Sleep better with this soy-based innovation

By Stowe Kintzinger December 22, 2015

In the mid-2000s, consumer demand for environmentally responsible household products started an upward trend. To bring more eco-friendly materials to industrial products, companies strived to develop products that met this increased demand from consumers.

One such innovative product, called BiOH® (pronounced “bio”) visco polyols, was developed by Cargill to replace petroleum-based polyols in materials like adhesives, binders and foams, by utilizing the chemical compounds from natural oils. A key result of this endeavor was reducing the environmental impact of producing an item with universal appeal, while improving its overall characteristics: mattresses.

By incorporating new technology into their processes, the manufacturers of mattresses and other household products—such as car seats and carpet padding—have noticed positive changes to their operational costs, environmental footprint and overall product quality. Instead of utilizing fossil fuels, these soy-based polyols used solar energy as the main source of power for production. This means for every one million pounds of polyols used instead of petroleum-based ingredients, nearly 2,200 barrels of crude oil are saved. Accordingly, the introduction of polyols improved affordability too, enabling manufacturers to offer environmentally responsible products at a more reasonable price.

Importantly, for all its innovative and economic qualities, BiOH didn’t come at the cost of consumer comfort, as soy-based polyols can replace up to 70% of petroleum-based materials in products like memory foam mattresses—without a drop in quality. They also offer a unique means of addressing another consumer concern in the process—getting a cooler night’s sleep. For many, staying cool is an important component of having a good night’s rest. Thanks to memory foams containing polyols, heat dissipates 25% faster than those using conventional infused-gel technology, meaning consumers have witnessed functional benefits as well.

In 2008, Cargill began constructing a US $22 million polyols manufacturing plant in Chicago, Illinois. Coupled with another facility in Brazil, the new plant would further expand production capabilities for a rapidly growing customer base in North America and Europe. Beyond mattresses, the company is exploring the use of BiOH polyols in products like building insulation and helping more manufacturers add vegetable-based materials to their portfolios. Product by product, Cargill is expanding soy’s potential and answering the demands of a more eco-conscious marketplace.

This article first appeared on CargillVoice on Forbes.