If you want strong tissue sales, emphasise the softness. Tracy West looks at the trends and finds out what shoppers want from their paper products.

Consumers are a fussy lot. When it comes to toilet paper and tissues, shoppers demand softness coupled with thickness. When they’re after kitchen roll, they demand absorbency and strength. And, of course, the price has to be right for both. Research from Mintel also shows that brands are most important in toilet paper, while more people are willing to buy own-brand kitchen roll.

That’s a lot to bear in mind when stocking your shelves with paper products, but get the combination right and you’ll reap the benefits.

According to Kantar Worldpanel data, at 20.7% value growth, toilet tissue is growing in convenience outlets at a significantly higher rate than in the total market (5.7%), driven by an increase in spend per trip (up 17.1%) and an increase in convenience toilet tissue shoppers (up 9.9%).

Velvet brand manager Traci Baxter explains: “The convenience sector has benefited from economy shoppers trading up to tertiary SKUs, as well as the performance of moist, quilted and standard products. Both Velvet and Quilted Velvet are premium offerings in the toilet tissue category, although it is standard Velvet that is most widely available in the convenience sector. Standard and Quilted have driven the toilet tissue category growth through an increase in spend per trip and buyers into the sector, achieving 126% and 33% value growth respectively (Kantar).”

Baxter adds that a recent trend has seen shoppers buy into big packs in convenience, with huge growth for nine-roll and 18-roll packs. “Nine-roll has seen 35.8% value growth and accounts for 24% of value sales in the toilet tissue category. Eighteen-roll has seen 101.7% growth and accounts for 13.2% of value sales.”

retailer’s view

Narendra Patel

“Some 99% of the paper products that we sell are pricemarked. We’ve got two kinds of buyers - those who will buy only Andrex or Velvet, and those with less money who buy the cheap stuff. We sell four-rolls of EuroShopper toilet tissue for 79p and get through six outers of those a week. We also do Euro Shopper four-packs of kitchen roll 
for £1.19.

“We allocate 2m of space with four shelves for paper products and can’t keep up with demand for toilet and kitchen rolls. We sell fewer tissues I think people use toilet rolls instead of tissue nowadays, but we do keep pocket packs by the till.”

Narendra Patel, Chirag Premier Stores, East Grinstead, W Sussex

She says pricemarked packs continue to gain increased focus, too - both Velvet two-roll and four-roll come in pricemarked options. There are also frequent promotions on standard pack formats and added value.

“Unfortunately, toilet tissue has not generally been given a key focus in convenience stores and is sometimes overlooked. Ranges are often congested with duplication of product, especially in tertiary brand offerings. However, as store standards improve so has recognition of the importance of the paper category,” says Baxter.

“While the category is often consumer driven, especially in the current economic climate, it is important that retailers give greater focus to the need to deliver and drive category value, offering a range of products to satisfy consumer demands.

“Moist is becoming increasingly important to the convenience sector, and offers the greatest opportunity for penetration growth.”

Branching out

The environment is becoming a key consideration in the paper products industry. Earlier this year, Kimberly-Clark launched Andrex Eco, described as the company’s “first truly pioneering sustainable toilet tissue product”. It is made from a combination of sustainably sourced fibres, namely 90% recycled fibre and 10% natural bamboo.

The company says this is the first time that bamboo has been used as a component in toilet tissue by a major brand in the UK and it is the “unique manufacturing process” that combines these fibres that delivers the softness that consumers have come to expect from Andrex. The product also features 100% recycled and recyclable packaging and core, and is fully Forest Stewardship Council certified.

Meanwhile, at SCA, the Velvet brand has been supporting national tree planting charity, Trees for Cities. It recently donated £20,000 to the charity to improve a community orchard in Ruskin Park, London. And last year Velvet helped to create a new community orchard on a derelict site in Birmingham.

