He went on to outline how his firm’s Comfort Science idea could help make the PU industry more profitable and help to generate better returns on investment for large capital projects such as MDI and TDI plants.
"If you have investment without innovation, you have a commodity and you don't get return on investment of a scale like this without something more. Innovation without scale and you get niche," he told delegates.
The flexible polyurethane foam industry is “sitting on something very interesting a lot of our products are enabling sleep. We call ourselves the foam industry, but a better definition is the enabler of sleep. Our competition, is not ourselves, it is the people who understand how to market our products better than we do."
Citing the global wellness business which, he said turns over “$3.72 trn/year, and the global fitness, mind and body industry which turns over $542 bn/year. Polyurethane foam turns over $29 billion”, he added, “we are not getting anything like the value we bring.”
Companies which operate in these markets, emotionalise their chemistry or have strong marketing propositions. "Why do people do fitness, why do people wear cosmetics? To feel better.
"The medical community will tell you that the most important thing is a good night sleep, we are sitting on this goldmine of an opportunity to humankind's well-being, and still our industry is tiny," he said.
The companies which operate well in these sectors, are highly science-based, "with technology at their core, but they emotionalise that technology,” Penrice added.
Penrice told delegates that he believes the flexible foam industry “talks about the products too much, because that's where we think we are in the value chain.” Consumers don’t understand this language, he said.
Dow’s new Comfort Science approach has been to make the science of a good night sleep more consumer friendly.
The firm has analysed what comfort means, reduced it to 3 key properties and then make the approach to consumers more emotional.
The properties are: “ergonomics, how materials conform and adapt to a person’s shape; microclimate, the levels of humidity between the materials and the body; and, sensation, how the materials feel and respond to touch,” he said.
These properties are made up of individually measurable properties such as air-flow or density and presented to consumers in a language that non-PU people understand to achieve absolute comfort, he added.
Dow will be talking directly to retailers and brands to help spread these ideas into retail, Penrice promised.