How to Unravel The Mess of Mattress-In-A-Box Options

In a recent blog post by Everchem, a reputable news outlet covering the business happenings within the polyurethane foam marketplace, they estimate that there are as many as 100 brands selling compressed foam mattresses online.

While those numbers may seem shocking, we believe there are likely far more. Just Google "foam mattress" and see how many pages you can scroll through.

This begs the question, "What makes one different from the next?" If you're not a chemist, sleep doctor, or haven't been in the foam industry for 65 years, it can be hard to tell a difference between the wide variety of beds and mattress companies. Thus, the ones that have the sleekest websites, the highest advertising budget, and the best marketing story tend to win the battle.

This leads to what can be the biggest problem in the whole market.

As Everchem says:

Mattress-in-a-box companies are really digital marketing companies... Most online mattress companies don’t actually manufacture their own mattresses; they subcontract the manufacturing and simply slap their brands on the product
— Jeff Andrews

One of the founders of an up and coming online brand even confirmed that statement. "People ask me what it takes to get into this space. If you have a Google Adwords account and you know a subcontractor, you can sell mattresses online," he said. 

If you're looking to buy a quality, comfortable mattress at a fair price, statements like this should NOT leave you feeling very warm and fuzzy. Especially when these words come straight from the founders of the companies.

So, how are we to decipher which mattress brands actually know their stuff, and which are simply in it to make a buck?  Here are a few tips that we think could help.

1. Find out if they manufacture or subcontract.

While subcontracting doesn't always indicate a lack of interest in the construction and performance of the mattress, it does mean that the actual brand doesn't (and can't) have oversight on every mattress that is shipped out. The quality assurance responsibility undoubtedly falls on the subcontractor, who simply doesn't have the same ownership over the consistency of what goes out.

Another downside of subcontracting is the added mark-up. More hands involved means more money and a higher end price for you to get the good night of sleep you deserve. When possible, a consumer can save large amounts by going straight to the source.

2. Ask about the density of the foam.

Hardly any brands actually advertise the density of the foam, and some even go out of their way to hide this information from their customers. Why would that be?

Density of foam is directly tied to the long term durability of the product, and is also tied to cost. In other words, to utilize the best foams, a company has to pay for it.

Instead of doing so, far too many companies will hide the actual density specifications of the foam they use, and simply claim that their products are "high density." We say ask for the numbers, and beware of any companies who refuse to share them. It's more than likely that they're looking to save money in the short-term and are knowingly producing less-durable mattresses as a result.

Most of these brands have live chats. We've often encouraged customers to give it a shot and inquire about foam density from large, big-box retailers. Here is just one example of an all-too-common response:


To summarize, if you ask about the density of foam in a given mattress and the brand either doesn't know or changes the subject, you should probably look elsewhere. No engineering is ever worth $1,000 unless it also includes superior products.

3. Don't go for a mattress that claims it works for everyone, even if it has thousands of online reviews.

Most of the online brands only offer one construction that supposedly works for everyone. They claim hours of research and engineering that developed the one-size-fits all mattress. However, the real reason they only offer one mattress is because it's easier to subcontract one product than it is to subcontract customized options. 

Mattresses are not tube socks. You can't just fit into it or stretch it enough to work out. We're all shaped differently and have different needs. We believe a little customization in a mattress goes a long way in terms of comfort.

At the end of the day, it's likely that these subcontracting mattress brands will continue to grow. Their marketing budgets are significant and their prices are competitive compared to brick and mortar stores. Their sleek websites provide a very easy and compelling user experience.

However, it's our belief that to provide a true solution for better sleep, a brand that doesn't actually manufacture mattresses(which we do, all in Indiana), doesn't disclose the actual materials that are used (which we do, on every product page), and doesn't provide customized mattress constructions (which we do, through a simple Comfort Test) cannot fully deliver a complete solution for better sleep. These styles of mattress sales provide a decent solution.

We don't encourage settling for decent.