Even during these difficult economic times, retailers are finding consumers leaning toward brand-name products, not willing to trade down. “The high-end segments are certainly moving a little better,” says Peter Knipfel, owner, Chesley Grocery Store, Chesley, Ont. “The generic still sells but it has certainly taken a backseat to the name brands.” Danielle Lamarre, marketing manager, consumer products, Cascades, agrees, saying, “A consumer won’t say they like a bathroom tissue or paper towel product because they paid a cheap price for it; they like it because it’s soft and absorbent.”
However, consumers are still looking for value and Gary Keider, vice-president and country manager for Canada, Kimberly-Clark, says that “value” is a combination of price and performance. “Retailers need to understand the balance between the right level of quality and the right level of price that creates the value equation for consumers,” he says.
With facial tissue, graphics and packaging play a very important role in the category. Kimberly-Clark has focused its attention on innovation with packaging designs, shapes and textures. “Facial tissue is one of products that is usually displayed in the home; everything else might be put away in a drawer or a cabinet,” says Keider. “Also, when you focus on the inside of the box, consumers are going to pay more for something they know is good quality.”
In May, Kruger Products added a designer series to its Scotties facial tissue, which includes a premium box in a three pack. “One of the areas we are really focusing on for Scotties is in the design area, so that consumers have facial tissue appropriate for each room in the house. The boxes are a premium foil-type package,” says Steve Turner, director of trade marketing, category management, retail operations, Kruger Products.
While volume in the paper towel category has been relatively flat, it has picked up in recent months in terms of dollars. “People are continuing to trade up because there is continuous innovation and better quality products,” says Victoria Maybee, external relations, Procter & Gamble. “The key driver here is absorbency. Consumers want their paper towel to be able to clean up a tough mess.”
The company has strived to improve the quality of their paper products and has focused on extended roll and large-count packs, as consumers find them to be more convenient and a better value. In February, Procter & Gamble launched Bounty Thick & Absorbent and recently introduced Bounty Select-a-Size that allows consumers to choose the amount of paper towel they desire to use.
Meanwhile, Cascades has improved the quality and softness of its Enviro 100% Recycled Fibres paper towel, as the company has found that 25% of consumers will use a paper towel as a napkin. “It has the same absorbency as other leading national brands, but is made from 100% recycled fibres as opposed to 100% virgin fibres,” says Lamarre.
A push toward environmentally friendly products is becoming evident in the paper category. “Consumers do understand the environmental factors behind many of the products that they buy and are interested in making smart choices,” says Keider. “At the same time they are not really willing to sacrifice quality.” Kimberly-Clark has launched a campaign with its Scott paper towel brand called “Green Done Right” that focuses on the quality of recycled fibre products. Keider says it goes beyond the product itself and into the sustainable ways it is packaged and shipped.
Lamarre has found that there is a misconception in the market regarding recycled fibre bathroom tissue that the texture is rough and not soft. Cascades has spent the last year focusing on technologies and processes for the Enviro 100% Recycled Fibres bathroom tissue to be as soft as possible. “We want our consumers to remember that it takes 15 seconds to flush, but 15 years for a tree to grow,” Lamarre says. “If each Canadian would change one roll of virgin fibre for one roll of recycled bathroom tissue, 61,000 trees would be saved right off the bat.”
Kruger Products has also been expanding its line of 100% recycled products in all segments of the category. In the environmental bathroom tissue segment, the company offers a value line called White Swan made from 100% recycled fibres, and a quality line called Cashmere. As part of Kruger Products’ sponsorship with the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation, a Purex pink bathroom tissue was introduced in September in time for breast cancer month.
“The bathroom tissue segment is continuing to grow, whereas paper towels and facial tissue has become stagnant,” says Turner. “I believe it is the quality in the premium segments that is driving that growth. Consumers are looking for value, but they are looking for that value in the quality and premium products.”
Bathroom tissue has also seen growing popularity in the extended or double rolls, as consumers perceive the bigger rolls to be the best value. “When you run out of stock on toilet paper, it can be a bit of a catastrophe. Having more sheets on the roll is certainly a driver, and we are also seeing larger count packs being purchased more often as consumers do understand the value per roll,” says Keider.
Ivan Fleury, store manager, Moncion Grocers in Petawawa, Ont., has seen the push toward double rolls first hand. “People watch what they are buying now. Some of our customers stand in the aisle and count how much each roll actually costs,” he says. “For some of them, if it’s under 25 cents per roll they will buy it; if it’s more than 25 cents they forget about it.”
Promote paper products that are good for the environment. “Retailers can cross promote paper towels and green cleaning products,” says Danielle Lamarre, marketing manager, consumer products, Cascades. Environmentally friendly paper products are often located in the natural aisle, but by putting them in the regular paper aisle will attract more attention.
Paper in general is a traffic driver, especially bathroom tissue. “If retailers are looking to increase their sales in lower penetration categories such as paper towels and facial tissue, the key is to pair them all together,” says Victoria Maybee, external relations, Procter & Gamble. Try co-merchandising or co-displaying all segments of the paper category. When consumers are shopping for bathroom tissue, they will be more likely to pick up paper towels and facial tissue as well if they are located in close proximity, says Maybee.
There is an opportunity for retailers to really engage consumers on their purchase decisions through a variety of mechanisms such as display and store signage that will make the trip an easier experience. “Obviously consumers do get frustrated when they come to the shelf and struggle to find the products they are looking for,” says Gary Keider, vice-president and country manager for Canada, Kimberly-Clark. “It is important for consumers to be able to shop and navigate the shelf quickly.” He suggests offering the appropriate variety of brands, with the right assortment of packings in order to simplify the shopping experience. “The consumer wants choice and wants a variety of brands; there has to be the right balance.”