Kim Underhill President, Kimberly-Clark North America
Kim Underhill President, Kimberly-Clark North America

TWM/1: How has the Covid-19 pandemic impacted Kimberly-Clark and how has it responded?

“Kimberly-Clark is doing its part to make life a little less stressful during the Covid-19 pandemic. As the manufacturer of some of the world’s most beloved tissue brands, we have accelerated production to meet the surge in demand around the world while prioritising the safety of our people.

“All of our efforts are guided by our value of caring – for our people and their families and our consumers. To date, Kimberly-Clark has made product and cash donations of more than $10m to help those most vulnerable to this crisis.

“Our Cottonelle and Andrex brands engaged consumers around the world in a new campaign of kindness and generosity designed to encourage people to share toilet paper instead of stockpiling it. The #ShareASquare initiative kicked off in March, donating $1m plus a million rolls of toilet paper to the United Way Worldwide Covid-19 Community Response and Recovery Fund.

“The fund will give vulnerable families the financial help they need as well as access to food, shelter and other social services. “Cottonelle has also pledged to donate an additional $1 (up to $100,000) for every social media post that includes the hashtag #ShareASquare.

“Kleenex also launched the #AllTheFeelings campaign as a resource to support emotional health and wellbeing, sponsoring up to a total of 100,000 three-month subscriptions from Calm, a popular meditation app in the United States. The campaign was created to help recognise that there is comfort in knowing we’re not alone during these uncertain times, and that there can be strength in vulnerability.”

TWM/2: How has the pandemic impacted the tissue market?

“The increased demand was significant and one of the early indicators was in toilet paper. According to Nielsen data for the three-week period of 28 February 2020 to 21 March 2020, Americans spent more than $1.4bn on toilet paper.

“As one of the largest producers of tissue products in the US, I’ve seen the empty shelves, and our Kimberly-Clark employees have seen those empty shelves. We know how essential our products are, and we’re inspired to work around the clock to produce and ship products to retailers.”

TWM/3: What increases in volume for tissue products have you seen and do you expect the increase in demand for tissue products following the outbreak to continue?

“In addition to the demand, we’ve also taken steps to simplify production to increase speed and volume across our Cottonelle, Scott and Kleenex brands.

“Kimberly-Clark has also prioritised the health and safety of our people, and has taken extra precautions globally at our office, mill and distribution centreoperations, which were developed in line with guidance from global health authorities.

“By prioritising the health and safety of our employees, we can keep working to provide the products the world is counting on to help ensure health and wellbeing.”

TWM/4: What are your projections for how the AfH market will have to evolve and develop over the coming months and years following the outbreak?

“Looking at our first quarter financial report, demand remained strong in the AfH market, and we continue to work closely with distributors and customers to meet their increased health and safety needs in this current phase of the pandemic.”

TWM/5: Do you expect to see an increase in pulp prices over the coming months?

“Despite increased demand for our products, access to pulp has not been an issue for our supply chain, and it appears that market pricing remains consistent with the levels seen toward the end of last year.”

TWM/6: What changes and trends do you forecast for the changes to people’s buying habits of these products in the coming months?

“While we cannot predict changes as a result of Covid-19 just yet, demand has generally remained strong as consumers continue to buy essentials while under varying degrees of stay-at-home orders.

“Not surprisingly, globally we saw e-commerce sales grow in the first quarter of the year, with most of sales concentrated in North America, China and South Korea.”

TWM/7: What are the main challenges for K-C during 2020?

“The pandemic dramatically changed consumer buying habits and usage, which required us to adapt quickly and efficiently while keeping our employees safe as our primary focus.

“We’re proud of how quickly we were able to implement changes to our production lines in order to do our best to keep up with consumer demand.”

TWM/8: And the main opportunities?

“We know we were able to bring in many new users over the last few months, and we’re excited about the opportunity to showcase to those consumers the Kimberly- Clark family of brands.”