Continuing our occasional series of product manufacturer profiles (Beco, Peekaru, and Peapod Creations came earlier this year), this week we feature Zac Carter of Tres Tria, a product of Better for Babies. After our post about natural rubber in toys, I was really curious about how the Tres Tria co-sleeping pillow came about. Zac and Leah Carter spoke to me about their research and development.
Tres Tria is three in Latin, as in three in a family bed or co-sleeping with parents and child.
When Zac and Leah Carter moved back to the U.S. after living in Wales, they left their bedside co-sleeper there because they didn’t really use it. That left them without anything at all to use when they got home to Georgia with their toddler. They tried using a bolster from the back of a daybed, but it rolled awkwardly. Zac knew what he wanted, but he hadn’t seen a pillow semi cylinder-shaped before.
Developing a Natural Rubber Pillow
For a lot of Better for Babies products, Leah creates a version then Zac refines it and sells Leah on the changes. For a lot of Better for GrownUps products, Zac comes up with the ideas. Tres Tria was one of these. Zac did the research and development.
He knew he wanted a product that is all natural. Most rubber products include synthetics for strength. Since he had no intention of adding synthetic materials to the pillow, he had to choose a method of creating the pillow that would give him the most strength natural rubber could provide. There are two potential processes to get a natural rubber shape: carve from a slab or mold. He chose the mold. In order to determine just the right firmness, he had to start with the final shape.
From the prototype photos, it looks like shape was the fun part. Zac created cardboard prototypes, experimenting with various heights and curves and lengths to get the shape as it remains today. “As soon as we found that shape, even with the cardboard,” he said, “we instantly knew that it was going to be a thing that people would love.”
With the shape then the firmness in place, along with rubber harvested from Thailand, the rubber is molded close to the source in Asia. I learned while researching natural rubber toys that it is better to make rubber products close to the source. If rubber has to travel any distance, it requires the addition of ammonia as a stabilizer.
A lot of customers find Tres Tria because of the natural rubber, certified Natural Latex Rubber by the Eco Umwelt Institut, and organic cotton, certified organic and sustainable by Control Union Certifications and certified fair trade by the Fair Trade Labeling Organization. “All of our customers were looking for something natural,” Zac told me, “and we knew they would love this as much as we do.”
With natural materials, one of the properties we look for is a material that will break down, that will biodegrade. I asked Zac if this means rubber requires special care. Sunlight, he said, can break down the rubber, but this won’t happen if the cover is on the pillow. Tres Tria comes with an inner cover that doesn’t come off—so it protects the pillow from the sun—and a soft, organic cotton outer cover that zips off for cleaning.
Are there unexpected ways Zac has seen Tres Tria make the lives of their customers easier? He has seen the product make a big difference as it helped co-sleeping families to sleep through the night and not experience sleep deprivation. Because they are sleeping with their infants and not worrying about being up so much at night, he says,
It is so nice to be able to have a different story to tell. It’s nice to have memories of your baby that aren’t about a stressful period. You end up having an extra bond with your child. Our relationship with both of our kids seems to be stronger because of co-sleeping.”
New, Great Products
Finally, I asked if there are any new, great products in the works for Better for Babies or Better for GrownUps. Better for GrownUps recently launched a line of reusable organic cotton family tissues, facial rounds, and wipes. They are working on more great 100% reusable products for families. Zac is writing about the history of the handkerchief, giving fascinating context to their natural living choices.