Why are toilet rolls getting more expensive? And why aren’t ours?

UK currency

It’s no secret that costs are rising. Those of us in the UK are facing a sharp rise in the cost of living, and we’re not alone in feeling the pinch. All over the world, everyday items are getting more expensive.

It doesn’t get more everyday than toilet rolls, and many of them are climbing in price as well. At Naked Sprout we’ve been able to keep our prices the same per sheet since launching in 2020, so we wanted to take some time to take a deep dive on the kind of pressures that are leading to other manufacturers putting their prices up and why we aren’t doing the same. 

Freight ship with containers

COVID-19 Disruptions:

When it comes to the cost of goods, disruption is often bad news for stability. It doesn’t get much more disruptive than the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The pandemic wreaked havoc on global supply chains, and the paper industry was no exception. While many workers started to work from home, industries such as factories, transport, and distribution centres - the places where physical goods come in and out - can’t make this kind of shift. 

So across manufacturing, distribution, and logistics networks there was a piecemeal mosaic of factory shut-downs, social distancing measures and workforce shortages. The process of getting things to the right place at the right time became much less certain. Essential components, particularly paper pulp, became harder to get hold of. 

Added to this, the pandemic disrupted typical patterns of demand. Lots of people stuck at home meant lots of home improvements, and soaring demand for timber as people decided to finally fix up the living room shelves and get round to putting in vegetable beds. The demand for timber meant there was less of the raw material for paper pulp, and less pulp meant… 

Logging in process

A Rise in Pulp Prices:

To make toilet rolls and tissue products you need pulp, the raw material derived from wood fibres. Whether the source is virgin wood or bamboo, you cannot do without it.

What about recycled rolls? We hear you ask? Yes, even recycled rolls. Recycling paper is brilliant, but you cannot endlessly reuse it - you have to add 30% new material each time to keep the mix strong enough so it doesn’t break down. So we’re back to the price of pulp.

In the last few years the pulp market has been experiencing significant turbulence, driving pulp prices to unprecedented levels. The soaring demand for timber that came during the pandemic coincided with a growing demand for packaging materials, particularly for e-commerce and delivery services, as people ordered more and more goods to be delivered at home. The result is a classic case of supply and demand imbalance, and pulp prices reaching record highs.

a pile of waste cardboard and kraft paper to be recycled

Even those recycled rolls aren’t faring loads better. More and more people working from home means less and less waste office printer paper, and that is the most commonly-used material for recycled tissue. So the waste paper needed to make recycled tissue has to be shipped from further afield, meaning, you guessed it, higher costs. 

So manufacturers of tissue products, regardless of whether they make their products with recycled material or virgin pulp, find themselves grappling with skyrocketing production costs. In most cases they are passing at least some of these costs on to customers in the form of price rises.  

Why hasn’t this happened at Naked Sprout? Bamboo has been a bit more reliable to get hold of than more standard tree timber, because it hasn’t been in the same demand as a building material. And the fact that we bring our bamboo from China in the form of pulp rather than finished rolls reduces the price to ship it. 

And when it comes to our recycled rolls we’ve done something we think is a bit special - instead of using office printer paper we’ve gone for a massively underutilised source. Those same cardboard delivery boxes and packaging materials that are fueling a demand for paper pulp, and causing a headache for many tissue manufacturers? We’re using them to make our recycled rolls!

Naked Sprout toilet rolls being manufactured

Conclusion

So there it is laid out. If you’ve noticed standard toilet rolls getting smaller and costlier there are some very simple economic factors at work. From demand for pulp to rising energy bills, the standard way of doing things is being disrupted - and disruption means higher prices. 

But we’re all about positive disruption at Naked Sprout, and a better way of doing things than the standard.  Our products are priced competitively because we’re not seeking sky-high profits, instead focusing on the changes we can make to bring down our footprint. And everyone who makes our rolls is paid a living wage, so nobody is being shortchanged. 

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