The Technology of Toothpaste
Updated: Sep 30, 2022
Innovation is everywhere, if you're looking for it.
At my recent dentist appointment, I overheard another patient mention the huge number of toothpaste options at our local grocery store. The dentist agreed, adding “toothpaste technology has really accelerated over the past several years.” I thought – toothpaste technology? Really?
Yes, really. The next time I stopped at the store I snapped a picture of the toothpaste aisle – I hadn’t noticed the huge number of toothpaste options. Even from the same brand, there were dozens of choices.
There’s vegan toothpaste, activated-charcoal toothpaste and toothpaste made with that old-school ingredient, baking soda. There’s been plenty of innovation in toothpaste ingredients and efficacy, but the innovation doesn’t stop there. Here are just a few examples of recent toothpaste innovation:
Colgate’s recyclable toothpaste tube was the first to be recognized by the Association of Plastic Recyclers in 2019. Colgate started using the tube in the market in 2020 with the Tom’s of Maine brand, with plans to go to the recyclable tube across all lines by 2028. Most toothpaste comes in a tube, but there’s at least one startup (yes, there are toothpaste startups!) offering toothpaste tablets that come in a glass jar.
Innovation Across the Consumer Lifecycle
“A toothpaste for every need” was a recent tagline on Crest’s website, along with several examples – 60, when I checked – proving the truth of this statement. There was a bubblegum-flavored toothpaste for children co-branded with Olaf, the snowman from the Disney movie franchise “Frozen;” Braces Care toothpaste for when those kids got a little older; “3-D” whitening toothpaste and toothpaste to eradicate gum problems.
The mystery of “two stripes in tube” has even been the subject of Tik Tok videos. The original goal of this particular innovation was marketing - to visually illustrate the two types of benefit you get from the single tube of toothpaste. That’s genius innovation in about three different ways, including marketing. But the “how do they do that?” mystery was creating enough buzz that Colgate answered with its own Tik Tok video, using the social-media platform to reach a specific audience.
Do we really need all these toothpaste options? No. But innovative spirit and mindset putting all these options on the shelf – and the consumers who try, embrace or reject them – delivers increasingly better, safer and more effective products to a market that never stops changing. Even when it comes to toothpaste. There's no better way to continuously improve the world than to try something new.
About the Author
Diane Pierson is the Founder and Principal Market Strategist of Innovate on Purpose, a consultancy enabling successful product innovation for tech companies through strategic focus and powerful go-to-market strategies. Diane is also a visiting instructor at Pragmatic Institute. Contact Diane at firstname.lastname@example.org.