NEW YORK – Toilet paper is back on store shelves. But you may not recognize some of the brands.
Demand for toilet paper has been so high during the pandemic that in order to keep their shelves stocked, retailers are buying up foreign toilet paper brands, mostly from Mexico. Major chains, across the country, including CVS, Piggly Wiggly, Safeway, 7-Eleven and others, are carrying the international brands.
A CVS in New York recently offered three Mexican brands: Regio, Hoteles Elite and Daisy Soft. Mexico's Petalo was on the shelves at Piggly Wiggly in Sister Bay, Wisconsin. And a Safeway in Fremont, California, had those same brands, plus Vogue, which claims it smells like chamomile in Spanish on the label.
The stores said they needed to get creative during the pandemic and started working with new suppliers to get what they needed. But don't worry about popular brands like Charmin – they aren't going to disappear. Supply chain experts expect the Mexican and other foreign-made rolls to be on store shelves temporarily, until U.S. manufacturers catch up with demand.
Americans use much more toilet paper than other countries, according to Patrick Penfield, a supply chain professor at the Whitman School of Management at Syracuse University – which is why Mexico can handle shipping more rolls to the United States. Stores have done this with other products during the pandemic, he said, bringing Mexican-made hand sanitizer to the U.S. when there was a shortage.
Americans, of course, buy products that are made all over the world, but most of the toilet paper they use is made in the U.S. Toilet paper is inexpensive and takes up a lot of space in trucks and ships, making it not worth the cost of importing from other countries. That's left the toilet paper aisle with the same familiar brands, causing some shoppers to do a double take when they see the unfamiliar stuff.
Oliver Olsen wasn't even in the market for toilet paper, but he had to stop and take a closer look at what he saw in the aisles last month at a Hannaford supermarket in Londonderry, Vermont.
Instead of Charmin and Cottonelle, there was Vogue and Delsey from Mexico. Next to them was Cashmere from Canada and King Blue from Trinidad and Tobago.
“It really just jumped out at me,” said Olsen, who works in the software industry and is a former state representative. “I didn't know any of these.”