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Soft, Softer, Softest

Roberto BerardiTissue consumption not only varies in kind, type or application but also varies with people’s preferences across different geographical boundaries. Roberto Berardi, Chairman, European Tissue Symposium-Italy, shares his experience of tissue consumption pattern, quality, and trends.

Globally, which kind of tissues are consumed most and why ?

On a worldwide base, toilet tissue represents 57% of the total tissue market and it is therefore the dominant category, followed by towels (about 22%, please remind that AFH hand towels are also included!), then facial tissues (about 12%), then napkins (about 7%) and others 2%.

However, there are significant differences by region, for example in Asia the second category after toilet tissue are facial tissues, which represent over 20% of tissue consumptions, while towels are just close to 10%.

Reasons are cultural and in some cases, even religious. Of course, local habits also play a role, for example, in Asia there is a limited use of napkins because both, facials and toilet tissue are used as napkins substitute.

What are the parameters for choosing different types of tissues for different applications? How does an end user ascertain the right kind of tissue for a particular application?

The tissue producers have in mind the final uses for each category of products and this is why they make the facial tissues particularly soft, for a very personal use, they make the towels very resistant (even when wet) and absorbent, they often make decorated napkins, to make them pleasant on the table.

But ultimately, it is the consumer, with his habits and preferences, deciding what to use for each task. For example, suppose that you offer a cup of tea to somebody visiting your home: in Japan they will offer to you a box of facials, in southern Italy they will give some paper napkins, in northern Italy quite often they offer to you a sheet of decorated towels. In this particular case, technically speaking, the product best suited for the task are the napkins, which combine some softness, some absorbency, some strength and often a nice design, but how can you argue if the consumers in a given region prefer the lighter and softer touch of facial tissues? 

What are the determining factors in choosing a particular brand of tissue? Quality, cost…

The producers of the best brands apply advanced technologies to make their product unique, focusing on the unique selling provision they have chosen, which can be: ”the softest”, “the strongest”, “the most absorbent” “the best combination of all the above”, “the nicest”, “the longest roll”, etc.

The fact is that behind these “subtle” differences among the different brands, there are often huge technological investment, because the paper making and the converting machines are becoming increasingly reliable, sophisticated, automatic and … expensive! Consider that when you invest in a paper machine, it will probably remain with you for half a century.

In countries where the distribution system is advanced and concentrated, also the retailer brands (brands owned by the retail chains) are becoming very popular. The retailers can use their bargaining power to obtain good quality products from the producers – sometimes quite close to the best brands, sometimes not so much, at very aggressive prices, which are partially used to reduce the price to the final consumers and partially to boost the margins of the retailers themselves. Almost always the margin of the retailers on retailer brands is higher than on the leading brands.

Globally, which kind of tissues are consumed most and why ?On a worldwide base, toilet tissue represents 57% of the total tissue market and it is therefore the dominant category, followed by towels (about 22%, please remind that AFH hand towels are also included!), then facial tissues (about 12%), then napkins (about 7%) and others 2%.However, there are significant differences by region,…

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