Sunday, 24 January 2021

Nicky Elite: a fine functional fragrance find in Farmfoods!

Geographical advisory: this post concerns a particular version of a paper product destined for the smallest room in the house, which may not be available outside the UK. This pitches the appeal of my post to an estimated four readers - well, four that I know of - but that has never stopped me from writing about topics close to my heart before. Or close to my...hmm...I think I would rather not spell it out.

During the pandemic, I have consciously tried to shop in an eclectic mix of food retailers, often at odd times of day, to avoid people. That is a pretty doomed undertaking, given that shopping for essentials is one of the very few extra-curricular things any of us can do at the moment. I heard a rumour that Dunelm Mill was open for the sale of what my friend dubbed 'essential cushions' and sundry bits and bobs to accessorise your home, yet I feel sure that the chewing gum by the tills cannot magically have morphed them into a food retailer.

My repertoire of shops currently comprises (in loose order of importance): the Co-op convenience store round the corner (but not when neighborhood Covid case numbers suddenly spike, as they periodically do!), Lidl, surgical strikes on M & S near closing time to bag the yellow sticker items), Home Bargains, B & M, Farmfoods, and Sainsbury's (Christmas only). I may have to venture as far as Stoke soon to pick up my books from my accountant (a legally permitted work reason!), which would put me in the orbit of an Aldi, but we'll see.

Anyway, back to Farmfoods. What is Farmfoods, I hear most of the four of you say? I could call it 'the poor relation of Iceland', though that would be unfair, and not the outright paradox you might think. For ex-Mr Bonkers tells me that Iceland has really come on in recent years, and that their Italian-themed celebrity chef-fronted ready meals knock M & S out of the park! Farmfoods is a Birmingham-based Scottish chain - yes, another apparent contradiction there - of 300 stores, dominated by frozen products, but based on my own observation with 30-50% ambient goods too. The company's belief in frozen food is impressively sweeping:

"Our specialism is frozen food and we believe passionately that frozen food is the best solution for most family meals."

The store is very well (as in unkindly) lit - not the place you'd want to go on a bad hair or skin day, say. It is very sparsely attended by shoppers (which is good), and has a slightly sad atmosphere, not unlike Lidl in its early days here, but with the stock in serried ranks of refrigerated cabinets instead of big cardboard boxes - or 'outers' as they are known in the trade. If like me you need to be a thrifty shopper these days, I commend the store to you...for specific things, as with Home Bargains and B & M - and as with M & S in fact, but at the other end of the scale in fanciness terms.

Before moving on to the nub of the story, I will briefly mention Farmfoods' three for a quid offers on biscuits, including Fox's, a similar one on chick peas, and the delicious Mackie's honeycomb chocolate for something like 79p, not forgetting the staggeringly good offers on 48 eggs, should you ever need that quantity. They are usually kept just inside the door, where there is a very real risk some unsuspecting punter will step on them on their way in. Yes, there are truly legions of bargains besides these - though perhaps avoid their grapes, which may turn to moist mouldy mush before you reach your car - but as with that item-recalling bit at the end of The Generation Game my mind has gone blank beyond the ones I have mentioned. Oh, and of course the very subject of the post, Nicky Elite. Well, paper products generally are a bargain there - including my beloved kitchen roll, of which I need to have at least six rolls in or I start to feel nervous.

Ooh look, I mentioned them in that interview with Birgit of Olfactoria Travels I referenced in my last post, and back then I see it was only two rolls, which tells you everything you need to know about rising anxiety levels in a global pandemic.

Staying with my last post for a moment, in my answers to those questions I lamented the way in which manufacturers subtly tinker with the formulation of products, usually in an adverse direction. We have all experienced this to our collective chagrin with perfume, and it is going on in lots of other product categories these days, as companies try different ways of skinning a profit, as it were. One key arena for this de-specing is loo roll - or 'toilet tissue' as I should call it, but won't, as 'tissue' sounds so prissy in our scatological context. Yes, Andrex, the soft behemoth of my whole life till recently - apart from my early childhood, when the evil apology for greaseproof paper, Izal, was the order of the day, or as I say, latterly, though thankfully to a lesser extent - has changed. It has several variants...oh my goodness, more than I thought - or thought even possible!

Gentle Clean (with puppies on it - fortunately no canine tongue action is involved in the cleaning process)

Classic Clean (their 'bog standard' version)

Natural Pebble (with a touch of cotton and no pebbles)

Supreme Quilts (I shudder at the mention of quilts)

Skinkind (with 'Cleanripple' texture and 'soft soothe prebiotic lotion' - WTF?)

Touch of Care (with a touch of lavender 'for that spa-like feeling' - ?!!)

Right, so whatever happened to old Andrex? You know, the soft, thinnish style of paper with a slightly raised line top and bottom like a margin. I have only tried the top two variants: Gentle Clean is fairly soft in fairness, but I really don't want puppies, while Classic Clean is definitely too rough. Strangely, I don't believe any of the above products contain recycled fibres, which was my first thought to explain the roughness. I would be interested to know if you have any experience of these or the other varieties, which in my view have completely gratuitous and counterproductive bells and whistles.

