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How Global Pandemic Led to Shortage of Toilet Paper?

Consumer Goods and Retail | Feb, 2021

The paranoia aroused from the coronavirus pandemic instilled a sense of urgency in people to be fully prepared, which led to thousands of people running to stores for stockpiling essential household items, dry foods, and cleaning products. One of the most popular items that caused a shopping frenzy around the world was the infamous toilet paper. For many people, daily necessities go beyond food, shelter, and clothing as basic requirements have evolved into things that make their lives convenient and comfortable-and toilet paper seems to be clearly one of them. As people are spending more time indoors, the demand for at-home toilet papers has skyrocketed like never before, plummeting the global toilet paper market growth by 40%. 

 

But only hoarders were not to blame for the shortage as an industry divide between manufacturing consumer and commercial toilet paper added to the scarcity problem. Since toilet paper comes from paper mills to retail stores through an efficient and tight supply chain, the retailers could not keep up with the sudden toilet paper demand as they had limited inventory on hand. The hypermarkets were not ready to see the huge demand for toilet paper as the buying behavior of consumers threw everything into disarray. 

 

Major manufacturers of toilet paper ran their plants for 24 hours for 7 days a week to increase output and took measures to transport the products to stores more quickly. Atlanta-based Georgia-Pacific has been working with packaging suppliers to get more materials and maximize its deliveries through increasing the number of shipments. Some manufacturers also ceased the production of the many varieties of toilet paper so they could focus on the basics and get it to the shelves quickly. 

 

According to TechSci report, “Global Toilet Paper Market By Type (One layer, Two Layer, Ultra and Others), By Material (Fresh Leaves, Recyclable Papers, Others), By End User (Household, Commercial), By Distribution Channel (Offline (Hypermarkets/Supermarkets, Departmental Stores, Others), Online), By Region (Asia-Pacific, North America, Europe, South America, MEA), Competition, Forecast & Opportunities, 2025”, the global toilet paper market was valued at USD 64 billion in 2019 and is expected to surpass USD 102 billion by 2025, owing to increasing awareness among people about personal hygiene and cleanliness, which is boosting the use of toilet paper in residential spaces, offices, complexes, and business outlets. Besides, the growing issue of water shortage is further anticipated to drive the global toilet paper market as they can be used as an alternative to water. Another major factor is the outbreak of Coronavirus (COVID-19), which is augmenting consumer demand for toilet paper. The rise in disposable income and strong demand for AFH (Away From Home) segment can also attribute the growth of the global toilet paper market in the coming years. 

 

Other driving factors for the growth of the global toilet paper market are as follows. 

 

·         Rise in the number of commercial facilities 

The increasing number of travel hotspots coupled with the growth of the hospitality industry across the globe has boosted the demand for tissue products in hotels, restaurants, and resorts, contributing to the global toilet paper market growth. Moreover, the rising number workforce has further boosted toilet paper usage at offices, commercial buildings, and the corporate sector. Similarly, the increasing women working population has led to a spike in demand for personal care and hygiene products in offices as well as public restrooms. Therefore, a burgeoning number of commercial spaces has further increased the dependability of toilet paper. 

 

·         Increased focus on distribution channels 

Although the consumption of toilet paper has remained high in developed countries such as United States, Australia, Japan, Europe, Canada, etc., the increasing disposable income and rising living standards are creating a need for toilet paper in developing countries. However, growing infrastructural facilities related to distribution channels for increasing market penetration in emerging markets can attribute to the overall growth of the global toilet market. 

 

·         Evolution of toilet paper 

There was a time when toilet paper was nothing but a simple cleaning product. Nowadays, the convenient cleaning product has become an important part of the lifestyle and therefore, major manufacturers involved in global toilet market are offering different varieties in terms of texture, color, production process, size, style, durability, cost, and feel. 

