Inflation: why is toilet paper more expensive?

INFLATION. Like coffee, cereal, or butter, toilet paper breaks when inflated. Consumer prices in France continued to rise in April, mainly affecting food (3.8% per year), fuel, gas and electricity.

Less mentioned but equally important hygiene and beauty related products have also been affected by this nearly year-long price spike. Among them are a toothbrush, toilet paper, paper towel and other daily necessities.

To understand the reasons for such inflation for hygiene and beauty products, HuffPost spoke to Gregory Kare, director of the UFC Que Choisir Consumer Observatory, who deciphers this price shift in the hygiene and beauty department.

More than 6.3% during the year

According to the monthly inflation rate now published monthly by UFC Que Choisir, the prices of hygiene products in April 2022 increased by 6.3% compared to the same month last year. For Gregory Kare, this trend was particularly rapid: “The change in prices for products related to hygiene and beauty occurred in just two months.”

A significant increase that is already causing the phenomenon of “hygienic insecurity” for a certain number of French people. After the health crisis has passed, now followed by inflation unprecedented in France since the mid-1980s, some consumers have to work harder and choose not to buy these products in order to save money on their shopping cart.

According to Ipsos research for the New Observatory of Consumption by E. Leclerc, published on April 4, one in six French people are now ready to give up hygiene products as a priority, and this figure rises if we focus on products related to beauty: “32% of French people often or very often refuse to spend on beauty, ”the study says.

For financial reasons, 11% of French people surveyed say they often have to give up soap, 12% toothpaste or toothbrush, 13% shampoo and 14% deodorant.

As for the main product, toilet paper, it will always remain indispensable for households, but bears the brunt of rising prices. As Paul-Antoine Lacour, General Delegate of the French Union of Cardboard, Paper and Pulp Manufacturers (Copacel), told Actu.fr in early April, “Overall costs in the toilet paper sector have risen over the year. 20-40% and the uptrend continues.”

Several related reasons

But where did this sudden outburst come from? To explain this, Gregory Kare does not have a single answer. “Inflation is in the air. There have been no direct and immediate effects with Covid-19, but the effects are only now showing through multiple channels.”

First of all, the hygiene sector suffered, like other departments of our stores, from the consequences of the war in Ukraine. “Ukraine is a major producer of oils and cereals, and not only do they make it onto your plate in the morning, but they are also found in many beauty and personal care products. As for Russia, it is a major supplier of oil, so the consequences directly depend on the price of the packaging of these products, where the plastic contained in the packaging is very often needed,” he explains.

But the conflict in Eastern Europe does not end there, as this inflation is also experienced by the hydrocarbons needed to process certain products. A cocktail that also wreaks havoc on the entire paper industry, which is especially dependent on gas and electricity to convert wood into paper. The same observation for paper pulp drying, especially an energy-intensive process.

And despite often less packaging, paper towels, toilet paper, paper handkerchiefs or sanitary napkins are subject to this record inflation snowball effect. Other important data: The state of health in China and its strict health measures causing de facto blocking of Asian ports and, consequently, congestion of international maritime traffic.

“Difficulties in supply during the health crisis, as well as the intensive restart of global transport that followed at the end of the crisis, created a boom in raw materials. All these reasons, in addition to the shortage of paper stock, have intertwined in recent months with rising energy prices and led to the prices we know today,” summarizes Gregory Kare.

“Forget about cheap products”

To this we must add one last fact, namely climate change. “This context of inflation is not destined to disappear or be absorbed, nor are droughts and floods.” The direct effects of global warming are “causing poor harvests around the world and have a long-term impact on all global production,” said Que Choisir, director of the UFC Consumption Observatory.

Enough to draw a very dumb conclusion. “We will have to gradually forget about low-cost products, as it has been for the past ten years in the context of price wars between mass retail players,” notes Gregory Kare. However, he would like to add a note of optimism: “We must welcome Government freezes prices to curb inflation in France. Moreover, compared with some of our neighbors, we are doing relatively well.”

“Whether it’s toilet paper or food, we’re going to have to gradually learn to adapt by developing good reflexes and taking a more pragmatic approach to shopping,” he adds. To do this, he advises, for example, to buy raw foods instead, which are cheaper despite inflation, “to rediscover old habits long forgotten.”

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