paper napkins isolated on white background, top view

Napkins are a huge component of the professional world. They are supplied in restaurants everywhere, as well as in schools, colleges, hospitals, offices and cafeterias. It's big business. However, the business of selling paper napkin has become increasingly difficult as more American consumers elect to pass on the product in an effort to shed their expenses and reduce waste. Now one of American’s most iconic paper manufacturers is working to restore paper napkin favoritism.

Just 20 years ago, 60 percent of American households were stocking their kitchens with paper napkins on a regular basis. Today, only four in 10 homes buy the product regularly. To improve sales, Georgia-Pacific has assembled a five person squad of employees known as the “napkin team” whose main objective is to restore the public’s faith in the once widely used paper product, reports Vox.

In its search to find answers, Georgia-Pacific’s napkin team has discovered that the paper napkin is becoming less of a necessity as Americans are increasingly opting to eat smaller meals that don’t require the use of a napkin. Additionally, more Americans are eating while in the car, reducing their urge to bring napkins with them.

Perhaps a greater influence on the decreased use of the paper napkin is the younger American. Georgia-Pacific’s research has found that just 37 percent of the key 25 to 34-year-old consumer base (an age range that makes up most of the Millennial population) say they use paper napkins. Instead, younger generations are buying paper towels because they are more versatile than the paper napkin — they can be used to clean up messes and wipe off hands. This versatility tends to then save on the grocery bill.

As Baby Boomers continue to age and their purchasing power diminishes, it’s reasonable to think that the preferences of the Millennial will become even more important in deciding the paper napkin’s fate. To win over the Millennial, paper napkin makers are now hiring celebrities to promote the product.

If big paper napkin doesn’t turn things around, its diminished sales could reach beyond the American home into the public and commercial spaces, thus impacting the business of jan/san distributors and the jan/san industry as a whole.