In April, Consumer Watch reported that while for years toilet paper manufacturers have been required by law to ensure that one-ply toilet rolls have at least 500 sheets, and two-ply rolls 350 sheets, this regulation was amended in March.
Now manufacturers can also produce rolls with fewer sheets. One-ply rolls can either be 500 sheets or just 300 sheets, and two-ply rolls either 350 sheets or just 200 sheets.
The marketing spin goes like this: “What these changes ultimately mean to the consumer is that they will now be able to purchase toilet rolls at a cheaper price point due to the reduction in sheet count of the new offerings.”
How this is a good thing for consumers is not clear to me.
For some years now, manufacturers of all sorts of goods have been reducing the size of their packs to pass on their higher input costs in |a sneaky way, rather than transparently putting up the price of the existing pack size.
They call it making the products “more affordable” or selling them “at a cheaper price point”, which consumers may confuse with “cheaper”, when what it really means is that the manufacturers have invested a whole lot in new packaging to create the illusion of cheaper, or at least not more expensive.
In fact, smaller packs mean we’re getting less for our money. You may have to outlay less for that box of tissues, bar of soap or bottle of tomato sauce, but you’re going to finish it quicker than the old, bigger pack, which means you’re going to have to buy a replacement one quicker.
The same goes for toilet rolls.
It’s obvious you are going to use up a 200-sheet roll of toilet paper a lot faster than a 350-sheet one.
And get this – the smaller rolls work out to be more expensive, per sheet, than the traditional size rolls.
The smaller rolls weren’t on the market when I wrote about this back in April, but they are now.
Kimberly-Clark is calling its smaller rolls “Mini” – and currently selling them in a pack of 24 marked “Value”.
Reader Roy Reed spotted them on special at Game – normal price R89.99, current price R69.99, which works out to just R2.91 a roll.
They are clearly marked as being 200-sheet rolls, but consumers to whom sheet count means nothing, and who assume all two-ply toilet rolls have the same number of sheets, as they did before, this would seem like a massive bargain.
But even at the reduced price, these “value” 200-sheet rolls work out to be the same price a sheet as the nine-roll pack of 350-sheet Baby Soft two-ply.
Industry insiders tell me the move is designed to induce those who can normally only afford one-ply toilet paper to try two-ply, given that it’s now “more affordable”.
Talk about false economy!
I took up the issue with Baby Soft manufacturer Kimberly-Clark, taking issue with the fact the Mini pack also has the word “Value” emblazoned on it, which struck me as misleading, under the circumstances.
The company’s MD, Garth Towell, said the company welcomed the change to the toilet paper regulations, allowing for the sale of smaller rolls, as it “improves the rights of consumers”.
Presumably he means the right to choose the size of your toilet rolls.
In my experience, what this will mean in reality is that many will mistakenly believe that toilet paper has suddenly become more “affordable”, or available at “a cheaper price point”, when in fact, sheet for sheet, the smaller rolls are actually quite |a bit more expensive.
That’s not exactly a boon for consumers, if you ask me.
Reducing pack sizes of everyday grocery items, so that we get less than we used to, does not solve the problem of rampant cost inflation.
It’s a silly, wasteful exercise.
Towell said the company was comfortable that they’d done enough to avoid consumers buying the apparently cheaper Mini packs without realising the rolls were smaller.
The sheet count – 200 – was prominent on the pack, he said, and the Mini packs were green, while the 350-sheet roll packs were blue.
As the for “value” claim, he said this referred to a comparison with the smaller nine- and four-roll Mini packs, not the regular 350-sheet roll packs.
The bottom line – no pun intended – is that the smaller rolls are not the better buy; they are the most expensive toilet rolls.
Don’t be fooled.