Soaking up spills, blowing your nose and wiping your bum are costly tasks nowadays. The reason being the rapidly rising average prices of paper products. Kitchen roll is up 17.7%, loo roll is up 13.6% and facial tissue has grown at a slower rate of 2.3%.
For kitchen roll, higher prices go a long way to explain the 5.3% fall in volumes. And even when shoppers are buying rolls, they’re plumping for cheaper retailer lines.
While own label has edged up 0.2%, brands have suffered a 12.5% blow to volumes. Top 10 names Plenty and Breeze have declined at even faster rates of 27.3% and 32.8% respectively. The duo has shed a combined 9.2 million packs, culminating in a £13.8m slump.
Plenty supplier Essity claims much of that is down to supply issues early this year. “We are pleased to say these issues have now been rectified but this resulted in the loss of some promotions in key retailers, which affected sales,” says marketing director Ruth Gresty.
“We have strong plans in place for 2024 to drive sales of our core Plenty Original by reminding consumers of the superior performance, quality and convenience.”
The supplier is looking to bring lapsed consumers back to the brand with the launch of lower-priced Plenty Everyday.
This will tap the growing demand for value brands – which has driven unit gains for the likes of Blossom Soft, Jack’s and Renova.
Price of toilet roll and tissues on the rise
Such gains “can be attributed to a competitive pricing strategy aligning with the prevailing consumer preference for cost-effective paper category products”, says NIQ analytics executive Ash Ismail.
And for those brands that have suffered unit slumps, there is some consolation. Part of the reason is simply that people are buying more per unit, suggests Graham Cox, COO of paper products supplier Accrol. He points to the success of ‘double roll’ products that are twice the size of regular ones.
“These help to drive better value for consumers and have an enormous positive impact on our carbon footprint, which has seen the group reduce vehicle movements by 15% for the same square metres of product,” he explains.
Accrol’s brand with extra-large sheets – which recently changed its name from Mighty Big to Magnum – has been growing strongly over the past year, claims Cox.
“We have been developing the range over the last 12 months to compete on absorbency and strength. The on-shelf price point is very competitive against the brand leaders.”
Value has played a critical role in facial tissues, too. While branded volumes are down 2.4%, own label volumes are up 7.2%.
“Private label products have witnessed substantial growth in both value and units, primarily attributed to their competitive pricing,” says NIQ’s Ismail.
Private label loo rolls and tissues showing growth
Another reason for this success is the comparison with 2022, when there were supply difficulties for own label, says Matt Stone, marketing director at Kleenex owner Kimberly-Clark.
“In 2023, we have seen some natural switching back as own label availability improves, although Kleenex has managed to retain the vast majority of volume gained in 2022.”
In fact, the brand is up 0.7% in unit sales, bucking the downward trend of branded facial tissues overall.
Second-placed brand Nicky has bucked that trend even harder. Its volumes are up 96.5%, driving a value gain of 151.8%. “This growth was largely spurred by a strategic price reduction, intensifying its competition with private-label offerings,” explains Ismail.
Similarly, eco-friendly brand The Cheeky Panda also increased unit sales. They’re up 6.7%, thanks in part to the launch of a lower-priced cube box.
Other top 10 brands have been less fortunate. Take Handy Andies and its Essity stablemate Cushelle: they’ve sold a combined 4.6 million fewer packs. “These two brands have reduced in distribution as we are undertaking a European-wide project, which has impacted our ability to supply,” explains Gresty at Essity.
Next year will see the relaunch of Handy Andies with new formats and artwork, while – more dramatically – Essity is to axe Cushelle facial tissues to focus on its toilet tissue offer.
Aldi is once again raising awareness of bowel cancer. In September, it began listing the symptoms of the killer illness on packs of its own-label toilet wipes. It follows a similar move on the discounter’s loo roll packaging in 2022. In support of Bowel Cancer UK’s #GetOnARoll campaign, the products now feature a summary of bowel cancer symptoms and a QR code for shoppers to find out more.
Toilet paper market leader Andrex on a roll
The year’s story in loo roll is different in one crucial regard: brands have outperformed own label. The former has seen unit growth of 4%, compared to the latter’s 3% decline.
But the key driver of these performances has been the same as in other sectors: price. NIQ’s Ismail notes Nicky and Little Duck cut prices to below own label levels, leading to massive growth for both. They’re worth an extra £40.4m combined.
Luca Lolli, line of business director at Nicky owner Sofidel, says the brand is “for everyone, for all households and for all buyers. It offers great-quality products at great value.”
Meanwhile, Little Duck owner Task Consumer Products says its brand has benefited from increased distribution and visibility, and from being seen as outstanding value for money while delivering quality.
At the other end of the scale, market leader Andrex has managed to maintain volumes. That’s despite prices rising 13% – in line with the market average. “The added-benefit and quilted segments of the category have increased in share over this period as consumers look to choose better-quality products,” says Stone at brand owner Kimberly-Clark.
He points to growth in share for the most premium Andrex range, Supreme Quilts. The brand has also benefited from the launch of Andrex Mega Rolls. “This has helped us offer shoppers better value with the same, great-quality products in longer lasting rolls that use less packaging.”
The buoyancy of brands means Essity’s Gresty is quietly optimistic for the year ahead. While Brits “are likely to be more frugal”, she believes volumes are “unlikely to be impacted significantly”. After all, as she sums up: “Toilet tissue is an essential item.”
Top Launch 2023
Retail range | Who Gives a Crap
Sustainable brand Who Gives a Crap secured a listing with Waitrose in May, marking a bricks & mortar first for the fast-growing DTC business. Four SKUs – bamboo toilet paper in four-pack and eight-pack, an eight-pack of recycled toilet paper, and recycled facial tissues (rsps: £1.65-£9.99) – rolled into 240 of the retailer’s stores. The attractively packaged range will preserve more than 133,000 sq m of forest in its first 18 months, Who Gives a Crap predicts.
Face off: Top Products Survey 2023 pits brands vs own-label
- Currently reading
Household - paper products 2023: Rising prices fuel value paper lines