Top U.S. toilet paper maker: 'We're working around the clock'
Friday, April 3, 2020 2:15 pm
TEXAS (From news reports) -- Top toilet paper manufacturer Kimberly-Clark has a message for all those Americans who didn't get a chance to score rolls during the mad dash for household goods as stay-at-home orders went into effect: Toilet paper is coming.
"We are working around the clock to help get these essential products back on the shelf," says Arist Mastorides, president of family care for Kimberly-Clark North America.
Kimberly-Clark, which has a current market cap of about $43 billion, is one of the country's largest producers of toilet paper with big brands like Cottonelle and Scott. Its portfolio also includes Huggies, Kleenex, Kotex, Pull-Ups and Viva (paper towels).
While the company would not comment on sales or volume numbers during the pandemic, the latest Nielsen data found that Americans have spent more than $1.4 billion on toilet paper from Feb. 28 to March 21, according to a Nielsen spokesperson. Last week alone, the U.S. toilet paper category netted more than $378 million and was up 123% from the same week last year, the spokesperson added.
"We know the demand is real. We see the empty shelves, our teams see those empty shelves and they are working really hard, really safely to make sure that we close the gap," Mastorides says.
"We are producing and shipping 24 hours a day, seven days a week."
Mastorides says shelves are still empty because people are buying in such large quantities that it's hard to keep up.
Over the last few weeks though, Mastorides says the company has "simplified" production lines to increase speed and volume.
For example, Kimberly-Clark significantly minimized the numbers of specialty products it's making, says Mastorides. Typically, production line workers switch SKUs (or stock keeping units) to make different types of toilet paper like ultra soft, strong or sensitive rolls, which can slow down production. Now, Kimberly-Clark has reduced variety to enable higher volume.
"That reduction has enabled our assets to have less freight changes and produce more product than we ever have in our past," Mastorides says.
Additionally, the company has increased the number of trucks shipping its toilet paper.
But as far as a date when shelves will be fully stocked with product, Mastorides says he can't really comment, "because it's up to how consumers are buying and how they start to share."
To that end Kimberly-Clark's Cottonelle brand launched a campaign called #ShareASquare.
The company is encouraging Americans to give rolls of toilet paper to those who need it and post it on social media. In return, Cottonelle will donate a $1 for each post (up to $100,000) to the United Way Worldwide COVID-19 Community Response and Recovery Fund. Additionally, Cottonelle has pledged to give a $1 million donation and one million rolls of toilet paper to the fund.
The idea for the campaign came from its employees who wanted to do something after seeing so many people panic about buying toilet paper.
"We really want to encourage others to step up and be generous," Mastorides says.
Mastorides is also "very confident" that Kimberly-Clark will be able to produce toilet paper at these "elevated levels" throughout the pandemic.