But many of us have witnessed it for ourselves – supermarket shelves lying empty of what has become one of the most popular and in demand items for people to buy in bulk during the coronavirus crisis.
People have been nervous that supermarkets will run out of supplies because of people buying lots of food in case they have to self-isolate due to the pandemic.
In case this happens, a lot of people are buying more items than they usually would, so they don’t need to leave the house.
One company which has directly felt the impacts of the increase in demand for the product is Telford-based Northwood – one of the UK’s biggest manufacturers and suppliers of Away-from-Home (AfH) professional paper hygiene and wiping products.
“Demand for our paper products has rocketed, especially that for toilet roll. In order to meet the current level of demand, staff continue to work 24/7 and many are working significant overtime,” says Northwood marketing manager Paul Mulready.
“We have recruited many new workers at our consumer division, Freedom Paper Products.”
The company supplies a broad range of AfH sectors, including healthcare, education, hospitality, leisure, manufacturing and catering. The company also makes the Freedom range for the consumer market.
Paul says: “The biggest areas of growth in demand include the healthcare sector, to which we supply AfH product, and the retail sector, for our Freedom consumer products: Inspirations, Hush and Rhino.
“Northwood is also working with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to supply toilet rolls as part of the food package that the Government is providing for the ‘extremely vulnerable’. Corporate social responsibility has always been of paramount importance to the company.”
The company, which is based at Stafford Park and was established in 1974, says the pandemic has also caused it to postpone the launch of a new system. Paul continues: “We had been due to launch a new washroom dispensing system at the leading international cleaning and hygiene exhibition – Interclean Amsterdam – in May. This event has been postponed until November, along with our launch.
“Northwood is one of the industry’s few vertically integrated groups, meaning that we undertake recycling, manufacturing and logistics in-house. This has meant that we are able to coordinate all aspects of production with efficiency and respond nimbly to the current circumstances.”
Paul says the company, like others across the country, has been following Government advice to protect its staff against the spread of the virus.
“We are working within all government guidelines to ensure employee safety. For those who continue to work within the workplace, all public health advice is being followed, including remaining two metres apart as much as possible, utilising all available office space to allow solo desk-based activities, and frequently cleaning and disinfecting objects and surfaces that are touched regularly.
"Longer term there will be a step-change in people’s attitudes to hand hygiene and hygiene in general. Here at Northwood, we will continue to help educate people and provide the product ranges for people to maintain a hygienic lifestyle.”
The outbreak of the virus came at a time when the company, which employs more than 500 people across it sites, was performing well and had grown its Telford workforce.
“We finished 2019 on a high, and the first few months of 2020 continued to show strong growth in all channels,” Paul says.
“We had recently undertaken recruitment at our Stafford Park plant, expanding the workforce by nearly 10 per cent.
“In the second half of last year, we made three major acquisitions covering five sites in the UK and Spain. These are enabling us to increase our paper production and converting capacity, as well as expanding our European presence. As part of our ongoing investment strategy, we installed new machinery at our Lancaster tissue mill to allow increased output and facilitate diversification in Telford. Earlier this year, we invested heavily in the Telford plant.”
Looking ahead, Paul says the company has further plans to invest in its site in the Midlands.
“Long term, we plan to further expand our Telford site with a multi-million pound investment that will extend the manufacturing and administrative premises, facilitating further recruitment across both operations in addition to increasing production capacity. New multi-million-pound equipment has been installed at our Freedom Paper Products manufacturing plant in Birmingham, enabling the company to increase production of the branded consumer paper hygiene range and to further improve the product’s quality,” Paul adds.