The discounters and online giant Amazon are wiping the floor with the supermarkets when it comes to paper products.

Granted, the four key paper product sectors (toilet tissues; nappies; kitchen towels; facial tissues) are still worth £2.1bn to the grocers, but a combined value decline of £66.6m is nothing to be sniffed at. Volumes are down in all four sectors, as savvy shoppers buy in bulk online or take up the likes of Aldi on their ‘like brands but cheaper’ offerings.

It’s hard to find a product that’s become more commoditised than loo roll in recent years. “The mults are trying to cling on to volume by pushing bigger packs, and this is having a negative affect on the market,” says Nielsen analyst Russell Sylvester. “Shoppers are either taking advantage of the lower price per roll and buying these bigger packs less often, or those on limited incomes are moving to medium-size packs in the discounters as a way of managing spend.”

“The facial tissue category has the potential to almost treble in size” Adam Knox, Kleenex

Indeed, £9 for a large pack of toilet paper would be a large chunk out of anyone’s shopping budget. But leading brand Andrex appears to be convincing some that its products, including moist toilet wipes Washlets, are worth forking out more on. The brand has bucked the overall decline with value growth of 3% on volumes up 2.9%.

The brand has managed to hold on to a higher price point than any other player in the top 10 partly thanks to its big-budget marketing, says owner Kimberly-Clark, which rebranded Andrex earlier this year. Ads focusing on the product’s strength, length and softness are a thing of the past; Andrex’s latest campaign, launched in June, talks up the function of loo roll and how clean Andrex can make you feel.

Kimberly-Clark says the approach takes cues from the personal care and Health & beauty categories. “We want to get consumers thinking about how being clean is fundamental to their wellbeing, instead of just pointing out the attributes of loo roll - the traditional focus of the category,” said Andrex marketing director Karel van der Mandele on announcing the ad push, which also included a pack redesign and simplification of the range.


Not everyone’s tackling what goes on in the toilet so head-on, however. SCA is also changing its messaging around its brand, Velvet, but instead going for an environmental message. A new TV push, launched in November, puts the emphasis not on cleanliness but on friendliness to the environment, using the slogan: ‘Luxury for you. Trees for the planet.’

Emphasising its commitment to sustainability with a “three trees promise,” under which it commits to replacing the hardwood trees it uses on a three-for-one basis instead of the industry standard of one-for-one. “As a brand that uses natural resources, Velvet has a growing obligation to act in an environmentally responsible way,” says brand manager Charlotte Parrish.

paper products tpt

The advances of Andrex and Velvet have hit the two next biggest brands, Cushelle and Nouvelle, hard. Increases in average price for both won’t have helped, especially in light of the fact Andrex’s price has remained flat and Velvet’s has fallen 2.4% in the past year.

But Nisa business manager Nigel Ashton suggests a lack of innovation might also have hit the sector’s stragglers. “The bigger companies are looking at embossing, or three and even four-ply tissues, but there isn’t much innovation.”

Facial tissue volumes have suffered a slump equal to toilet paper’s, of 6.8%, as value has fallen 6.2% to £208.2m. Nielsen points to a decline in shelf space and relatively low use of promotions, while others cite the mild winter as a major factor, meaning fewer noses needed wiping (the weather also affected OTC sales - see p138).

Kleenex has seen £5.2m wiped off its top line, with its Kleenex for Men SKU the greatest casualty, down 18.8% in value and 20.5% in volume, while variants such as Kleenex Compact are in growth thanks in part to the rise of the convenience retail.

Opportunities in facial tissue

Seeking to bounce back, in September Kimberly-Clark gave the brand a packaging overhaul, after research found shoppers were storing tissues out of sight. “The facial tissue category has significant opportunities for growth with the potential to almost treble in size,” says brand manager Adam Knox, pointing to the launch of Kleenex Sensitive in the same month (see p141).

A 2.4% dip in average price and continued advertising featuring brand ambassador Juan Sheet extolling the strength of the product (see below) has helped Plenty defy the downturn in kitchen tissues, with growth of 10.8% to a whopping £92.3m. Second-placed Lotus slipped back 18.7% and there was strong growth (up 44.2%) from third-placed brand Regina, bought by Intertissue Sofidel after SCA was forced by the European Commission to divest it as a condition for approval of the Georgia-Pacific acquisition. Distribution gains are the chief engine of growth here.

Over in the nappy department, brands are getting a bum deal. The category lost £25.7m in value (down 5.4%), with own label increasing by £15.2m (11%). P&G’s Pampers accounts for 97.5% of branded sales, but with value down 1% on volumes down 5.2%, it has so far failed to capitalise on Huggies’ 2012 exit from the UK market.

“Own label has basically taken the space Huggies left,” P&G’s UK MD Irwin Lee told The Grocer earlier this year, commenting on the development of own-label infant care ranges, such as Tesco Loves Baby, Asda Little Angels and Sainsbury’s Little Ones. “However, our share as a brand has gone up.”

With online and discounters continuing their march, holding on to share will be one of the big challenges coming up in 2015 - and not just for Pampers.

kleenex sensitive

Top launch: Kleenex Sensitive by Kimberly-Clark

Half of women have sensitive skin, according to Kimberly-Clark.

So, in September, it unveiled its latest addition to the top-selling facial-tissue brand, Kleenex. Sensitive (rsp: £2.40 standard box, £3.93 twin pack and £1.99 for a multipack of six packs) is designed to be gentle on delicate skin.

The tissues are hypoallergenic and dermatologically tested to suit people with skin allergies and those after a gentler touch when they wipe their noses.