Paper Trends That Meet Industry Demand

In a recent Q&A for CleanLink, Laura Ashley, Marketing Manager for Resolute Tissue, along with other manufacturers, discusses the past and future trends in paper.

Q: What jan/san paper trends did you see come to fruition in 2023?

 Ashley: We recognized three paper trends in 2023: The first was a marked increase in customers converting from folded paper towels (C-folds and multi-fold towels) to hardwound roll towel dispensing systems. This seems to be driven by pressure for cost control by eliminating or reducing waste, both in the towel usage itself, but also in the labor hours/costs to replenish. The fact is that folded towel end users tend to use more folded towels per hand dry than roll towel end users — at a 2:1 or 3:1 ratio (2:1 means the average user takes 4 folded towels versus 2 hardwound towel sheets). With folded towels, users can easily take many more towels than needed per hand dry as opposed to the more controlled “one-at-a time” dispense of roll towels. Roll towel dispensers with length control settings allow facilities to increase or decrease sheet length as needed, which controls consumption and reduces waste. Another reason end users migrate away from folded towel is a preference for the touchless roll towel dispensers (also known as hands-free or no touch), which are more hygienic. Today, people want to avoid touching most shared surfaces to eliminate any cross contamination. Hands-free roll towel dispensers exist in both automatic dispenser types as well as mechanical (manual) dispensers.

The other two trends we observed in 2023 were both related to tissue:
We saw increased adoption of small core tissue rolls. Small core rolls have more capacity per roll due to the smaller core, use less storage space and incur less labor costs due to less changeovers. Small core tissue is a very efficient format.

We also saw a heightened interest in more fully enclosed tissue dispensers with limited tissue exposure. We see this interest particularly in schools and other public-serving facilities looking to demonstrate a more hygienic product.

Q: There has been another push for sustainability, especially in the paper category. What “green” trends in paper are you expecting for in 2024?

Ashley: We expect facilities to continue to seek products that are certified to a well-respected fiber sourcing (chain of custody) certification. This certification gives peace of mind to distributors, facilities and end users as it ensures that the fiber processed meet minimum due diligence requirements related to risks of illegal logging and other important sustainability requirements. A certified sourcing logo also confirms that a third-party audit from a certified organization has been conducted as verification.

Q: How are you responding to these trends and how can distributors communicate that to their customers?

Ashley:  We take the time to educate our distributors on the fiber sourcing certifications and what they mean. Distributors can promote products that have certified fiber sources, such as SFI Certified Sourcing or FSC. Distributors can look for on-package certified sourcing logos with certification numbers, which prove that the manufacturer is certified and purchasing from certified forests and sources.

Q: What is the biggest sales hurdle when selling sustainable paper products and what advice do you have for distributors to overcome it?

Ashley: A sales hurdle for distributors is separating fact from perception for their end users and letting end users know of sustainable options other than recycled paper. These discussions include illuminating the tradeoffs that exist with recycled paper (potential increased costs, less absorbency, lower strength of towels.)

Q: What are some of the largest misconceptions about “green” paper products and how are you overcoming them?

 Ashley: One common and unfortunate misconception is believing that the only “green” paper has to be a recycled material product. Certified sourcing certifications apply to both 100 percent virgin paper and paper with some level of recycled content. Also, fiber sourcing certification can be earned for a spectrum of quality levels in virgin tissue and towel products — from premium to value. This means end users can purchase the quality level needed and don’t have to necessarily purchase a recycled product that may have less absorption, for example. Recycled fiber typically contains shorter fibers, which lead to weaker paper. The longer fibers of virgin paper produce more absorbent and stronger paper towels. Again, certified sourcing certifications provide peace of mind to end customers regarding sound choices.

Another misconception is that recycled products are always more cost effective than virgin fiber paper, which is not necessarily the case, depending on market conditions and availability of recycled materials. In the North American paper industry, there is significantly more capacity to produce virgin fiber-based products versus recycled fiber-based products and pricing can fluctuate accordingly.

Q: What constitutes a “green” or “sustainable” paper product?

Ashley:  In the paper industry, fiber source certification is a huge part of determining if a product is sustainable. But there are other important aspects as well, such as using controlled dispensing systems to discourage the waste of overuse. But packaging does play a part in sustainability. In our operations, we have “right-sized” our corrugated cases and only use the minimum amount necessary to protect the product. Another obvious consideration for distributors or end users is to do business with a manufacturer that has a deeply rooted investment in sustainability.

Q: How can distributors help their end-user customers identify/differentiate sustainable paper options from more traditional products?

Ashley:  In addition to offering certified products, distributors can encourage end users to convert facilities to dispensing systems using small core tissue for higher capacity. Regarding towel dispensers, look for:

  • Roll towel dispensers that dispense towels one-at-a-time versus folded towel dispensers.
  • Automatic towel dispensers with options for “hanging” or “hidden” towel mode. Hidden mode means that the towel does not dispense until the electronic sensor is activated, which tends to limit overuse.
  • Stub roll transfer feature, which ensures entire paper roll is used.
  • Handsfree roll towel dispensers to dispensers that require interfacing with the dispenser. In addition to these being touchless, these dispense towels one-at-a-time to help control and reduce waste.
  • Variable sheet size adjustability for towel roll dispensing.

Q: What role does dispensing play in a sustainable paper program?

Ashley: The type of dispenser is most key to sustainability in tissue and towel. In addition to certification of our products, we promote roll towel dispensers with controlled dispensing systems. These dispensers reduce waste by helping to lower consumption per hand dries to have a much more sustainable towel program. Roll towel dispensers that have sheet size variability or settings for “hanging mode” or “hidden mode” also discourage overconsumption. Look also for a roll towel dispenser with a stub roll feature so that 100 percent of the roll is used. On the tissue side, dispensers that control waste by using up initial roll before next roll becomes accessible are better at reducing waste and curbing unnecessary usage. So not only is less paper wasted, the overoll cost in use is lower, and reflects the actual costs and not just cost per case. Minimizing waste also reduces frustrating outages. These benefits apply to high traffic or low traffic facilities. No one likes to waste paper, waste money – or frustrate restroom users by frequently being out of paper. It is really a sustainability no-brainer convert to a controlled consumption dispensing system.

Read the full article, where it appears in CleanLink.

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