White Cloud seen expanding further

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Package-goods executives expect White Cloud-the renegade Procter & Gamble Co. brand turned premium private-label powerhouse for Wal-Mart Stores-to follow its recent expansion into facial tissue with a paper-towel launch early next year.

Those moves bring White Cloud into categories estimated by VNU's ACNielsen Co. consumer panel to have sales of $850 million at Wal-Mart. Bigger still could be what industry executives and analysts expect could be a White Cloud move into laundry detergent and fabric softeners, an estimated $2 billion Wal-Mart category.

With sales of $400 million to $500 million already in bath tissue, diapers and wet wipes, according to estimates by industry executives, White Cloud as a Wal-Mart brand has two to three times the sales it had when P&G discontinued it as a toilet paper brand 10 years ago. A Wal-Mart spokeswoman acknowledged the facial-tissue move, but would not comment on moves into paper towels or laundry care.

Wal-Mart tested White Cloud in laundry products in some stores in 2001. And Wal-Mart executives fueled speculation about a move into paper towels during an analyst meeting in September when they said they hope to have an unnamed manufacturer build a paper-products plant dedicated to Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart also has approached branded laundry marketers about making premium private-label products, according to industry executives.

Paper Partners, a Boca Raton, Fla., company headed by entrepreneur Tony Gelbart, staked claim to the unused trademark in 1993, after P&G pulled the plug, then prevailed against P&G after five years of litigation before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Later, Paper Partners struck deals to make White Cloud a Wal-Mart exclusive label. Mr. Gelbart declined to comment on expansion plans.

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