During the pandemic, the demand for toilet paper has been so high that, to keep their shelves stocked, retailers are buying foreign brands of toilet paper, mainly from Mexico. Major chains across the country, including CVS, Piggly Wiggly, Safeway, 7-Eleven and others, are selling international brands.
Mexican brands like Regio, Hoteles Elite, Daisy Soft, Petalo and Vogue were found in supermarkets across the country.
The stores said they needed to be creative during the pandemic and started working with new suppliers to provide buyers with what they needed. But that does not mean that popular American brands like Charmin will disappear, supply chain experts expect Mexican rolls and others made abroad to be on store shelves only temporarily, until U.S. manufacturers meet demand.
The American people use far more toilet paper than other countries and, according to Patrick Penfield, professor of supply chain at Whitman School of Management at Syracuse University, this is one of the reasons why Mexico can send more rolls to the US. The same logic applies to other kinds of products; stores also did this same strategy with other products during the pandemic bringing hand sanitizer made in Mexico to the United States when there was a shortage.
Although Americans buy products made around the world, most of the toilet paper they use is produced in the USA. Toilet paper is an inexpensive product that takes up a lot of space on trucks and ships, not offsetting the cost of importing from other countries. This left the toilet paper aisle of American supermarkets with the same well-known brands and, seeing the imported material on the shelves, made some customers surprised.
During the pandemic, some US manufacturers also stopped making the many varieties of toilet paper they usually make, like stronger leaves and special infusions, so they could focus on the basics and get them to stores more quickly. However, the trend is that these varieties will soon return to retailers’ shelves.
Companies that make Mexican toilet paper were also surprised by finding the rolls north of the border. “It’s unexpected that it would be found in any U.S. retailers,” said Amy Bellcourt, a spokeswoman for Essity, a Swiss tissue company that makes Regio in Mexico
Kimberly-Clark, the same company that manufactures Cottonelle and Scott, makes Petalo, Vogue and Delsey brands in Mexico. However, Kimberly-Clark said it had no role in importing its Mexican brands into the United States.
Selling unknown toilet paper brands during a pandemic is not that difficult, even if its quality is not the best. If the shelves are getting empty and products are scarce, even the most demanding consumer will buy what is available.