June 18, 2021

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The Year Shoppers Reconsidered Toilet Paper

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It’s hard to think of a year when “toilet paper” appeared in headlines as much as it did during 2020. Then again, the past 10 months have been anything but typical.

Throughout the pandemic, high demand for toilet paper has made it difficult to find. Images of empty store shelves have become commonplace on social media. More so than a lack of flour or disinfecting wipes, the inability to get an item as essential as toilet paper has created a stir because it undermines assumptions about what it means to be an American in the 21st century. It robs people of their right to wipe.

“Toilet paper represents our civilization,” Marcia Mogelonsky, director of insight for Mintel’s food and drink division, proclaimed in a blog post published in May.

Shortages of the stuff have spurred shoppers to seek alternatives and try options they may have never considered before—or even knew existed. North American interest in bidets sold by upstarts such as Tushy and Poo-Pourri, for instance, has never been higher. The same goes for direct-to-consumer toilet paper brands that are better for the planet.

The roll goes empty

Restrictions on schools, offices and restaurants throughout the public health crisis have led to an increase in people studying, working and eating at home. This, in turn, has driven shoppers to fill their carts with toilet paper on a routine basis.

Georgia-Pacific, the maker of Angel Soft and Quilted Northern, calculates that the average U.S. household uses 409 rolls of toilet paper per year. If everyone stays at home around the clock—which has more or less been the case for a while now—that number increases by 40%.

When the Covid-19 outbreak first hit in March, year-over-year sales of toilet paper leaped 90% compared to the same time last year, amounting to $1.7 billion, according to Nielsen.

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