Velvet is also behind a programme that has resulted in millions of additional trees being planted. Velvet has a ‘three for one’ promise of planting three trees for each one used, and since 2009 has planted more than three million extra trees. This includes the planting of native trees on a large scale in previously deforested areas in Brazil.

While Andrex and Velvet are massive household names, a relative newcomer to the UK paper products market is Regina with its Impressions, Chamomile, Blitz, Heart and Softis products.

Sales and marketing director Massimo Nicosia says the biggest challenge for him is getting consumers to trial the product for the first time. “Once this is achieved we’re confident that the brand’s quality will help towards repeat purchase. We’ve used a combination of promotional packs (mainly extra-fill packs) and pricemarked packs to gain that initial trial purchase.”

Although new in the UK, Regina has been in other European markets for more than 20 years. Nicosia explains: “Our brand was founded on the principles of longer or larger rolls that provided the best quality for the price. Our UK strategy has been to offer kitchen towel with ‘bigger sheets to do better jobs’. We aim to deliver the best value to our consumers. The range includes Regina XXL three-ply, with nearly 30% larger sheets than standard.”

In the toilet tissue category, he says it’s the quilted segment that’s growing. “We recently launched Regina Softis with double-sided quilting to fulfil two of the biggest consumer needs (softness and thickness) while still offering excellent value for money.”

Nicosia advises convenience retailers to avoid deep price cuts on the more premium quality ranges to help protect category value. “High discount promotions should be used on standard value/quality products, while premium level products should be supported by multi-buys or value-added type promotions. This will prevent consumers from treating the category as a commodity, which would inevitably lead to a ‘cheapest on display’ culture.”

Bigger is better

With kitchen rolls, the trend is for bigger rolls. Georgia-Pacific marketing director Christine Clarke explains: “Taller rolls offer a larger-sized sheet to shoppers and give them the confidence that spills can be wiped up with a minimal number of sheets.

“Longer rolls such as Thirst Pockets Jumbo Rolls offer more convenience to shoppers who don’t have to re-purchase as much, or change the roll as frequently.”

Paper towels are now being used for a variety of tasks around the home, not just in the kitchen. Indeed, the marketing for Thirst Pockets Multi Cloth as the ‘paper towel that thinks it is a cloth’ seems to have worked, with one consumer using it on a camping trip to dry her hair after a shower because of its “fantastic absorbency”.

Clarke says: “The versatility of Thirst Pockets Multi Cloth means we’ve had some fantastic examples of consumers using the product for unusual tasks. Recent examples include using it to dry chips, scrub the hob and even as a flannel to help cut out cross-contamination to a wound.”

She says promotions are key within the paper towel market. “The quickest route to additional sales is to offer great deals which shoppers can’t ignore, either financially or physically. Putting the products in an off shelf-position will interrupt and attract consumers who, in many cases, weren’t planning on buying paper towels, but who wouldn’t be able to turn down deals.”

The two-roll pack continues to be the most popular format in the category. According to Nielsen Scantrack data, Thirst Pockets two-roll range is the best-selling kitchen roll in the UK. But Clarke adds: “Regular shoppers will also choose between small and large pack formats so, if space allows, include a large pack such as the Thirst Pockets kitchen towel six-roll white pack.”

On to tissues, and Kleenex Marketing’s James Hallam believes the tissue category could be managed much more effectively by c-store retailers. “They often don’t stock the core range: Kleenex Mansize (extra-large tissue size, standard offering) Kleenex Balsam (normal-sized tissue, premium offering) and Kleenex Pocket Packs (on-the-go offering).

“There is rarely a standard place for facial tissues, so they cannot be found in store. Tissues are usually an impulse purchase, therefore they need to be easily visible, which unfortunately they often aren’t.

“For example, as well as the facial tissue aisle, tissues could be displayed next to toiletries and medicines to encourage associated purchases. Pocket packs and other smaller items could also be displayed on clip strips next to relevant products or in compact trays next to the tills.”