Colgate Preps Entry For Next Round Of Toothpaste Wars

Colgate, in a perennial oral care fight with competitor Procter & Gamble, is preparing to launch a new toothpaste brand to go head-to-head with Crest Pro-Health.

That's the word from Nik Modi of UBS Securities, and comes on the heels of Colgate reporting better-than-expected sales for the third quarter, partly due to increased advertising and promotional spending.

P&G's Crest sales are gaining from the Pro-Health introduction, while Colgate toothpaste sales are about flat, the latest IRI purchase data show.

In the $1.2 billion category, Crest brand sales were up 4.5 percent to $404 million for the year ended Oct. 8, with Colgate unit sales flat, and dollar sales down 0.5 percent to $418 million.

Colgate said yesterday in its analyst's call that total brand share and Colgate Total market share were both up year-over-year at 37.9 percent, and 15.2 percent, respectively, with smaller competitors such as Church & Dwight down slightly due to the Pro-Health launch.

Crest Pro-Health toothpaste--an extension of Pro-Health mouthwash-- has been in stores for about three months and has thus far pulled in sales of $11 million at food, drug and mass through Oct. 8, according to IRI.

While Colgate is still the market leader in North America, P&G has been narrowing the sales gap with Colgate over the last six years by rolling out younger-skewing, more consumer-friendly, and sometimes even gimmicky Crest products.

Some of those include Crest Rejuvenating Effects, Crest with Scope, Crest Vivid White and Crest Whitening Expressions, with the main selling point being flavors such as Vanilla Mint and Lemon Ice. Competing Colgate offerings include Colgate Max Fresh, Colgate Luminous and Colgate Herbal White.

Addressing gingivitis, tartar buildup and plaque, P&G's positioning of Crest Pro-Health, ironically, is not unlike that of Colgate Total--a franchise which accounted for sales of $167 million for the year ended Oct. 8, per IRI, and was responsible for Colgate's market share surpassing Crest's in 1998.

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