The Goods

Charmin’s Massive “Forever Roll” Points the Way to a World of Products Right-Sized for Singles

A giant roll of toilet paper hangs on a stainless steel roll holder. Sitting next to it are two other giant rolls of toilet.
This absolute unit of toilet paper is the future. Charmin

Despite the fact that the oldest millennials are now approaching 40, it seems as if companies have only just begun learning how to market to them. From using models to casually co-opt protest imagery appealing to the socially conscious Youth to the chronic mis- and overuse of the slang term of the day (which is mostly a watering down of black vernacular, but that’s another story), the relationship between millennials and marketing has largely been one of misunderstanding on one side and mockery on the other. Enter: the Charmin Forever Roll. While the product technically launched back in April, it was brought to wider attention by a Wall Street Journal article examining the ways companies are adapting to the fact that more Americans are living alone than ever before.

Designed with those Americans in mind, the Forever Roll is a giant roll of toilet paper that purports to last up to one month. While that’s technically not forever, it is much longer than the average roll of toilet paper makes it and, most importantly, doesn’t require one to use up precious storage space on a 24-pack. The Forever Roll comes in a pack of three and even has its own starter kit, which includes a free-standing, brushed–stainless steel roll holder designed for its large size.

As the Cut’s Gabriella Paiella wrote, “As far as silly millennial-targeted marketing goes, this is pretty spot on—we live alone in small rentals because we can’t afford to buy real estate, we’re constantly working so we have limited time to run errands, and we LOVE using the bathroom.” Having three months of toilet paper on deck would solve a multitude of millennial ills, from errand paralysis to the phenomena of “outsourcing adulthood.” No need to Postmates toilet paper with the Forever Roll!

In fact, more industries should take a cue from Charmin’s absolute unit of toilet paper and roll out their own single-adult household version of products. One of the hardest parts of living alone, besides having to figure out how to humanely dispose of mice, is shopping for an appropriate amount of household staples. According to the Wall Street Journal piece, the market has responded to that in the food space by creating more single-serve items like pre-mixed salad kits or whatever a Jimmy Dean “Simple Scramble” is. But that solution is not only wasteful with packaging, it also skips right over the easier option: just scale everything down! At first glance, the Forever Roll seems to do the opposite; but by minimizing the amount of storage space one might need for three months’ worth of toilet paper, it performs a truly admirable duty of which more industries should take note.

The food industry should lead the pack. It is nigh impossible to cook for one without some sort of guilt-inducing food waste. To take a leaf out of the Forever Roll’s book, mainstream, normal-store brands should start offering half loaves of bread or single sprigs of fresh herbs, and the ability to buy three stalks of celery for that chicken soup recipe. Quality ground spices, which are not only expensive but start losing their flavor a lot sooner than most people realize, should come in half-sizes. Otherwise the single amateur chef is stuck with the option of seasoning their paprikash with dusty paprika or tossing out half-used containers every six months. (Yes, I realize I could always go to a specialty bulk spice store and get any amount of Hungarian paprika that I want or go to a bakery and get a half-loaf of bread, but that just tacks on more stops to a grocery-store run that I barely wanted to make in the first place. And while specialty stores are plentiful for me as a denizen of New York City, they aren’t necessarily convenient options for a lot of people who live outside of metropolitan areas.)

It’s not enough for brands to just offer a smaller size. They also need to end the tyranny of the bulk purchase, which makes buying things like laundry detergent and yes, toilet paper, much cheaper if you’re buying for a household. Sure, I can currently buy a small bottle of olive oil or salad dressing, but the price per ounce is much steeper than if I bought its larger cousins. To that end, I’m willing to lay the blame of Americans leading the world in food waste partially on the fact that it’s much cheaper to just buy more. Why get one banana for $0.50 when a whole bunch of them only costs $1.50? In our current market paradigm, more is quite literally less.

But the Forever Roll suggests a shifting tide, not toward new “innovations” that require more plastic packaging, but toward smartly portioned products that actually makes sense for the “party for one” more and more of us are throwing these days.