New Colgate entry appeals to sensitive type

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Colgate-Palmolive Co. will launch a sensitive-teeth line of Colgate toothbrushes and toothpaste in early 2000, in an effort to cement its 2-year-old position as the top U.S. dental care brand.

Colgate Sensitive reaches stores in February, backed by $30 million in marketing support including advertising, couponing, direct mail, in-store displays and sampling.

Colgate plans to distribute 250,000 samples through dental professionals, and will offer $1 and $1.50-off coupons via free standing inserts and direct mail. Y&R Advertising, New York, Colgate's global agency, will handle the introduction, beginning March 3.

Colgate would not elaborate on its plans.


The sensitive extension plays directly into a demographic trend, said William Steele, analyst at Bank of America Securities. Millions of Americans in the baby boom generation turn 50 each day, creating more demand for sensitive-teeth products, he said.

In its presentations to retailers, Colgate-Palmolive touts the Sensitive line as a potential $222 million sales-generator, thanks to the aging population. According to Colgate's market research, even though dental hypersensitivity affects nearly 25% of the adult population, 40% of the 56 million U.S. adults with sensitive teeth don't use a toothpaste formulated for their condition.

Colgate Sensitive will have a dual-action formula of paste and gel with potassium nitrate, an ingredient used in most sensitive-teeth formulas, while the toothbrush features extra-soft bristles, a compact head and flexible neck to reduce pressure on sensitive teeth and gums.


According to ACNielsenCorp. sales figures compiled by J.P. Morgan Securities, Colgate holds a slim lead in the toothpaste segment over Procter & Gamble Co.'s Crest, but it's a distant second in the toothbrush segment to Gillette Co.'s Oral-B brand.

For the 52 weeks ended Oct. 2, Colgate held 27.1% of the $1.7 billion toothpaste market to Crest's 26.9%, while Oral-B held 30.7% of the $805 million toothbrush market to Colgate's 18.1%.


Crest had been the market leader for nearly three decades until the December 1997 introduction of Colgate Total, backed by a $100 million campaign from Y&R.

Colgate followed that launch with Total Fresh Stripe, a gel version that got the same megabucks backing starting in March (AA, Jan. 11).

Earlier this year, Colgate took aim at Oral-B with new toothbrush designs, including the Wave and the introduction of the Navigator, a premium-price flexible-head toothbrush.

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