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Panic not, kitchen tidier – the paper towel shortage is nearing its end

Shoppers have been asked to shop “normally” so there will be enough paper towels for everyone.

Eva Davies / Stuff

Shoppers have been asked to shop “normally” so there will be enough paper towels for everyone.

First it was toilet paper brands that went missing in action from supermarket shelves, and now it’s paper towels.

The kitchen necessity used by hundreds of thousands of Kiwis for drying hands, wiping tears and benches, dusting, and cleaning up spills has been in short supply recently with some supermarkets stocking just one brand if any at all.

The shortage of such well known household paper towel brands as Sorbent and Handee can be traced back to August when manufacturer Essity locked out its workers during a pay dispute. It’s the same lockout that hit toilet paper supplies.

Luckily the shortage looks to be short term and with production now back in full swing there will soon be more choice in the disposable paper towel aisle, albeit not as much choice as shoppers have been used to.

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“While production has recommenced across all our brands, the direction was made to initially focus on one pack per brand to help get as much stock into stores,” an Essity spokesperson said.

Paper towels are a common sight in Kiwi kitchens where they have a myriad of uses.

Getty Images

Paper towels are a common sight in Kiwi kitchens where they have a myriad of uses.

This was the same system set up when panic buyers sent toilet paper flying off the shelves.

Kim Calvert, country manager at Cottonsoft, which owns the “Tuffy” brand of paper towel, said one of the major manufacturers was “playing catch-up” to get the missing stock out.

“We are getting an order of several months worth of paper towels in the next few weeks, so we will start to see those products back on shelves,” she said.

There's no shortage of Pam's brand paper towels in some supermarkets, but good luck finding other brands.

Eva Davies / Stuff

There’s no shortage of Pam’s brand paper towels in some supermarkets, but good luck finding other brands.

A spokesperson for Countdown said its limited selection of paper towels wouldn’t be for much longer.

“We are experiencing some challenges with getting our full range of paper towel options onto shelves.

“As long as everybody shops as they normally would, we have no concerns about a possible shortage.”

Costco in Auckland is soon to open, and its managing director Patrick Noone expects its mega-toilet roll packs to be among its best-selling merchandise.

Emma Wooster, Head of Public Relations at Foodstuffs NZ, said the company was working in partnership with its suppliers.

“So we can continue to have enough to go around for everyone.”

For those unable to find their preferred paper towels at their local supermarkets, there are alternatives such as reusable paper towels or towels made of bamboo fibers.

Co-founder of the Good Change store, Stine Smith, said the company’s bamboo towels were an alternative for single-use paper towels.

“We’ve moved so many households away from single-use paper towels to reusable bamboo towels.

“One pack can last six months to a year in some households.”

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