Categories / Kitchen Products / Paper Products
Category Insights: Paper/Plastic

Paper or Plastic?

Whether paper or plastic, it’s innovative private label disposables that drive sales.

July 3, 2013

The household paper products market rose 9 percent between 2007 and 2012, to $16.9 billion, according to Mintel’s report “Household Paper Products - US -

Eye on the National Brands

P&G holds the top spot in the overall household paper products market, with segment-leading brands in toilet tissue (Charmin) and paper towels (Bounty) and solid No. 2 brands in facial tissue (Puffs) and paper napkins (Bounty), according to Mintel. Georgia-Pacific and Kimberly-Clark round out the top three. … The two biggest national brands in paper towels to watch out for, according to Global Tissue Group Executive VP Daniel David, are Bounty Basic and Sparkle.

February 2013.” Mintel expects the category to continue to make slow, steady gains, rising eight percent between 2012 and 2017 to $18.3 billion.

Much of the gain between 2007 and 2012 came from price increases in toilet tissue, the category’s largest segment, the report said. Paper towels also experienced growth, but all of the category’s smaller segments, facial tissue, paper napkins, and moist towelettes, experienced declines. Across all segments, private label is gaining share not just with lower prices, but with improved product quality as well.

“Store brands ticked up in the latest 52 weeks, a continuation of a longer-term trend and a reflection as much of retailer attention and improved quality as of a frugal mindset among consumers,” it said.

According to Daniel David, executive vice president, Global Tissue Group, consumer satisfaction has really helped with private label growth. As consumers have tried and been satisfied with paper products and price, he sees the trend of private label increasing with that movement.

The shoppers buying private label products today might surprise you. 

“You would think it’s really the people who are looking for a deal, but it’s actually the higher income individuals that are moving towards the private labels,” David said. “I think the big reason they are is because they have the extra income to be able to test and try private label products, and when you have expendable income you’d be willing to try something new.

“They’re trying the private label products, and because of the quality and because of the comparison to the national brand, a lot of them are sticking to private labels. Where some of the lower income individuals may not have that ability to try something new so they really stick with the brand because it’s been proven to them before, and they don’t have the extra income to try something new and are afraid that it may fail with the few dollars they may have to spend at the retailer.”

Although in-store sampling may work for food, it isn’t a simple option for retailers to introduce their paper brands to shoppers.

For nonfood items such as toilet paper, David said some retailers have promotions, where for example if a shopper spends so much they’ll give them a free pack of bathroom tissue.

The shoppers that already are buying private label paper products are looking for differentiation and products that are more innovative and sustainable with their packaging, David said.

For example, GTG’s new line of facial tissues offer phosphorescent ink so packaging glows in the dark. 

Retailers also are starting to request more printed or seasonal products, said David.

“Before maybe it was only a winter design,” David said.

Now retailers are looking for designs for every season, even back-to-school.

“You’re seeing more and more differentiation using print in order to go with the seasonality of the item,” he said.

For example, David said GTG had been releasing its PIXEL color paper towels in the colors that go with the season.

“So when we started with the Wegmans collaboration last year in September and October, we started with black towels and orange towels for the Halloween holiday and fall colors,” he said. “We did green and red for the Christmas holiday, now for spring we have a light green, a light blue and light pink.”

For the Fourth of July holiday, Wegmans created end-caps with red, white and blue paper towels, David said.

The PIXEL towels appeal to shoppers because now higher income shoppers have high-end kitchens and they are looking for something to match it, David explained.

Another innovative thing GTG is doing in paper towel and bath packaging focuses more on providing high-end packaging and not just graphics. Its own brand Quilty paper towels and Q Soft bath are rolling out with a hologram design on packaging so it sparkles on the shelf, grabbing shoppers’ attention.


July is a hot season for disposable tableware, as shoppers host more outdoor parties and look for easy cleanup solutions. The cups and plates category has

Enlarged Chart

Consumer Insights Paper and Plastic

seen an almost 3 percent growth according to IRI data for 2012.

Private label disposable plates/bowls saw a more than 6 percent increase to more than $1 billion and an almost 35 percent share. The private label disposable cups category increased almost 2 percent to more than $504 million with a 20 percent share.

“Two things are really driving the growth of private label disposable tableware,” said Paul Huckins, vice president, Huhtamaki Retail Division, Huhtamaki Inc. “One, consumer trends show acceptance and even preference for retail brands because of the great value and quality they offer. This trend really escalated during the recessionary period beginning in 2008.

“And two, it is becoming more and more common that retailers want to grow and build their private label programs by creating a unique brand proposition that is equal to or better than the national brand, driven by superior products, innovation, and a view of consumer needs and wants.

“Because of these two things, the gap has really closed in branded versus private label product offerings, especially in the case of plastic and pressboard products.”

The private label plastic cutlery category saw a less than 1 percent increase, according to IRI, yet has a 55 percent share.

“Historically there has not been a great deal of innovation and differentiation in the cutlery segment,” Huckins said. “Shelf space is at a premium, so retailers are looking for the assortment that best optimizes that space. The opportunity in cutlery — branded or private label — is offering something innovative or differentiating for which consumers will pay a premium.”

Mintel’s report said that although many consumers express interest in environmentally friendly facial tissues, relatively few actively seek them out.

“The general interest in eco-friendly products, however, suggests that mainstream consumers may respond positively to the greening of major brands,” it said.

“Certainly, there are those consumers for whom sustainability is a ‘must have’ when it comes to making a purchase decision,” Huckins said. “However, in most cases consumers will choose a sustainable option only if they don’t have to sacrifice too much in quality or pay too much.

“In our experience, the key to the success of a sustainable product is delivering a combination of quality and affordability. In fact we have successfully partnered with retailers to develop and position private label offerings across multiple products categories that exceed the expectations of shoppers seeking out sustainable products.”

As for design, Huckins said retailers are all looking for seasonal prints.

 “The key to success is having insight into design and color trends, and then applying them to your design offerings. No matter the holiday or the season, a bad design won’t sell.”  

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