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story.lead_photo.caption Regio, a Mexican toilet paper brand, fills a shelf earlier this month at a CVS store in New York. (AP/ Joseph Pisani)

NEW YORK -- Toilet paper is back on store shelves. But Americans may not recognize some of the brands.

Demand for toilet paper has been so high during the pandemic that to keep their shelves stocked, retailers are buying up foreign toilet paper brands, mostly from Mexico. Major chains, across the country, including CVS, Piggly Wiggly, Safeway, 7-Eleven and others, are carrying the international brands.

In recent weeks, a CVS in New York has been selling three Mexican brands: Regio, Hoteles Elite and Daisy Soft. Mexico's Petalo was on the shelves of a Piggly Wiggly in Sister Bay, Wis. And a Safeway supermarket in Fremont, Calif., had those same brands, plus Vogue, whose label says in Spanish that it smells like chamomile.

The stores said they needed to get creative during the pandemic and started working with new suppliers to get shoppers what they needed. But popular U.S. brands like Charmin aren't going to disappear. Supply-chain experts expect the Mexican and other foreign-made rolls to be on store shelves only temporarily, until U.S. manufacturers catch up with demand.

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Americans use much more toilet paper than other countries, according to Patrick Penfield, a supply-chain professor at the Whitman School of Management at Syracuse University -- which is why Mexico can handle shipping more of its rolls to the United States. Stores have done this with other products during the pandemic, he said, bringing Mexican-made hand sanitizer to the U.S. when there was a shortage.

Americans, of course, buy products that are made all over the world, but most of the toilet paper they use is made in the U.S. Toilet paper is inexpensive and takes up a lot of space in trucks and ships, making it not worth the cost of importing from other countries. That's left the toilet paper aisle with the same familiar brands, causing some shoppers to do a double take when they see the unfamiliar stuff.

Oliver Olsen wasn't even in the market for toilet paper, but he had to stop and take a closer look at what he saw in the aisles last month at a Hannaford supermarket in Londonderry, Vt.

Instead of Charmin and Cottonelle, there was Vogue and Delsey from Mexico. Next to them were rolls of Cashmere from Canada and King Blue from Trinidad and Tobago.

"It really just jumped out at me," said Olsen, who works in the software industry and is a former state representative. "I didn't know any of these."

Ericka Dodge, a spokeswoman for Hannaford, a chain owned by supermarket operator Ahold Delhaize, said the grocer worked with new suppliers to get toilet paper on the shelf faster.

Some U.S. manufacturers also stopped making the many varieties of toilet paper they usually make, like sheets that are stronger or infused with aloe, so they could focus on the basics and get it to stores quicker. But Dodge said those varieties are starting to return to retailers' shelves.

Penfield, the Syracuse University professor, expects American manufacturers to struggle to keep up with demand for the next three to five months.

The companies that make the Mexican toilet paper were surprised their rolls were spotted north of the border.

"It's unexpected that it would be found in any U.S. retailers," said Amy Bellcourt, a spokeswoman for Essity, a Swedish tissue company that makes Regio in Mexico.

Petalo, Vogue and Delsey are made in Mexico by Kimberly-Clark, the same company that makes Cottonelle and Scott. But Kimberly-Clark said it had no role in importing its Mexican brands to the U.S.

This Sept. 11, 2020, photo, shows Daisy Soft, a Mexican toilet paper brand, on the shelf at a CVS in New York. Demand for toilet paper has been so high during the pandemic that in order to keep their shelves stocked, retailers across the country are buying up foreign toilet paper brands, mostly from Mexico. (AP Photo/Joseph Pisani)
This Sept. 11, 2020, photo, shows Daisy Soft, a Mexican toilet paper brand, on the shelf at a CVS in New York. Demand for toilet paper has been so high during the pandemic that in order to keep their shelves stocked, retailers across the country are buying up foreign toilet paper brands, mostly from Mexico. (AP Photo/Joseph Pisani)
This Sept. 8, 2020, photo, shows Vogue, a Mexican toilet paper brand, on the shelf at a 7-Eleven in New York. Demand for toilet paper has been so high during the pandemic that in order to keep their shelves stocked, retailers across the country are buying up foreign toilet paper brands, mostly from Mexico. (AP Photo/Joseph Pisani)
This Sept. 8, 2020, photo, shows Vogue, a Mexican toilet paper brand, on the shelf at a 7-Eleven in New York. Demand for toilet paper has been so high during the pandemic that in order to keep their shelves stocked, retailers across the country are buying up foreign toilet paper brands, mostly from Mexico. (AP Photo/Joseph Pisani)

CORRECTION: Essity is a Swedish company. An earlier version of this story incorrectly described the company’s origin.

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