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Colgate-Palmolive Co., out to polish up flagging U.S. toothpaste share, will spend about $40 million in the first six months of '95 to introduce Colgate Baking Soda & Peroxide With Tartar Control.

The product, originally scheduled for fall 1994 but postponed to assure "better impact," said Colgate Senior VP John Steel, is a latecomer in the baking soda and peroxide wars. On that battleground, Chesebrough-Pond's USA's Mentadent holds sway with a 9.5% share, by Information Resources Inc.'s reckoning, and a 12% share, according to Nielsen Marketing Research.

Since its 1993 introduction, Mentadent has stolen share from everyone. For the 52 weeks ended Oct. 30, total Procter & Gamble Co. share was off 2.7 points to 31.1%, Colgate's share fell 3.1 points to 21.4% and Church & Dwight Co.'s dipped 1.6 points to 8.1%, according to IRI. Chesebrough's share rose 6.9 points to 16.4%.

So far, P&G has refrained from entering the baking soda and peroxide fray. Instead, it will go national in April with Crest Gum Care, a stannous fluoride-based product now in test (AA, June 20), which will likely be positioned as superior to baking soda and peroxide, say P&G competitors.

Analysts believe the green light for Crest Gum Care, handled by D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles, New York, also signals P&G will forgo any U.S. launch of a triclosan toothpaste. Triclosan, an antibacterial gumcare ingredient used overseas, has yet to be OK'd by the Food & Drug Administration for oral care.

Colgate still plans an eventual U.S. launch of its global triclosan entry Total, company executives say. But FDA approval could be 18 to 24 months away.

Meanwhile, Colgate will try to bolster sales with the baking soda and peroxide entry. The product will be backed by more than $16 million in media spending, including national TV and print ads from Young & Rubicam starting in April.

The new product will be priced at parity with regular Colgate toothpastes, giving it an advantage over premium-price Mentadent.

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