Paper product sales in c-stores are rolling along nicely thanks to product improvements and innovation. Tracy West catches up with the changes

Toilet roll is not usually something that gets the nation talking not until, that is, the UK’s best-selling toilet paper brand replaced the UK’s favourite brand mascot with a computerised version. We are, of course, talking about the cute Andrex puppy, which was replaced late last year by a computer-generated version. The story got acres of coverage in the national press, but brand owner Kimberly-Clark stood firm, saying the use of computer imagery had ‘refreshed’ the brand and the puppy would still appear on packaging.

top 10 in c-stores

1Own label white mainstream four-roll 
2 Andrex white four-roll 
3 Andrex white two-roll 
4 Andrex coloured four-roll 
5 Triple Velvet four-roll 
6 Nouvelle four-roll 
7 Own label white mainstream two-roll 
8 Own label coloured four-roll 
9 Own label white mainstream nine-roll 
10 Andrex coloured two-roll 
Source: Nielsen

In fact, Andrex marketing manager Shiv Gopalan has deemed the change a great success, describing it as an ‘evolution’.

“It makes sense that as we’re evolving and freshening up the brand, we do the same with our puppy. What we wanted to do was bring him into the 21st century and in doing so, introduce and invite consumers into his life and his world, introducing friends and other fun characters.”

Gopalan says the new advertising has been well received by the 234,000 (April 2011 figure) Andrex Puppy Facebook fans, and feedback has been positive. “We’ve done some research on the ad and feedback has been very positive, in particular driving engagement and interaction for the brand,” he says.

But the ad is not the only way Kimberly-Clark is bringing the Andrex puppy’s world to life. There is an Andrex Puppy World interactive brand experience that is visiting shopping centres in a bid to bring consumers closer to the brand.

However, many consumers are already very close to the brand. According to Mintel’s Household Paper Products report (February 2011), toilet tissue accounts for 65% of the £1.74bn household paper products market, and Andrex accounts for a third of those toilet roll sales. The research company also found that one in four main shoppers think it is worth paying more for a better quality toilet tissue, compared with 17% for kitchen roll and 15% for facial tissues. And one in five shoppers are exclusively loyal to a certain brand of toilet tissue, but fewer are brand loyal for kitchen roll and facial tissues.

At the beginning of the recession back in 2008 there was some trading down to own-label products, says Mintel, but the leading brands have been successful at maintaining their share of total sales through a series of new product launches and strong promotional activity.

retailer’s view

“Toilet rolls, kitchen rolls and tissues are regular purchases for my shoppers. I’m on a housing estate and trade is steady all year round there’s no real seasonality to my paper product sales. 

“With toilet rolls we stock Andrex for the people who want quality in white or blue variants. The two-pack is currently pricemarked at £1.19. Then we stock Happy Shopper four-packs as generally the cheaper products sell better. We mix up the colours a bit, though. We generally stock white, but will add blue or cream from time to time. 

“We stock only Happy Shopper kitchen rolls. They are priced at £1.25 and sell well. We stock Kleenex and Booker’s Family Care boxes of tissues.” 
Atul Raithatha, Chet’s Stores, Chaddesden, Derby

From Andrex that means the launch of its Limited Collection range of different patterned papers. Gopalan explains: “The new variants have been developed by looking closely at emerging trends and respond to current styles relating to interiors and the home. The role of the bathroom has changed with consumers spending more time there. As such, research reveals that there is now a higher importance placed on bathroom aesthetics, in line with other rooms in the home.”

The Limited Collection may be a bit fancy for some c-stores, but Gopalan says c-store shoppers are looking to leading brands for reassurance. He advises stocking a four-roll white Andrex and own label, as well as a coloured/decorated variant.

And even though some consumers are not willing to trade down to own label, they are increasingly looking for greater value in everything they buy. Gopalan says Andrex offers this through its pricemarked packs. “This helps communicate everyday good value from your local shop,” he says.

As for toilet tissue wipes or moist tissue, Gopalan says this is a purely incremental category which has seen incredible growth year on year 15% growth driven purely by Andrex which has increased by 25% (Nielsen data).

“The penetration levels are lower than in some European countries 15% here versus 50% in Germany and Switzerland. The focus for Andrex is to continue to bring new consumers into the category by making it relevant, visible and part of their daily routine.”

On a roll

IRI data shows the household towel market to be worth £324m with year-on-year growth of 1.5% in value (IRI data to March 19), mainly driven by consumers switching from standard to jumbo packs at a higher price point. But in c-stores sales are growing ahead of the total market, at 6.4%. According to SCA marketing director Richard Nall, this growth is coming from brands, with Plenty driving growth at 20.2% (Kantar Worldpanel data).

