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Let’s face it, the toilet paper consumers use today is not that much different from what their parents or even grandparents used decades ago. Greater absorbency or increased softness might have added some extra value to category sales but the format itself, pulp sheets on a roll, has remained virtually unchanged.
So, in order to prevent the category from reaching a standstill in saturated markets, such as the US where consumption has been stagnating at 8kg per capita since 2000, manufacturers have had to look for further opportunities. As consumers are exposed to baby wipes at the very start of their lives because the product promises to be hygienic and sensitive to the skin, why not make the substrate flushable, sell it as wet toilet tissue and extend the target audience?
Wet toilet tissue is not supposed to be a substitute for regular toilet paper but used as an additional product to be incorporated into the daily toilet routine, a routine that should add value to the category. Countries such as Germany and Switzerland have proven that consumers are generally not opposed to the idea of using wet wipes in intimate areas, with wet toilet tissue reaching a share of over 10% of total toilet paper sales. However, particularly convenience-driven US consumers struggle with where to place wet toilet tissue in the bathroom, which eventually prevents sales from taking off.
One reason why the format of toilet paper has not changed is because most consumers’ bathrooms have a holder for standardised toilet rolls. But with wet toilet tissue either coming in dispenser tubs or flexible packaging, consumers are unsure where to put it, eventually banishing it to the bathroom cabinet. Hence, it is often not easy to reach, becomes forgotten, is not used and consequently not purchased again.
This issue is not new to manufacturers and they have put great effort into developing a solution to put wipes in closer proximity to toilet paper. Over the years Kimberly-Clark has patented several dispensers for wet toilet tissue but has only launched a simple plastic hanger for its Kleenex Cottonelle wet wipes to temporarily install the plastic container on the wall. However, the hanger saw little success because consumers were hesitant to openly display the wet toilet tissue dispensing tub due to its undeniable resemblance to baby wipes.
To make wet toilet tissue more accessible to consumers requires the development of a device that caters for both wet and dry toilet tissue and fits into standard toilet paper holders. The US start-up company Duo LLC has come up with a promising solution via its Trio system, which was nominated for INDA’s Innovation Award at the World of Wipes conference in Atlanta this year. However, wet wipe refills are only available via the company’s website and sell at US$6 for 50 wipes, which makes them twice as expensive as, for example, Kleenex Cottonelle wet wipes.
In the US, the share of wet toilet tissue in toilet paper has been stagnating at 3% since 2007, showing that the product is still far from becoming a regular part of toilet hygiene. With no mainstream device for both wet and dry toilet paper available, it is unlikely that sales of wet toilet tissue will increase above market growth rates. However, a look at recent US patent registrations reveals that numerous innovators are working on solutions to transform the format and make wet toilet tissue look more like toilet paper rather than baby wipes, which could eventually attract more consumers and solve the problem of where to put it in the bathroom.