Kimberly-Clark Corp is going green in toilet paper, napkins and paper towels, launching a line of consumer paper products that uses recycled material.
The launch this month of Scott Naturals makes Kimberly-Clark the first major paper products maker to have a full line that taps into the growing market for environmentally friendly products.
It follows on the success other mainstream manufacturers have had in selling products that are marketed as environmentally friendly, most notably Clorox Co's Green Works line of cleaners, which already accounts for a big chunk of that company's sales growth.
The success of Green Works, launched in late 2007, helped demonstrate that green products would be purchased by more than just a handful of consumers, said Brian Morgan, senior research analyst at market research firm Euromonitor International.
Some of the big players, they really weren't convinced that it could be a mainstream strategy, he said.
Kimberly-Clark said consumers who buy Scott products --the company's lower-priced value brand compared with its Cottonelle and Viva lines -- have been asking for environmentally friendly paper products.
We think there is a big, key, unmet need for consumers of getting the right price, quality and environmental benefits, Scott brand manager Erik Seidel told Reuters in an interview.
The U.S. market for toilet paper, napkins and paper towels totaled $11.89 billion in 2008, according to Euromonitor.
Charmin and Bounty maker Procter & Gamble Co does not make recycled paper products, and a spokesman would not comment on any future plans. Georgia-Pacific, whose brands include Quilted Northern, does not have a full line of products marketed as containing recycled fibers, but does have recycled fibers in some of its products, a spokeswoman said.
Paper products with recycled fibers have been a hard sell to all but the most environmentally concerned consumers because of the perception that they do not perform as well as standard products when it comes to aspects like softness.
A recent test by Consumer Reports found that Marcal's Small Steps and Seventh Generation's toilet papers -- two of the larger green options -- were still only so-so in terms of softness, despite recent changes in formulation.
You have to have a balance of having that (environmental) element with something that is effective, Morgan said.
Kimberly-Clark said it is using a blend of recycled and virgin fibers to feel and absorb more like standard products.
The Scott Naturals toilet paper has 40 percent recycled fiber, while the paper towels have 60 percent and the napkins contain 80 percent.
The cost of the napkins and paper towels is in line with Scott's traditional products, while the toilet paper costs 6 percent more because it is more expensive to manufacture, Seidel said.
Keeping the price in check may help Scott Naturals' viability.
With paper products, it's much more commoditized than with household cleaning, Euromonitor's Morgan said. People aren't willing to pay even 10 or 20 cents more per unit.