 

·         Emergence of private label brands 

Increasing competition from private label brands has influenced the growth of the global toilet paper market. For instance, Amazon launched AmazonCommercial offering toilet papers, paper towels, and other tissue paper products to B2B clients. Other private label manufacturers such as First Quality, Clearwater, Sofidel, etc. are giving tough competition to big consumer products companies who are doing everything to defend their market share. Also, increasing customer preference towards ultra-quality products, offered by several private label tissue manufacturers has been crucial to boosting their toilet paper sales. On the other hand, big consumer brands are maintaining their market share through promotion, innovation, and brand loyalty.

 

·         Increase in online shopping

The lockdown imposed in the wake of covid-19 has largely shifted the consumer behavior towards e-commerce platforms. Reduced prices, convenience, at-home delivery, and digital transactions are some of the factors which narrowed the gap between supply and demand channels, contributing to the boost in sales of personal care consumer products such as toilet paper. 

 

Restraining factor

Increasing use of bidget toilets as an eco-friendly and financial toilet paper alternative to prevent the exploitation of natural resources is expected to limit the demand for toilet papers. Also, the rising prices of paper pulp raw material could negatively impact the global toilet paper market size. 

 

 

How major market players responded to the coronavirus panic buying?

 

·       Albany factory, one of the second P&G’s second-largest US plant for manufacturing toilet papers revamped its production by 20%, running their plant for 24 hours to keep up with the boosting demand for the product. P&G idled a piece of equipment at Albany that could increase significant toilet paper volume. To keep the workers safe from the transmission of the coronavirus, the company started producing face masks and hand sanitizers for its employees as well as the medical workers. 

 

·    Another market giant in the global toilet paper market, Kimberly-Clark has been operating full-tilt to keep up with the demand. Kimberly-Clark’s Chester plant produces around 23,000 little squares of toilet paper every second. The Chester mill stepped up output with the construction of a new 24-megawatt natural gas-fired cogeneration plant, both to run machinery and dry paper. The conversion from a coal-fired plant to a new natural-gas-powered plant reduces the mill’s natural gas emissions by 50%, contributing to Kimberly-Clark reaching a step closer to its goal of cutting carbon footprint in half by 2030.

 

·    Essity, the world’s second-biggest producer of consumer tissues maximized the volume machine can produce and reduce the number of articles in product categories to the greatest demand, owing to the increased demand globally for toilet papers and paper towels in the retail channels. 

 

·     Koch Industries, one of America’s largest private companies with more than USD 110 billion in total revenue operated through its existing excess inventory by working closely with shipping and logistic partners to expedite shipments and increasing production at its existing facilities. Koch-owned Georgia-Pacific facility in Palatka ramped up its production, operating the facility for 24*7, and managed the distribution process smartly during this unusual period. 

 

Conclusion 

 

Fortunately, the toilet paper shortages observed during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic has been settling in most places as the supply chain continues to catch up and hoarding behavior tapers off. However, supply chains in some countries are still defied by a tissue product mix shift driven by stay-at-home orders, which has the potential to disrupt supply once people start working out and traveling.

 

Sustainable products and practices are among the core strategies for many advanced players in the global toilet paper industry. The trend marks the launch of products positioned as providing eco-friendly solutions as well as value for money and quality. Some of the latest examples include the expansion of UK-based The Cheeky Panda bamboo-based products beyond its UK home base; tubeless Lotus Moltonel by Essity in Europe; and bamboo-based products under the Mayflower brand by YFY in Taiwan. Additionally, unbleached tissue products have also been obtaining recognition in some markets.

 

According to TechSci report, “Global Tissue Paper Market By Product (Toilet Paper, Facial Tissue, Paper Towel, and Others), By Distribution Channel (Store-Based Retail and Non-Store Retail), By Application (Residential and Commercial), By Region, Forecast & Opportunities, 2025”, the global tissue paper market is expected to grow at a robust rate during the forecast period owing to the flourishing tourism and hospitality industry where paper towels and napkins are widely used. Moreover, growing awareness among consumers towards health & hygiene is contributing to the demand for tissue papers. The current outbreak of COVID-19 has also led to increasing demand for tissue papers around the world. The development of organic tissue papers and rising per capita disposable income is anticipated to drive the growth of the global tissue paper market by 2025.

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