In the old days, whitening paper products such as tissues, toilet paper, napkins, and towels required the use of the potent oxidizer chlorine, in all its environmentally hostile glory. Nowadays the whitening can be done with a combination of hydrogen peroxide, oxygen or ozone and almost no environmental peril.
But increasingly, paper-products companies and restaurant chains have decided that white paper products do not resonate with consumers who have even a modest awareness of environmental issues. Instead, these companies, which include Dunkin’ Brands (NASDAQ:DNKN), Target (NYSE:TGT), and Cascades Tissue Group, now offer brown paper products that are more marketable to those with green sensibilities and, presumably, function as well as their white counterparts, notes a recent Wall Street Journal feature.
As the article points out, paper products that look brown – or maybe beige, but not too brown or heavily flecked with dark fibers – create a “symbolic” affinity with consumers who like to feel good about doing something positive for the environment.
Brown toilet paper, which some consumers associate with coarsely abrasive variants that have been offered in the past, can be a tougher sell in the U.S. than other brown paper products. When Cascades pitched its Moka brand toilet paper at a recent trade show, distributors’ “faces showed disgust” at first, Isabelle Faivre, marketing director for Cascades Tissue Group told WSJ. “Then they would feel the product and it was, ‘Oh, wow, that would be perfect,’ ” for customers who want softness, but also want green cred.