The coronavirus pandemic has made all kinds of virus-busting home cleaning products nearly impossible to find.
Disinfectant wipes, especially, are in high demand with consumers clearing out shelves just as quickly as stores restock them.
But now, one of the biggest makers of private-label wipes says tens of millions more wipes are expected to hit store shelves.
Rockline Industries, which makes Good & Clean wipes and store brand products for major retailers, said the wipes will be available at stores later this month.
It is unclear to what degree the availability of the additional Rockline wipes will alleviate shortages across the country.
Big consumer product companies like Clorox and Lysol-maker Reckitt Benckiser dominate the $1 billion wipes market, with 45% and 20% share, respectively, according to market research firm IRI. Private label makers, which include companies like Rockline, have 28% of the pie.
Walmart (WMT)is among the retailers expected to receive the additional disinfectant wipes from Rockline some time in mid-May.
“This will help us make more product available to customers,” according to a person familiar with the matter, who requested anonymity because the company typically does not discuss its supplier agreements.
Rockline employs nearly 2,500 people worldwide and has manufacturing facilities in Wisconsin, Arkansas, New Jersey, Tennessee and overseas in England and South China.
How Rockline fixed its supply issues
Rockline was able to increase its wipes production because of a packaging tweak.
Cleaning wipes are predominantly packaged in hard plastic canisters, unlike baby wipes, which usually come in soft-packs.
“Ninety percent of disinfectant wipes are sold in canisters. The primary reason for using canisters has to do with how consumers use and store wipes,” Chris Dresselhuys, director of product management at Rockline, said. “They tend to store these vertically under the kitchen sink, for easy access, along with other sanitizing product.”
But the unprecedented demand for household disinfectant wipes led to Rockline maxing out its canister production. It needed a different solution to be able to quickly and significantly increase the volume of packaged wipes to meet demand.
“There isn’t a prohibition on putting disinfectant wipes in soft-packs but the industry standard has been the canisters,” said Dresselhuys.
Given how quickly the disinfectant wipes supply is depleting in the market in response to the pandemic, Rockline, in February, started exploring different ways to expedite supply, including alternative packaging formats.
The disinfectant wipes products are registered with the Environmental Protection Agency, which oversees the category and approves new products, new ingredients and packaging changes for individual companies.
So, several weeks ago, Rockline had talks with the EPA about putting its disinfectant wipes in soft-packs in addition to canisters as a way to get even more product into stores. Clorox and Lysol already sell some wipes in soft-packs.
“Typically the approval could take several months,” Dresselhuys said. Rockline was able to get the approval in just a matter of weeks.
The EPA said it’s in its interest to ensure Americans have access to approved surface disinfectant products effective against the novel coronavirus.
“To this end, the agency is expediting disinfectant product reviews and identifying regulatory flexibilities to avoid supply chain disruptions, including ingredient sourcing changes, manufacturing location additions or changes, and packaging changes,” the agency said in a statement to CNN Business.
Sales of disinfectant wipes have skyrocketed 144% since the beginning of March, shortly after the coronavirus outbreak got a foothold in the United States, according to market research firm Nielsen.
Reckitt Benckiser told CNN Business last month that its factories are working “pretty much around the clock shifts to increase supply” as unprecedented demand for its wipes has stressed its supply chain. “What we’re hoping is that these [demand] spikes transition to more normal buying patterns.”