Everyday essential

Mintel says sales of facial tissues have benefited from the government’s ‘Catch It, Bin It, Kill It’ campaign. Usage increased to just over three-quarters of adults between 2005 and 2010, but since 2007 all the growth has come from heavier usage of pocket packs. 

As for seasonality, it should come as no great surprise that sales of tissues increase during the hay fever season in spring/summer and the cold and flu season in the winter. 

“There are often peak sales in the Kleenex Balsam range in particular as these tissues contain a calendula balm that prevents the nose from becoming sore and red from constant blowing,” says Carly Hunter from the Kleenex marketing team. 

“In spite of this, tissues are an everyday essential. They are a convenience item that consumers regularly purchase for use in the home, or pocket packs for on the go.” 

One of the most interesting launches in the tissue market came last autumn with the emergence of Kleenex Pockets, ultra-slimline pocket tissues, designed specifically for men. 

“Men represent a significant gap in the tissue market with only 7% buying pocket pack tissues versus 25% of the overall population. We spotted the potential to overcome the ‘bulkiness barrier’ and to ‘own the back pocket’ by exploiting the male market opportunity.” 

This year has also seen the launch of Kleenex Mansize Compact Kleenex Mansize tissues in a compressed box format. The smaller box makes it much easier for consumers to carry, store and use the tissues in different places such as in the car, office or buggy.

“We are also seeing consumers move away from own label packs as they seek out premium brands they know and trust. Within the convenience market, Plenty has the highest brand loyalty at 59.6% (IRI data). At the same time, volume has actually declined by 10.1%. This decline can be attributed to the rise of jumbo SKUs, across both own label, Regina Blitz and Plenty Fat Roll, with consumers purchasing larger packs that last longer.”

He says Plenty Fat now accounts for 26% of the brand’s sales as shoppers opt for the convenience of a larger roll. “This is particularly important for the c-store sector. Retailers should consider stocking a jumbo SKU to encourage trade-up.”

This year Plenty is supported by an integrated marketing campaign featuring ‘Juan Sheet’, who delivers the ‘One Sheet Does Plenty’ message to shoppers.

When it comes to colours and patterns, Nall says consumers are wary of bright and/or deep colours that may stain or run when cleaning, so it is essential that retailers offer a plain white SKU alongside a patterned option. “However, consumers will often consider buying a seasonal print at Christmas and Easter for decorative as well as functional use such as napkins.”

Nall recommends c-stores stock Plenty White two-roll, with a patterned and jumbo roll alternative to reflect market trends and offer choice.

Georgia-Pacific marketing director Christine Clarke reckons there’s an incremental sales opportunity for c-stores in kitchen rolls as an impulse purchase. That may sound a bit bizarre, but it makes sense when you realise her company releases Disney licensed products every year.

“We had Toy Story-branded products last year and they were one of our most successful Disney launches ever. We’ll have Cars branding later this year.

“I really think this represents a big opportunity; something different retailers could display at the front of the store. Shoppers would notice it, plus there would be an element of pester power.”

The big launch from Georgia-Pacific is Thirst Pockets Multi Cloth a super-strong roll of kitchen towel that is said to perform like a cloth. In the company’s own tests it proved to be 60% stronger than the leading brand.

It’s a premium product, but Clarke says it’s so good consumers don’t need to use as much as they would of a standard kitchen roll. “We believe it could start to replace cloths in the home,” she says.

She says kitchen roll is still predominantly used in the kitchen but she reckons there’s opportunity to use it elsewhere in the house. 

Ones to watch… 

Breathe easy 
Kleenex Balsam Fresh is a new tissue variant infused with menthol. Its aim is to offer suffering consumers a dual benefit as the calendula balm helps to soothe their nose while the menthol helps ease their breathing. 
tel: 01732 594001 

Thirsty work 
Thirst Pockets Multi Cloth the super-strong kitchen towel that performs like a cloth is being backed by a multi-million pound campaign including national TV advertising and online activity. 
rrp: £2.39, tel: 01204 673522 

A little luxury 
The Andrex premium variants range has been relaunched. Andrex Skin Kind has been made softer; Andrex Quilts has been rebranded Andrex Gorgeous Comfort; and Andrex Shea Butter as Andrex Touch of Luxury. tel: 01732 594001 

Scrunch and sniff Following the success of the Lotus Olbas pocket pack, the product is now available as a facial tissue. The tissues combine vapour-releasing oils with a premium tissue. The vapours are released when the tissue is crushed. 
rrp: £2.29 , tel: 01204 0673522 

Bathroom style 
New Andrex Limited Collection offers consumers two variants: Bright & Bold and Subtle & Stylish. Each contains six different rolls, ranging from colourful fun designs to more natural motifs. The ranges will be updated every six months. tel: 01732 594001