Clorox will not have enough disinfectant wipes before 2021, says CEO Benno Dorer

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Clorox brand products line the shelf of a supermarket in New York’s East Village neighborhood.

Mary Altaffer / The Associated Press

Grocery store shelves will not be fully stocked with Clorox disinfectant wipes until next year, CEO Benno Dorer told Reuters on Monday, as the world’s largest cleaning supplies maker struggled with overwhelming demand for its flagship product.

Since the start of the global lockdowns, manufacturers of hygiene products have experienced a sustained sales boom. Although California-based Clorox generally keeps oversupply for the flu season aside, it says it hasn’t been able to meet six-fold demand for many of its disinfectants.

The company is currently under-stock in much of its portfolio, which includes Glad trash bags and Burt’s Bees lip balm. The supply for most products, like liquid bleach, will improve dramatically over the next four to six months – but not for wipes, Dorer said.

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Clorox products are used in Uber vehicles and United Airlines planes, and are sold by major retailers such as Walmart, Amazon and Kroger.

“Disinfectant wipes, which are the hottest products in the business right now, are likely to take longer because their manufacture is a very complex supply chain,” Dorer said. Many wipes are made from polyester spunlace, a material that is currently in short supply as it is also used to make personal protective equipment such as masks, gowns, and medical wipes.

“This whole supply chain is stressed. … We believe that it will probably be necessary to wait until 2021 before we can meet all the demand we have, ”said Dorer.

Dorer said in May that Clorox expected to see shelves full of wipes by this summer.

Since then, Clorox has made “major” investments in order to be able to increase its production each quarter, notably by simplifying its range of disinfectant products in factories operating 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, every day of the year. Clorox began outsourcing some manufacturing this year to 10 third-party suppliers and plans to continue to look for more.

On Monday, Clorox reported fourth quarter sales and earnings that far exceeded analysts’ expectations, thanks to a 33% increase in revenue from its health and wellness business, which manufactures cleaning products and represents more than 40% of total sales.

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