Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The Rise and Fall of the Paper Napkin

Shifts in technology and cultural evolution often change what sorts of products are relevant at any given time. Normally this is seen in fashion trends or the kinds of electronics we use. Digital media, smartphones and cloud computing have made plenty of things obsolete in the last few years. People these days are using less paper than ever. But this doesn't just apply to offices. It's also beginning to have an interesting impact on the kitchen, and a product most of us would consider a household staple- the paper napkin.


A recent marketing study found that only 56 percent of consumers purchased paper napkins in the last six months, as opposed to 86 percent for paper towels. The logic is simple: many of us, especially in younger demographics, realize there is nothing paper napkins do that paper towels can't. So why get both? Paper towels will remain an essential part of every household until the day we no longer spill anything. Turns out we can wipe our greasy fingers and mouths on them too. Instead of spending our money and kitchen space on a product with limited use, we're getting more utility out of something we all stock up on.


Nobody is lamenting the fall of the paper napkin in homes. We aren't eating at home as much and we're sitting around the table even less. Even on the rare occasions when we have friends over for a proper dinner party, paper napkins have never been in fashion. Any event worth breaking out the nice flatware calls for cloth napkins instead. In fact, paper napkins only became popular in the 50s since they were cheap and disposable as opposed to cloth napkins that needed to be washed and ironed. Nowadays, disposable cloth napkins are a thing too.


Style experts view paper napkins the way audiophiles treat cassette tapes- inferior to vinyl records despite their popularity and hardly sad to see them go. So the next time you run out of napkins and question if you really need to restock, you're not alone. It's all right to double down on paper towels instead.

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