As an organic mattress company, Naturepedic has its share of competitors. But in terms of founder credibility, it might stand on its own.
Naturepedic’s story starts on the shores of Lake Erie. As a young man, Founder Barry Cik lived there long enough to watch what had been a clean, natural ecosystem become polluted from toxic chemicals stemming from raw sewage and manufacturing plants in the 70s. He was so moved by the eventual death of the lake’s natural resources that he went on to become an environmental engineer, eventually testifying before Congress about the dangers of chemical water pollution.
Then, after he became a grandfather, Cik was sent on what appeared to be a routine errand in 2003: to buy a mattress for his grandson’s crib. Being the professional that he is, Cik did what most grandparents wouldn’t do: He checked the ingredients. He found that they were full of some of the same materials he was fighting against professionally. And he wasn’t happy about his discovery.
That day started Cik’s journey to founding Naturepedic with two of his sons. Today, the company runs on a tri-brid business model spanning direct to consumer (D2C), owned retail stores and third-party retail distribution such as Buy Buy Baby, Pottery Barn and Crate & Barrel.
While Cik’s 18 stores have struggled with the pandemic issues shared by many non-essential retailers, eCommerce has been a different story for Naturepedic.
“Businesses is okay, but it's relatively flat,” said Cik. “It's not great, but at the same time, our internet business went through the roof. So if there's a good side to this pandemic, it’s that people are waking up and understanding that they have to protect their health – and their mattresses have a lot to do with their health.”
As an eCommerce player in the mattress space, Naturepedic has a fair amount of competition, including Nectar, Purple and Casper. As a player in the organic mattress space, it competes with some other companies, but many of them get away with being just “eco-friendly.” Cik is adamant that a truly organic mattress should be filled with organic materials, not just covered with them. For that reason, Naturepedic mattresses are made with organic wool, organic latex and organic cotton-encased coils. The company avoids some of the flame -retardant chemicals and polyurethane fill that some experts say can present a health hazard, particularly for babies.
“Let's say you're sleeping on a queen-size mattress and it's made of polyurethane foam,” said Cik, whose company has branched out to include both adult and child-size mattresses. “What you're sleeping on is 20 gallons of petroleum. You think you're sitting on luxury because you paid a bunch of money, but you're sitting on 20 gallons of gasoline. And then there's formaldehyde and other kinds of chemicals. I think we have to stop using all these unhealthy chemicals – that’s what motivates me.”
Naturepedic has received several environmentally friendly recognitions. Most recently, the company was ranked No. 1 for its crib mattress by the Getting Ready For Baby Coalition, which comprises over 90 environmental organizations.
Cik’s passion aside, Naturepedic is a business – and a profitable one at that. Most of its marketing builds on his evangelism.
“Marketing is all about education,” he said. “When people learn about the benefits of reducing toxic exposure, our organic mattresses are a no-brainer. This mostly happens on our website, but we’ve also been getting the word out through our affiliate network and through promotional and PR efforts. We also advertise through all of the traditional channels, like search engines and social media. We measure return on advertising and adjust our spend accordingly.”
That PR also comes through partnerships. Naturepedic recently teamed up with the Max Cure Foundation, which funds research for the development of pediatric cancer drug therapies. The company will donate the proceeds from a 20 percent discount on sales of its products to Max Cure.
As mattresses go, Naturepedic can be on the expensive side. Its kids’ mattresses at Pottery Barn can run north of $1,000, and its adult mattresses at the same store can go up to $2,000. However, Cik doesn’t see Naturepedic’s market as affluent.
“Our best customers live a healthy, organic lifestyle and are educated on the benefits of healthy sleep,” he said. “[Our mattresses] are accessible to most people who understand the benefits of chemical-free living. Since that segment continues to grow independent of affluence, we continue to appeal more and more to a broader base of consumers.”