The U.S. Toilet Paper Market: A Competitive Profile

Y. Datta


This is the fourteenth paper that follows the footsteps of thirteen studies that have tried to analyze the competitive profiles of U.S. consumer markets: Men’s Shaving Cream, Beer, Shampoo, Shredded/Grated Cheese, Refrigerated Orange Juice, Men’s Razor-Blades, Women’s Razor-Blades, Toothpaste, Canned Soup, Coffee, Potato Chips, Alkaline AA Batteries, and Facial Tissue.

Michael Porter associates high market share with cost leadership strategy, which is based on the idea of competing on a price that is lower than that of the competition.

However, customer-perceived quality—not low cost—should be the underpinning of competitive strategy, because it is far more vital to long-term competitive position and profitability than any other factor. So, a superior alternative is to offer better quality vs. the competition.

In most consumer markets, a business seeking market share leadership should try to serve the middle class by competing in the mid-price segment; and offering quality better than that of the competition: at a price somewhat higher to signify an image of quality, and to ensure that the strategy is both profitable and sustainable in the long run.

Quality, however, is a complex concept, consumers generally find difficult to understand. So, they often use relative price, and a brand’s reputation, as a symbol of quality.

The 2008 net sales for the Toilet Paper market were $4,117 million.

By far the most popular pack size was the 12-roll pack which constituted 38% of total sales. So, we have concentrated our statistical analysis on that size.

For 2008 we found 25 brands with 12‑roll sales over $70,000. However, three of those brands had no sales for 2007. So, we had to restrict our analysis to the remaining 22 for both years.

Using Hierarchical Cluster Analysis, we tested two hypotheses: (I) That the market leader is likely to compete in the mid-price segment, and that (II) Its unit price is likely to be higher than that of the nearest competition.

For both 2008 and 2007, the results did not support Hypothesis I. This is because both Charmin, the market leader, and Kleenex Cottonelle, the runner-up, were found to be members of the premium segment.

However, the data supported Hypothesis II, because the unit price of Charmin was higher than that of (Kleenex) Cottonelle.

We found that relative price was a strategic variable, as hypothesized.

A pattern is emerging in price-quality segmentation analysis. In ten of the fourteen studies—that exclude Men’s and Women’s Razor-Blades, Ground Coffee, and Toilet Paper—the market leader was found to be a member of the mid-price segment, as we have hypothesized.

Moreover, results in seven markets supported Hypothesis II.

We also discovered four strategic groups in the industry.

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