The Growing Use of Paper Towels and Challenges

April 2021

Paper towels are an essential tool to keep around the house, in the office, and in restaurants. The market is a big one, but it's also a fiercely competitive industry. Paper towels may be made of a few types of paper products, including paper-based materials or fabric with an absorbent material on one side (typically cellulose-based), and they're available to be purchased online and in grocery stores everywhere.

Purchasing quality paper towels is an important decision because quality can vary widely between brands - some are cheaper but more likely to tear or off-gas chemicals; while others offer higher quality at higher prices due to innovation efforts. The goal for consumers is to find quality products without breaking the bank, and manufacturers are looking to find ways to provide quality at optimum prices.

With so many options available, shoppers may feel overwhelmed when it comes time to buy. Paper towels are one of those products that people buy over and over again and continue to use for years, making it a frequent shopping trip for most shoppers. Brands on the market today range from high-end luxury products that offer softer towels or more convenient packaging, to basic store brands where shoppers only need to consider price.

Currently there is no easy way for shoppers to know where they'll get the best value in paper towels if they compare different brands. The average consumer may find this information online, but it's not clear how useful these ratings are. In-store shoppers can sometimes get a sense of the quality of paper used in a product through packaging or special features at the store, but there's no easy way for shoppers to compare brands at different prices on quality. A recent international survey of customers found that 64% believe match played a role in a product's perceived value, with 41% claiming that price was an important factor.

Paper towels have been around for decades, and they're an important product in many households. But as with any popular consumer product, they can suffer from overexposure and fatigue. As a result, paper towel companies are challenged with innovating products that will keep them relevant to consumers in the coming years. While the market has been growing at a steady rate over the past couple of years, it's important for manufacturers to think beyond traditional products. For example, the number of households has more than doubled over the years. This shift has created new opportunities and some challenges for manufacturers.

Overexposure: In the United States, more than 80 percent of households now include paper towels. As a result, consumers have become less receptive to new products. Manufacturers are challenged with creating innovative products that will keep their brand relevant and exciting.

Tough economy: Consumers who live in areas where the economy has been hit particularly hard may be more likely to cut back on spending and choose lower-priced brands such as Bounty Basic or Viva Essentials. In addition, many consumers are looking for ways to "green up" their household cleaning routines. Growing awareness about issues such as water conservation means that companies like Georgia Pacific are under increasing pressure to develop towels made from recycled materials.

Currently there is no easy way for shoppers to know where they'll get the best value in paper towels if they compare different brands. Paper towels, like most commercial paper products, have a finite life-span before they decompose. This is because it’s made of wood pulp that is chemically treated to increase its durability; it can also take about 600 years for a paper towel to decompose in your landfill.

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