Charmin preps super-size roll

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First came the double, then the triple-now Procter & Gamble Co. is preparing to unleash a quadruple roll of toilet paper in the form of the Charmin MegaRoll.

The Charmin MegaRoll, which hits stores in February, is so big it comes with a Charmin Easy-Fit Extender attached to each package that will allow most standard toilet paper holders to accommodate the 51/4-inch-diameter rolls. The extender replaces the spindle on paper holders.

"Many toilet-paper holders will already fit MegaRoll," said a P&G spokeswoman, but the extender creates "extra spinning space" in holders that can't accommodate the large diameter.

MegaRoll will be available both in one-ply Charmin and two-ply Charmin Ultra at prices comparable to single- and double-roll varieties on a per-sheet basis, so a six-pack of MegaRoll should be priced about the same as a 12-pack of double roll.

The super-sized toilet paper rolls "have numerous advantages for consumers and retailers," the spokeswoman said. "For consumers, they can change the roll less often and there is less core/packaging waste. For retailers, MegaRoll delivers more paper in the same space for improved logistical efficiency and shelf productivity."

TV and print ads for MegaRoll break in March from Publicis Groupe's Publicis Worldwide, New York, though P&G declined to disclose spending.

P&G recently made toilet paper rolls smaller before it made them bigger. P&G, along with rivals Georgia-Pacific Corp. and Kimberly-Clark Corp., raised toilet paper prices in July by around 6% through sheet-count reductions.

The brands similarly reduced sheet counts in another price increase in 2000 on the strategy of maintaining price points for packages on retail shelves. Some retailers and industry executives correctly predicted triple and quadruple rolls inevitably would follow the downsizings.

Previously launched Charmin Triple Rolls had faced resistance from consumers and some delistings because the rolls had proved too big to comfortably fit in toilet paper holders, retailers said. The problem, said one buyer, is that consumers have resisted modifying their toilet paper holders in the past. "It's not convenient, and consumers just aren't willing to do things that aren't convenient," he said.

"Kimberly-Clark ran into that resistance when Cottonelle RollWipes came out," said William Schmitz, analyst with Deutsche Bank securities, noting the special holder required for the pre-moistened toilet paper.

Consumers may be reluctant to do something out of the ordinary with their holders in fear of looking odd, particularly in front of houseguests, he said. "My wife wouldn't let me put the thing up," conceded another analyst at the time of the RollWipes rollout.

Meanwhile, P&G is trying another means to gain share, testing a Basic value sub-brand for Charmin and Bounty paper towels in the Southeastern U.S.

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