If you’ve noticed that toilet paper is rarely on sale any more, you’re not alone.
Since New Zealand’s Omicron outbreak began, seeing a pack of loo rolls on sale is pretty unusual. Supermarkets say they’ve frozen the price because there’s limited stock. Manufacturers face continued issues with sourcing raw materials, as well as manufacturing, shipping and general supply chain problems.
Omicron on a roll
Omicron saw the return of consumer stockpiling and a limit of two packs per customer in most stores.
Some may remember, back in 2020, various politicians assuring the public that we need not panic-buy toilet paper as we make it in New Zealand, so we’re not going to run out.
And while it remains true that there is no need start hoarding, we are experiencing a toilet paper shortage. While this isn’t reflected in empty shelves, it is reflected in price increases and lack of sale prices.
The bottom line
Toilet paper is made by bringing together two types of tree pulp. These are sourced from all around the world – South America, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, China, Europe, France, North America and Canada, to name a few. All have been impacted by Covid shipping delays and increased costs.
So, while most products are processed here and some are wholly imported, our toilet paper manufacturers are reliant on the rest of the world to be able to operate at capacity.
A Countdown spokesperson said: “These same issues have also driven cost increases for our suppliers, which have led to price increases on some toilet paper products in our stores. In situations where we know we don’t have the stock levels to keep up with demand, we cannot (under the Fair Trading Act) advertise a special on that product. This is the case for toilet paper, where we are experiencing ongoing stock shortages.”
New World stores in the North Island have moved their toilet paper to an “everyday value” price point.
The cost of manufacturing here resulted in exits from the New Zealand market late last year. ABC Tissue, which supplied supermarkets with Quilton and Savers toilet paper brands, ceased operations. And Kleenex stopped importing toilet tissue.
Both were due to the price spike of shipping costs and lack of container availability to get the raw material in for processing. Their departures left a hole in the NZ market and this has not been filled by the remaining suppliers, as they struggle to keep up with demand.
A Cottonsoft spokesperson said that manufacturers withdrawing from the market exacerbated the problem as increasing demand couldn’t be filled.
“The combination of supply uncertainty and cost issues meant that the best we could offer consumers was a restricted but reliable product range, at a consistent everyday price.”
With the rising cost of manufacturing, “Cottonsoft took price increases necessary to recoup some of these costs before the arrival of Omicron,” the spokesperson said. “Pricing is likely to remain elevated until the global supply chain improves and other inflationary pressures ease.”
Essity (formerly Asaleo Care) is responsible for locally manufacturing well-known brands Purex and Sorbent.
“As a local manufacturer of toilet tissue products, our manufacturing and supply costs are being impacted by record high pulp prices, local energy costs that have doubled over the past two years and shipping costs which are now five times higher than they were 18 months ago,” said an Essity spokesperson.
“Facing unprecedented cost increases has made it challenging to operate a competitive business in New Zealand ... In addition, the rapid escalation in the price of oil is now flowing through to other manufacturing inputs and logistics costs. There are no signs that these costs pressures will ease in the foreseeable future.”
For Essity, it was not possible to continue to absorb and offset the cost increases as time went on.
“To remain competitive, we have had no option but to reduce the amount of promotional activity for our toilet paper brands and other tissue products and to pass on cost increases to our retail customers.”