BRANDED PAPER TOWELS ARE BETTER VALUE: CONSUMER REPORTS

YONKERS, N.Y. -- Private label usually offers consumers a better value, but not when it comes to paper towels, according to an article in Consumer Reports.National-brand paper towels, including the Kleenex Viva brand from Kimberly-Clark Corp., Dallas, and Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble's Bounty, performed significantly better than their private-label counterparts, according to tests by Consumers

YONKERS, N.Y. -- Private label usually offers consumers a better value, but not when it comes to paper towels, according to an article in Consumer Reports.

National-brand paper towels, including the Kleenex Viva brand from Kimberly-Clark Corp., Dallas, and Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble's Bounty, performed significantly better than their private-label counterparts, according to tests by Consumers Union here, the publisher of Consumer Reports. Test results were published in the magazine last month.

Even though the national brands cost significantly more than private label, their superior strength requires using fewer sheets, resulting in an overall better value, CU found.

Of the 24 national, private-label and recycled brands of paper towels tested, Kleenex's Viva Job Squad and Viva brands captured the top two spots, with Bounty Quilted a close third. Private-label ShopRite Economy Towels and A&P's Savings Plus generic line were the lowest-ranked paper towels, garnering an overall "poor" score. Towels from Kroger, A&P's America's Choice, Albertson's, Safeway and Wal-Mart also ranked in the lower half of the list.

"We have several different grades of private-label paper towels to give our customers a price choice. Our best quality is comparable to the leading fancy brand, and it is still a lot cheaper, but that was not included in the reports," said one retailer, who did not wish to be identified. The other ranked chains either declined comment or could not be reached for comment.

Kurt Goldschmidt, senior vice president at American Tissue Corp., Hauppauge, N.Y., said private-label manufacturers have made great strides in quality in recent years, and still provide an excellent value. "What do you want out of a paper towel? If it is just drying hands, cleaning the windows of a car or picking up a spill, I think you can do that with just about any product that is out there," he said.

The Marcal brand, which placed 14th in the overall ratings, has a very low lint content, making it superior for washing windows, said Peter A. Marcalus, vice president of corporate communications at Marcal Paper Mills, Elmwood Park, N.J.