Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, no one ever asked toilet paper executive Andrew Noble about his job.
“Friends and family who know I work in toilet paper never wanted to talk about that before,” Noble, who has overseen Georgia-Pacific’s Angel Soft brand for four years, tells CNBC Make It.
But by early March of this year, when panicked consumers began frantically stock-piling toilet paper causing shortages, he was all of a sudden the most popular guy in the room.
“Suddenly everyone want to talk about [toilet paper] all the time,” he says. “Even my own mother wanted to know if I had any toilet paper I could get her.”
(Despite being a toilet paper executive, Noble says he went to a nearby grocery store in Atlanta, Georgia just like everyone else to get his mom some supplies.)
Noble says he was inundated with questions about how toilet paper is made and why it was taking so long to hit stores.
“Toilet paper is a business where we run all of our assets 24/7…, so it wasn’t like there was an opportunity to just say, ‘Oh, just run more hours.’ All the hours were already accounted for,” he says.
Noble tried to explain as best he could to help everyone (even his mom), “‘Yes, we’re making it. Yes, things are happening as fast as they can be,'” Noble says.
From March 14-21 (just days after the World Health Organization declared the Covid-19 outbreak a pandemic) U.S. toilet paper sales were up 123% from the same week last year, according to Nielsen. And overall, toilet paper sales were up 70% from March 1 to May 2, compared to the same period last year. But sales may be finally starting to slow: From April 25 to May 2, sales were up only 16.2%, according to Nielsen.
Noble, who has been working from his house in Atlanta since mid-March, says while sales are not at the extremes they were in March and early April, things have not slowed down for him and his team. “We don’t anticipate that [things] will slow with large parts of the population continuing to work from home,” he says.
While Noble wasn’t aware of the protocols that Georgia-Pacific has in place to ensure worker safety amid the pandemic, a spokesperson told CNBC Make It, “we follow or go above the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] standards in our facilities to help keep employees safe.”
Georgia-Pacific says on-site workers are asked to do a health self-assessment before coming to work and asked to stay home if they have symptoms associated with Covid-19. Additionally, the company has adjusted production lines and work schedules to meet social distancing requirements.
On May 4, Angel Soft, the second largest toilet paper brand in the United States behind Procter & Gable’s Charmin, announced that it is pledging to match up to $1 million in public donations to the #GiveTogetherNow initiative to help families affected by the pandemic. That is on top of $1 million Angel Soft has already committed to the campaign.
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