Hot Category: Paper products

Seth Mendelson
Publisher and Editor in Chief
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No other category received as much publicity and, perhaps, gained more sales through the early stages of the pandemic as the paper products category. 

A rush on sales by nervous consumers — worried that they would simply run out of such much-taken-for-granted items as toilet paper, paper towels, tissues and napkins — helped fuel a huge increase in sales of the products at retail outlets. At the same time, that rush on product caused a lot of empty shelves at retail, raising concerns and tensions among both retailers and consumers, and a large number of jokes on late night television talk shows. 

The good news is that things have stabilized over the last six months as production has increased to meet consumer demand. The better news for the private label industry is that sales are booming as retailers look for new sources for paper products, and suppliers stepped up to the plate with a broad range of products to satisfy shoppers. 

The end result, many in the private label industry hope, is that retailers and consumers will continue to use the new items finding their way to retail shelves when the crisis ends. Will they? “I think they will,” said a merchandiser for an East Coast supermarket chain. “I think consumers see that the quality of many of these store brand and private label paper products is as good as the national brands they were using, at a dramatic savings. It is the one good thing that came from this horrible pandemic. I think it will stick with many shoppers.”

Hot Stats:

  • Nearly $3 billion in total sales of private label toilet paper for the 52 weeks ending Jan. 2 — up 24% from a year ago. — Nielsen
  • Napkins generated nearly $349 million in sales for the 52 weeks ending Jan. 2, up 14.8%, and out-earning national brands, which saw $295 million in sales and an increase of only 4.8%, — Nielsen
  • Private brand paper towels up 24.6% exceeding $2.2 billion in sales, compared with $4.5 billion for national brand paper towels. — Nielsen
  • Toilet paper is projected to reach $13.5 billion in 2021, up 2.3% year over year. — Statista
  • For the 52 weeks ended Oct. 4, 2020, dollar sales of private label toilet paper increased 22.3% compared with the same period the previous year, while sales of national brand toilet paper increased 14.4%. — IRI