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New marketing efforts by manufacturers abound.

NEW YORK - Amidst the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA's) scrutiny of baking soda and peroxide toothpastes and its slap at Procter & Gamble Co.'s (P&G's) stannous fluoride-based Crest Gum Care, marketing activity in the oral hygiene category continues to be prolific. One of the latest product entries comes in the toothbrush segment, the fastest-growing part of the oral care market in the U.S.

Unilever NV's Chesebrough-Pond's USA unit is fielding two entries as it seeks to reestablish itself in a segment it had virtually abandoned. Currently, the supplier has about a 1% share with its Pepsodent toothbrushes. But it's looking to expand its business with both a Mentadent brush and Aim Kids toothbrushes, which are available in four colors and sell for about $2 complete with stands shaped like little stick legs and feet.

Aim Kids may have the potential to attain a 3% share of the toothbrush market. Still, bigger gains are expected to come from the Mentadent Oral Care Brush, which is now available nationally and is benefiting from $16 million in advertising support and $10 million in promotional spending. The latter includes in-store rebate pads and $1 coupons in freestanding newspaper inserts. Also part of the mix is a professional marketing campaign.

Both products will be sold in the superpremium segment of the toothbrush market, which now accounts for 54.1% of sales, up from 46.1% in 1992. By comparison, the premium segment generates 26% of volume, down from 34%; mid-price products account for 2.9%, down from 4.5%; and low-price merchandise generates 8.8% of sales, up from 8.4%.

The Mentadent brush is being positioned as specially designed to massage and stimulate gums while cleaning teeth. It was developed by Pond's together with a medical instruments design firm. It features flared side bristles to stimulate gums, multilevel interior bristles to clean teeth, a tapered head in full and compact sizes to reach back teeth, and an ergonomic angled handle with a rubber grip for better comfort and control.

From the results of simulated test markets, the company projects an 8.5% share for the product in its first year of availability and a 10% share after that.

                                           Market      Dollar sales
Brand            Manufacturer               share          (000)

Colgate          Colgate-Palmolive          23.0%        $114,996
Oral B           Gillette                   22.8%         114,124
Reach            Johnson & Johnson          16.1%          80,759
Crest            Procter & Gamble           13.8%          69,034
Aquafresh        SmithKline Beecham          5.9%          29,489
Butler           John O. Butler              3.4%          16,879
Pepsodent        Chesebrough-Pond's          0.9%           4,528
Tek              Playtex                     0.7%           3,756
Dentax           Carewell                    0.6%           3,064

Source: Information Resources Inc.

Currently, Colgate-Palmolive Co. is the No. 1 marketer of toothbrushes in the U.S. It's trailed by Gillette Co.'s Oral-B, Johnson & Johnson's Reach and P&G's Crest.

Meanwhile, industry sources say that P&G is looking at quite a different kind of new oral care product. The company now markets a sugarless gum overseas called Blend-A-Gum, an extension of Blend-A-Med toothpaste, which is touted as reducing cavities by as much as 40%. P&G is considering a similar entry for the U.S. and has looked at the names Extend and Impact, with the latter the more likely monicker.

Executives won't say if such a product is in the works, although it's been suggested by some industry observers that internal tests were conducted last year. In such tests the brand was said to help keep teeth clean between brushings.

And there is always the question of what claims the FDA will allow P&G to make. Indeed, the agency has already warned the company twice that if it continues to market the stannous fluoride-based Crest Gum Care as a reducer of gingivitis associated with plaque it will be subject to the risk of further legal action.

The FDA bases its position on the notion that the only sanctioned claims for stannous fluoride rinses and treatment gels are for preventing dental caries. A spokesman for the agency notes that in the past it's issued warning letters about both Lion Corp.'s Check-Up and Colgate's Viadent, for which claims about gingivitis reduction had been made.

Crest Gum Care now has an estimated 5% market share, a healthy figure for a new product. However, participants in the category claim that at least half of that has been cannibalized from other Crest formulas.

While P&G has had trouble with the FDA over Crest Gum Care, it has managed to avoid a flap involving baking soda and peroxide toothpastes since it's decided not to enter the segment.

The FDA is considering the validity of efficacy claims for baking soda and peroxide dentifrices as they relate to controlling gingivitis and plaque. Members of an FDA committee on over-the-counter plaque products have requested more data on the issue.

The panel is also addressing the question of the safety of long-term use of hydrogen peroxide, an issue that's been raised by the Health Protection Branch of the Canadian government. That country prohibits long-term use of peroxide and baking soda dentifrices because of carcinogenic risks.

Industry participants in the U.S. have testified on the safety of peroxide. So far the FDA committee has decided the risk appears to be minimal in concentrations below 1.5%. But it's recommended that products be restricted to use by adults, and that people who smoke and are at a higher risk of oral cancer consult their dentists if they want to use such products for extended periods. Committee members also feel that more studies are needed to assess the issue of long-term safety.

Meanwhile, Colgate is still awaiting marketing approval from the FDA for its triclosan-based Total toothpaste. The product is now sold everywhere except the U.S. A decision is expected soon. If approved, Total could change the face of the $1.5 billion U.S. dentifrice market - especially if the gingivitis and plaque-reducing claims made for it are sanctioned.
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Title Annotation:toothbrush products
Publication:Chain Drug Review
Date:Feb 12, 1996
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