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Toilet roll: are you being short changed?

Puppy toilet roll

Stories of shrinking supermarket essentials are rarely good news for your pocket. Well we’ve found that toilet roll has been shrinking, but the price has barely budged. So do you feel short changed?

When we asked Which? members to tell us which products had shrunk we were inundated with responses, but the one which kept cropping up was toilet roll. Several eagle-eyed contributors contacted us about Andrex toilet roll shedding sheets over the years.

Contributors such as Paul W who left this comment on Which? Convo:

‘Have Which? looked at toilet rolls? It is noticeable that they have reduced in width, not by very much, but a millimeter reduction means a “free” full roll every 100 for the manufacturer. When I built shelves in the airing cupboard to take toilet rolls a 2 roll height just fitted, now there is room to spare.’

So we decided to investigate further, delving into the archives to when we tested toilet roll in 2006 and 2008.

Caught short

What we found was that the standard Andrex toilet roll used to have 240 sheets, it now has 221 sheets – an 8% reduction. Andrex ‘Puppies On A Roll’ had 221 sheets per roll but now has 190 – 14% less.

But when we checked the price of the pack of standard Andrex four pack, we found that it stayed around the £2 mark.

Not content with this we continued our quest and investigated the length of Andrex toilet roll from 15 years ago.

This wouldn’t have been possible without the help of one Which? member who still had a pack of this artefact stored away and kindly sent us photographic evidence. This investigation revealed that Andrex toilet roll used to contain 280 sheets per roll – 59 more than the current pack.

Andrex said that the most recent size change was in early 2015 and that it didn’t drop the RRP:

‘We invested significantly in improving our product strength and softness. Reducing the roll by a very small number of sheets (this equates to five to six wiping occasions) has helped make this multi-million pound investment possible.’

Andrex also told us the earlier change took place in 2001, however, it said the RRP had dropped by roughly the same amount and that it had made improvements.

Shrinking products

Toilet roll isn’t the only product we’ve found to be shrinking – biscuits, juice and coffee are just some of the other products that we’ve also spotted slimming down. But as far as we’re concerned, these shrinking products are all very well and good, providing it’s not a sneaky way of increasing prices.

So do you feel short changed by shrinking toilet roll? Or do you think that it doesn’t matter? Have you noticed any other shrinking products?

Patrick Taylor says:
3 December 2017

I believe it was 1996 when Mr Barwise [subsequently chair of this consumer charityfor 6 years?] was employed to write a paper to the EU commission on behalf of a UK firm opposing the merger of Kimberley Clarke with Scott Paper.

It was a very major takeover as evidenced by this
” Jul 24, 1995 – A strong new competitor to Procter & Gamble Co. approached the world stage last week with the proposed merger of Kimberly-Clark Corp. and Scott Paper Co. But analysts say the biggest losers in the deal could be smaller brands caught in the crossfire. The $6.8 billion deal would give Kimberly-Clark …”

Quite a lot of detail in the EU summary on the market in each of the EU countries.
This is an example of some of the detail :
(13) For instance, ‘recreping` is a process used by Scott for its premium Andrex product which involves heavily dosing the base stock with chemicals. Another process, ‘Through air dried` (TAD) or ‘blow drying` creates softness in the end product by forcing the paper fibres to protrude vertically from the sheet. This is an additional process after that of ‘paper preparation`. This process creates an exceptionally soft product and it is used by KC on its branded toilet-tissue products as well as by Scott in producing its new super premium ‘Andrex Gold` brand. Scott has now decided to rebrand it under Scott’s pan-European brand ‘Scottonelle`.

I think that the US and EU have been too accommodating to the idea that four or five firms makes a market competitive. It does not. Effectively you have a group of firms all reasonably satisfied with the status quo who act in uncooordinated concert to the betterment of the firms. The advantage the US has is that whistleblowers on unethical practices like cartels are financially rewarded to come forward.

Think Unilever, and Procter and Gamble, and soap powder and the EU fining them several hundred million euros to see how working in concert big businesses work the public over.


Patrick still cant find the cost of actual production of a single tampon BUT I have the Chinese WHOLESALE price of ONE tampon = Buy -200,000 tampons – cost – per tampon = US $ -0.014


Seventy to the dollar? And the wholesale price includes a profit margin! It probably does not include shipping, though.

The retail price in the UK for seventy would be around £2.80 – £3.00 [inc 5% VAT]. Some mark-up.

Interesting . . . but where are we on the manufacturing cost of toilet rolls? Everyone has to use these day-in day-out and they carry VAT at 20%.


Depends on the ply in the Chinese wholesale market John but the cheapest which comes in a carton (minimum order ) is priced at US $ = 0.08-0.37 per roll (recycled ) .
Good OEM stuff -50,000 rolls =US $ -0.1-0.3 per roll .


I was under the impression that nearly all the toilet tissue sold in this country was made here from paper and materials sourced here [of which a percentage is recycled]. Since a supermarket own-label soft tissue retails here for about 33 pence a roll [inc 20% VAT] that’s not such a huge mark-up on the [US] 20 cents a roll average manufacturing cost [if I read your figures correctly – five rolls to the dollar seems a rather high production cost to me]. It would be good if we could get UK manufacturing costs per 1,000 rolls.


John this country is very secretive about its manufacturing costs , it’s wholesale prices per roll is approx- 65-85p and a lot of toilet paper is purchased from China regardless of the local manufacturers.


You are right, Duncan. I don’t think we can pursue this much further because reliable data is not available. There is clearly a discrepancy between my retail prices [Sainsbury’s Super Soft: 9 Rolls for £3 = 33p a roll including VAT] and your wholesale prices at 65 – 85 pence a roll. Perhaps all the cheap stuff is made in China and we are killing the planet bringing it here and sending empty containers back there [or filling them with rubbish for recycling].


Wow. It really is tricky to discover who makes toilet tissue, but I now have some facts and figures. “The top 10 tissue parent roll exporters account for approximately 68% of the global total. Italy and Indonesia are the two largest suppliers; in 2014 Italy had slightly higher parent roll exports than Indonesia, while in 2010-2013 Indonesia took the top position. Italy is the pan-European supplier of tissue parent rolls. Western Europe accounts for 63% of its total exports and Eastern Europe for 31%, leaving only 6% for deliveries into other regions. About half of Indonesian tissue roll deliveries go to other Asia Far Eastern countries, China and Japan, 22-23% to North America, 13% to Oceania, 11% to the Middle East and the remaining 3% to other regions. Deliveries to Western Europe are minimal. Indonesia’s parent roll exports fell by more than 30,000 tonnes in 2014, primarily because of lower sales in the Middle East, in the United Arab Emirates and Iran, in particular, and North America (which is not shown by the US import statistics, so there may be an error in the Indonesian statistics).”

It’s not economic to transport soft toilet tissue great distances, because of the bulk, apparently, so Italy has cornered the European market and, through cunning recycling and marketing, now produces massive ‘parent’ rolls of multi-ply paper, and send it to the countries who have companies who then slice and dice it to make the fluffy loo rolls we all like.

So something else we owe the Romans, although, to be fair, the Chinese probably invented the technique c. 6th century AD, something disapproved of by visiting Arab travellers, who thought it a dirty technique.