Now I do have some professional experience of 'toilet tissue' manufacture (eek, it slipped out!), having done a job on combined heat and power systems, which are used by manufacturers with water-intensive processes like paper making and brewing. I visited factories all over the country with the requisite technical characteristics, but it is the toilet paper and beer ones I remember. One of the former was in Cumbria, and rejoiced in the name of Iggesund; one was near Sheffield, and one on Deeside. The makers of Andrex were in Kent as I recall, but my memory is fuzzy as to whether I went there too. But anyway, that was only about 1991(!), so thirty years ago, and diddly squat help to me here. I have come very close to writing to Andrex since I noticed the demise of the classic design with the lines top and bottom, but never quite felt moved enough. So here I am blogging about it instead.

Then in my quest to find an acceptable replacement, I haven't actually looked very far, so again, all tips gratefully received. I have tried Cushelle (too thick, not that soft really, plus I don't want koalas on it either!), and Nicky Elite, these being the two brands that most frequently pop up on forums such as Mumsnet. Nicky Elite has the benefit of being ridiculously cheap, while being on a par in roughness terms with Andrex Classic Clean, say, which even has a similar pattern of little perforations. Though imho Nicky is too thicky, like Cushelle.

Nicky, though, has an added fragrance, which I would normally avoid like the plague (sorry if that is a sore point just now), but which turns out to be the best bit of Nicky the toilet paper. For it is a wistful powdery scent that reminds me vividly of Floris Snow Rose (my review here), or some other retro Floris scent in that vein - Winter Rose, the alleged wedding perfume of The Queen? No, that was sharper on account of its carnation note, so I will stick with my Snow Rose comparison, sketchy as it may be.

I see that the brand Nicky belongs to the Sofidel Group, headquartered just outside Lucca, Italy, but with 17 plants in 12 countries worldwide, including two in the USA (Ohio and Oklahoma), so I have no idea where my 18 roll packet was made. Sofidel also make the Regina and Thirst Pockets brands of kitchen roll, a paper product category about the texture of which I am strangely relaxed by comparison, happy to buy both the useless cheapies that can't soak up a drop of spit and the luxuriously layered varieties that are so stiff they could double up as absorbent kitchen flooring.

But yes, the fragrance of Nicky Elite - another bizarre juxtaposition given our subject matter! ;) - is more fine than functional. Elite, even! Yes, I would go so far as to say that Nicky Elite is almost more functional as a fine fragrance than a loo roll, hehe. And given that they discontinued Snow Rose a while back, I can't be quite sure it is that perfume Nicky reminds me of, but even if it is a false memory it is a good one.

Have you found the perfect loo roll? Have you braved the texture of recycled, perhaps?

And if you have tried Nicky Elite, do you think the scent is like a wistful whiff of something by Floris?

(Photo of a tottering pile of Nicky Elite I spotted in Home Bargains yesterday, but you can even buy them in Ocado! Farmfoods logo by Xeepo via Wikimedia Commons, Snow Rose photo via Flickr.)



Hazel said...

We have Costco own brand, which are even more delicate in their nomenclature - 'Bathroom Tissue'. Makes you want to launch a brand 'Outdoor Cludgie Arsewipe'.

K Matt said...


Tara said...

Hi V,
This was a fun one. When you were rattling off the different types I fully expected one impregnated with CBD as it seems to be added to everything these days.
I'm slowly trying to move to eco alternatives for most household products so I now have the Cheeky Panda bamboo loo roll but of course it's more expensive.

I must look into the Iceland ready meals on Mr Bonkers' recommendation!

Vanessa said...

Hi Hazel,

'Bathroom Tissue' is a little obfuscating, I agree. I could so easily try cleaning the mirror with it.

I think you may have hit on a promising niche market segment of 'outdoor use' - an occasion when I always fail to have any paper products with me, even 'Nostril Tissue'. And the outdoors is getting back to the tissue's roots - or its pulp - as it were.

Vanessa said...

Waves to Kayleigh!

Thanks for persevering with the Blogger comment facility, even if it failed you in the end. Happy to receive a flower instead, suggestive of the Nicky scent indeed, with which I gather from our exchange on Facebook you are acquainted.

Vanessa said...

Hi Tara,

Here is a link to the range of meals Mr Bonkers rates so highly...

I am aware of that Cheeky Panda loo roll, which has impeccable credentials, and is probably soft enough as it is not recycled as such, just made from a different, very sustainably sourced material. 65% fewer carbon emissons is impressive! I am curious, but the Nicky ones are £3.99 for 18 rolls. Even my 24 pack of the relatively better Andrex with puppies on was only £7.99 in Lidl, which is hard to resist. As an offsetting measure, I have hardly been driving this year, mind! ;)

Tara said...

Ah Gino Decampo, thanks.

Anonymous said...

You make me so happy with your wonderful and varied choice of subjects!

