When It Comes to Innovation, Toilet Paper Makers Are on a Roll

Times Wire Services

Toilet paper is getting a new look these days, and it's putting a real spin on the bathroom tissue market.

Today's consumers are no longer satisfied with the standard stiff white sheets. They are looking for extras, which might mean anything from odor-reducing baking soda to soft quilting.

"There is incredible competition out there, and every company is working hard to distinguish their product from the next," said Al Ries, a marketing consultant at Ries & Ries in Great Neck, N.Y.

What started in the mid-1800s as an alternative to the corn cob has grown into a multibillion-dollar market. Sales topped $3 billion in 1994, up 6.3% from the year before, according to Information Resources Inc., a Chicago-based market research firm.

In the last year, Scott Paper Co. launched hypo-allergenic bath tissue, baking-soda-laden sheets and moist wipes that can be used in addition to toilet paper.

Both James River Corp. and Procter & Gamble Co. are promoting extra-soft tissue that has a cottony touch. James River has also come out with a variety that remains sturdy even when immersed in liquid.

"Different customers expect different things from their toilet tissue," said Mike Linton, James River vice president and general manager of towel and tissue products. "The manufacturers have started to recognize that not all tissues are the same and we need to differentiate the benefits of our product."

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