Toilet Paper… and Pork?

Frank Yozwiak

A little over a year ago, in March 2020, life as we then knew it was drastically changed.  Many of those who were fortunate enough to remain employed found themselves working at home for the first time.  March Madness was cancelled, Disney World closed its gates, and toilet paper seemed to rank highly among the world’s scarcest resources.

Around that time, I had the misfortune of needing a normal restock of that rare material and the day I went to the store must have been the day after the panic hoarding began.  When I turned the corner down that aisle in Target, it looked like a scene out of a post-apocalyptic zombie movie.  The lights flickered over the desolate landscape.  The shelves were empty.  I think I even saw a tumbleweed roll by.  Mercifully, there remained one or two packs of a brand I’d never seen before sitting alone at the back of an otherwise barren stack of shelves.

A year later, as we start to get back to some semblance of normalcy, we can reflect on some of the lighter aspects of our recent history.

Nowadays it seems like you can walk into any store and find the old trusty Charmin or Cottonelle – and actually, the data backs that up.  Compared to the same months in 2020 (before The Stockpiling), toilet paper sales in January, February, and March 2021 were down by 4%, 14%, and 33%, respectively.  Prior to 2020, we Americans would spend a collective average of $9 billion per year on toilet paper.  During 2020 that number jumped up higher than $11 billion.  It appears that now, many households are finding themselves with closets full of toilet paper, not needing to buy more at every opportunity, thus lowering the demand.  So far this year, we’re on pace so spend less than the normal average of $9 billion.

Speaking of supply and demand, consider the pork market.  As the pandemic lockdowns were in full swing, many meat processing facilities were also either completely or partially shutdown.  This, among other factors, has resulted in a lower pork supply compared to the same time last year. As we continue getting back to normal – more restaurants will be opening, and more people may have the urge to make up for a lost grilling-with-friends season last year – we may see potentially higher demand for pork products (i.e., ribs, bacon, and hotdogs, etc.) in the upcoming summer months.  This has led some experts to predict either a pork shortage, or an increase in pork prices – or at least fewer sales and deals on pork products in the grocery store.

So, this is my plea to all Americans: let’s all do our part avoid another TP-like shortage that would hit our backyard barbecues.  When the time comes later this summer, please buy all the ribs, bacon, and hotdogs you need for your next upcoming grill out, but maybe not what you think you might need for your next dozen grill outs.  Let’s all try to leave at least some for the next grill master in the aisle behind you.

 

Sources:

Terlep, Sharon; Americans Have Too Much Toilet Paper. Finally, Sales Slow. The Wall Street Journal; April 13, 2021; https://www.wsj.com/articles/americans-have-too-much-toilet-paper-it-is-catching-up-to-companies-11618306200?mod=pls_whats_news_us_business_f

Dailey, Natasha; A looming shortage of bacon and hot dogs could leave big cookout plans up in smoke for July Fourth when most Americans are vaccinated; Business Insider; April 11, 2021; https://www.businessinsider.com/bacon-hot-dog-shortages-trade-supply-2021-4

Weekly Update