to work with the assortment of mattresses they chose and work our pillow line accordingly. Ultimately, we try to make selling as simple as possible.”
The goal of the rebrand was to make its entire product assortment clean, crisp and easy to sell. But sales training is another vital service that Blu Sleep offers its retail partners. With a specialized staff on hand, the company provides each retailer with an extensive training program that can be customized to each store’s individual need.
These days, Blu Sleep products can be found in a wide range of retail spaces: from big mattress and furniture retailers to small specialty bedding and mom-and-pop shops, even ecommerce sellers. The company has experienced a tremendous amount of growth in recent years—and, as a result, has been actively expanding its workforce and capabilities to better meet the increased demand. Since opening up its distribution, warehouse and assembly facility in Pompano Beach, Florida four years ago, the company has been able to offer more quick-ship opportunities to its customers. With a wealth of new hires over the past year, Blu Sleep now offers more robust support across all aspects of the retail business: from social media marketing to customer service.
“This is what we pride ourselves on,” Dell’Accio explains. “From our service and shipping to the products themselves; our new POP and visuals to the profit margins, after-sale service, product knowledge and attention to detail. We’re there to help our retailers by touching on every little thing that could come up.”
Grounded in a long history of manufacturing innovation, Blu Sleep’s new product lines, updated POP materials and a steadily expanding team all uniquely position the brand to help its retail partners succeed in the years ahead.