The soybean checkoff helped fund the initial research on soy-based foam in furniture at Pittsburg State University’s Kansas Polymer Research Center (KPRC). Cargill and the KPRC then partnered to develop the first commercial soy-based polyols used in flexible foams for furniture. Manufacturing soy foam includes substituting soy polyols for a portion of petrochemical polyols. This process uses only the oil portion of a soybean, leaving the soybean meal for animal consumption.

Today Cargill sells those polyol products under the BiOH brand and counts some of the biggest names in retail among its customers. As examples, home furnishings leader Crate & Barrel uses soy-based foam in many of its upholstered products. Several mattress companies have also embraced soy-based foam, including Simmons and Martha Stewart Living, which unveiled the Good Bed.

The industry is working to increase the percentage of soy in foam furniture applications and hopes to reach 100% use of the soy polyol, which would equate to about 67% bio-content in finished foam. The key will be to increase soy content without compromising the product, and more research is needed before 100% soy products are available. 

 

For More Information

  • To learn about Malama Composites, go to www.malamacomposites.com.
  • To learn about Preserve foams, visit www.preservefoam.com.
  • For additional information on soy furniture, go to the Soy Products Guide section of www.soynewuses.org and click on Consumer Products, then click on Furniture.