Loo paper is another of my bugbears (or should that be butbears?). And like Goldilocks and her bear experience, I am forever searching for one that is just right. The holy grail of toilet tissue. I fear I never will discover it.... What I get frustrated about is the fact that most types disintegrate if you as much as look at them - no doubt to save people paying exorbitant plumbers' bills for unblocking loos stuffed with unyielding paper. Surely there has to be a happy medium of a successfully functioning type that is neither too soft nor too hard?

Many years ago Kleenex perfumed theirs with a lovely powdery scent, a mixture of a rosy face powder and baby talc. I believe that they impregnated the tissue itself then (whereas these days it's the cardboard inner that's perfumed to avoid irritating sensitive skin), and I could be misremembering this, but I think that it was actual powder that was used in the process and was combined with the paper. Cushelle's "linen" scented paper perfume is not bad, but not as nice as that old Kleenex!

I am going to have to get some Nicky Elite!


Vanessa said...


Yes, that's right. Still smiling at the thought of CBD oil-infused loo roll. On the face of it you would think the other end of the body stood to benefit more? ;)

Vanessa said...

Hi Jillie,

I am glad you didn't think my subject matter too 'below the belt'. And it seems you and I are both engaged in the quest for the 'Holy Grail loo roll', and I like your Goldilocks analogy too. It is indeed very hard to find the right mix of softness and not overly thickness. I fear Nicky Elite is both too thick and not optimally soft, so I shan't buy it again, attractive as the price is. But on the softness front it is definitely comparable to the texture of Andrex Classic Clean, if you know it - with marks a Spirograph might have made, hehe. It is thicker than some luxury kitchen roll though, which isn't right.

That Kleenex variant sounds lovely, and you have educated me as to how the perfume is actually diffused nowadays. I wouldn't have thought it was the inner roll. The Cushelle linen scent also sounds nice, but I can't be doing with those koalas, and it wasn't that soft either. ;)

Undina said...

On this side of the pon... I mean, ocean, we _call_ it straightforward “toilet paper,” and I almost never read what it says on the packaging, so I wouldn’t be able to contribute to the perfect collection of silliness you presented.
For many years we were buying the same Costco store brand paper, and while I didn’t love it, I was fine with it, especially compared to those see-through (not even a paper-thin! ;)) offerings of public restrooms in our office building and elsewhere. But with the shortage of the product in question in the first 3-4 months of pandemic, we started to venture into products from all possible sources - and that’s when I realized that I didn’t like many of the presumably fancier brands.

I remember that once or twice I thought that toilet paper at one of our friend’s place was superb, but somehow the inquiry as to where they got it wasn’t a suitable topic for the type of gathering it was.

Scented toilet paper? No, just no. Though, I still have warm memories of that Floris sample that you shared with me.

As you can see, it’s a topic everyone has something to contribute :) I enjoyed your puns and editorials on the versions of your previously roll of choice.

Vanessa said...

Hi Undina,

I wonder if the Costco own brand is the same as the one Hazel buys, or whether they have different versions on each side of the ocean.

I do agree that toilet paper can be too luxurious for its own good...and am intrigued by the one you encountered at your friend's, though I quite understand that it wasn't the kind of occasion to inquire, hehe.

And I am with you on scented loo roll being fundamentally wrong.

Anonymous said...

I now have an embarrassingly large amount of backup TP, in reaction to the unpleasant shortages of last spring. Can only say that I prefer double rolls, as frequent roll-replacement is one of many household tasks filling me with despair (along with doing the dishes more than once a day, any vacuuming ever, etc.)

Frozen food is pretty reliable, since I am finding a lot of produce isn't necessarily fresh these days. Some ready-made frozen meals aren't half bad.


Vanessa said...

Hi AnnieA,

I have also amassed a big stock of TP(!), but purely due to my quest for a better kind. Obviously I can't resist a bulk buy bargain along the way...

Double rolls are not a thing here, but I hear you on the resistance to chores. I did some vacuuming last week for the first time since Christmas!

And you are right that frozen food is pretty advanced these days, especially ready meals.

teardrop said...

Thanks Vanessa for the chuckles on this grey Sunday morning! :) I am a loyal buyer of Nicky toilet roll since I saw it featured on one of those consumer programmes years ago. For me it has just the right level of thickness & softness, & I find the scent gentle enough not to be very noticeable, but it is pleasantly powdery, as you say. I get it from our local Savers store just around the corner, & it's the best I've found for the price. I also dislike most of the more high-end brands. And I buy Regina kitchen roll too, never knowing it was produced by the same company!
I always thought Farmfoods was one of those glorified meals-on-wheels companies that deliver to the old & infirm; I never knew they had actual shops!

Vanessa said...

Hi teardrop,

It's good to meet another Nicky user and to find that the product fits the bill in terms of those key criteria of thickness and softness.

It occurred to me that the scent is also a bit like one of the Kenzo Flower variants - was wearing Essentielle today, and that was in the same vein, though much stronger, obviously.

Glad to put you straight on the Farmfoods chain - I reckon you are thinking of Wiltshire Farm Foods, who do indeed do Meals on Wheels!