Global tissue suppliers ramp up to deal with C19 consumer demands

VANCOUVER, CANADA – SUPPLIers of toilet tissue, paper towels, and pulp for masks ramped up production during the COVID 19 pandemic to deal with increased consumer and customer demands for products, with some double shifting or increasing production over the normal output. At the same time, pulp and paper organizations and suppliers of mill services stepped up to ask governments to declare the industry an essential service.

Even in the early phases of the spread, Nielsen data showed sales of toilet tissue rose 60% in the week ending March 7.

“We’ve been watching the conversation around toilet paper unfold in real-time, and while our teams are working day and night to produce and ship product to retailers, we want to invite consumers to #ShareASquare to help others in need,” said Arist Mastorides, family care president of Kimberly- Clark North America, as the company brand Cottonelle launched a campaign aimed at encouraging consumers to share rather than stockpile.

Cottonelle donated $1 million in financial support and one million rolls of toilet tissue to the United Way Worldwide COVID 19 Community Response and Recovery Fund. Kimberly- Clark brands include: Huggies, Kleenex, Scott, Kotex, Cottonelle, Poise, Depend, Andrex, Pull-Ups, GoodNites, Intimus, Neve, Plenitud, Viva and WypAll and hold the No. 1 or No. 2 share position in 80 countries.

Kimberly-Clark also upped its production of Scott products and reallocated product distribution during peak demand times. Georgia-Pacific increased shipments of its Quilted Northern and Angel Soft brands by about 120% above its normal capacity, according to company spokesman Eric Abercrombie, while Procter & Gamble’s Rick McLeod, vice president of product supply for the company’s family care, said the company would make as much Charmin as American consumers think they needs.

American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA) president and CEO Heidi Brock said in a statement that her members were committed to meet consumer demands. “The industry is working diligently to respond to the spike in demand for tissue products due to coronavirus (COVID-19) purchases. Rest assured, tissue products continue to be produced and shipped – just as they are 52 weeks each year as part of a global market,” she said.

Dino Bianco, CEO of Kruger Products in an open letter said: “Our eight facilities across North America are working at full capacity and optimizing production to work with our customers to stock tissue products.” Kruger has also put in enhanced employee health and safety protocol with only those deemed essential entering plants.

Forest Products Association (FPAC) president Derek Nighbor said the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) added forest products to its list of essential critical infrastructure workers. DHS declared manufacturers of “tissue and paper towel products” as essential, as well as manufacturers of “food packaging” and “workers who support the manufacture and distribution of forest products including, but not limited to, timber, paper, and other wood products”. FPAC sent a request to the Canadian government for similar designations with BC and Ontario declaring the forest industry essential early in March and Canada following national by month’s end.

In B.C., the Harmac Pacific mill doubled production of cedar pulp to be used for medical face masks (See story elsewhere).

The University of Bonn study found that electric handdryers can actually spread virus and the European Tissue Association is publicizing the study and sending users of public restrooms back to the paper towel products.

WEPA UK, the UK’s largest household paper manufacturer with sites in Bridgend as well as Bolton, also responded to increased demands. In mid-March Mike Docker, managing director of WEPA UK, said: “The ongoing coronavirus situation means we have seen a large spike in demand over the last week and sales continue to be very strong.”

Essity, the UK’s biggest tissue manufacturer producing Cushelle, Velvet and other own-brands, supplies more than 30% of all paper requirements. Each day, its’ six mills churn out approximately 4.7 million rolls.with more than 80 million more rolls in storage.

Gareth Lucy, Essity’s communications director, said the company was supplying more than usual. Sales of Cushelle alone are up 18% over last year. “But we are really well geared up for it. We have a massive stockpile. We’re used to fluctuations like this and we’re ready”

Toilet and tissue paper manufacturers reassured consumers there was no need for panic buying of hygiene produces because of the virus. A joint statement by the Confederation of Paper Industries (CPI) and the Paper Industry Technical Association (PITA) said the manufacturers could meet the demand.

“Manufacturers have increased production to cope with strong demand triggered by additional hand drying and increased hand tissue use stemming from heightened concerns over the airborne spread of disease,” the statement said. “Additional product is now reaching retailers.”

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