Ottawa

Canada won't be wiped out of toilet paper, says leading manufacturer

Kruger Products says its factories are working overtime to meet a surge in demand caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, vowing any shortages will be short-lived. 

Kruger Products, which owns brands like Cashmere, says more supply on its way

Shoppers at Superstore buy paper towels and toilet paper in Vancouver on March 2, 2020. Kruger Products, which makes toilet paper for brands like Purex and Cashmere, says its factories are working overtime to meet a surge in demand. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

A leading Canadian toilet paper manufacturer says its factories are working overtime to meet a surge in demand caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and vows any shortages will be short-lived. 

"What you're seeing in shortages on shelves with customers is the fact that we have not been able to supply quickly enough to meet the spike in demand,"  said Dino Bianco, the chief executive officer of Kruger Products.

The Mississauga, Ont.-based company produces about a third of all tissue products in Canada, under brands like Cashmere, Purex, Scotties, White Swan and SpongeTowels.

While the stockpiling to prepare for COVID-19 may leave some store shelves bare, Bianco said Canadians shouldn't panic over the possibility the country could run out of toilet paper.

"We're producing it, we've got people working overtime, we're expediting shipments to customers to make sure we continue to service the needs of consumers," he said.

Kruger makes most of its paper products at seven factories in Canada — including at this paper mill in Gatineau, Que., just across the Ottawa River from Parliament Hill. (Michel Aspirot/CBC)

'An interesting challenge' 

Kruger first noted a sharp increase in orders for tissue products two weeks ago, said Bianco.

In February, Costco alone reported an 11.7 per cent increase in sales compared to the same period in 2019, with customers purchasing more essential products in response to the spread of the coronavirus. 

Earlier this month, Australian grocery stores began rationing toilet paper to stem a rush of panic buying, reported Thomson Reuters. In Calgary, a liquor store started a tongue-in-cheek campaign that involved giving away a roll of toilet paper with every two-four of Corona beer.

As some people resort to extremes, Canada's public health agencies are recommending people only keep two weeks' worth of food and other household supplies, along with a month's worth of medicine.

"It's been an interesting challenge for us all," said Bianco.

"This thing continues to evolve obviously, on so many fronts, but clearly I think it caught most of our industry off-guard."

Kruger makes most of its paper products at seven factories in Canada — including a paper mill in Gatineau, Que., just across the Ottawa River from Parliament Hill.

At the end of the day, you're only going to use so much tissue.- Dino Bianco

François Paroyan, one of the company's senior vice-presidents, said Kruger hasn't changed the price of its products and is working to treat all its buyers — the majority of which are large retailers — equitably.

Bianco expects the spike in demand will be followed by unusually low demand as customers use up their stockpiles at home. 

"We'll have a lull afterwards," he said. "Because at the end of the day, you're only going to use so much tissue."

Empty shelves at a Superstore in Ottawa on March 12, 2020, one day after the city announced its first case of COVID-19. (Brennan MacDonald/CBC)

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