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Toothpaste war intensifies as HUL, P&G gnash their teeth

January 20, 2014 13:38 IST

Toothpaste war intensifies as HUL, P&G gnash their teeth

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Viveat Susan Pinto in Mumbai

Colgate, P&G lock horns over who's better at cleaning, observes Viveat Susan Pinto.

The year 2014 promises to be as exciting as 2013 for the oral care business.

After a controversy over Hindustan Unilever’s advertisement claiming its Pepsodent was better than Colgate at attacking teeth germ, the country’s largest oral-care player and Procter & Gamble have locked horns.

The issue pertains to an ad by P&G for Oral-B Pro Health toothpaste.

The Advertising Standards Council of India recently told P&G to change its ad that claimed nine of 10 dentists in the country said in a Nielsen survey Oral-B Pro Health was the best toothpaste by January 23, after Colgate complained the survey was faulty.

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Image: A worker arranges Colgate products on a shelf at a supermarket.

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Faulty survey

“This was a survey conducted of a captive audience attending an Oral-B launch conference and post one trial-brushing,” the council said in its ruling.

P&G said, “We will make the appropriate modification, and, as always, we will continue to be compliant with ASCI’s decisions.

The detailed ASCI ruling is positive, re-emphasising Oral B Pro Health toothpaste as our first and only to protect all eight areas that dentists check most.”

Battle for market share

But that will not end the ad battles in the segment as the pressure mounts to grow market share.

“In the past three to four years, ads blatantly comparing one brand with another or indulging in false claims have been on the rise,” says Ashok Dhoble, general secretary, Indian Dental Association, the apex body of dentists, that works closely with Colgate.

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Image: A Kolibree connected electric toothbrush is displayed during the 2014 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Nevada, January 8, 2014.
Photographs: Steve Marcus/Reuters
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The association had endorsed Colgate’s stand on P&G’s ad.

Dhoble says the council’s ruling should help stem the tide of misleading ads to some extent.

In the past few months, P&G has increased advertising its Oral-B toothpaste, endorsed by Bollywood actor Madhuri Dixit, to increase sales.

The world’s largest consumer goods company is yet to make a headway in the toothpaste market, pegged at Rs 6,000 crore (Rs 60 billion) a year, as Colgate increases its share.

For the September quarter, Colgate saw overall volume growth of 10 per cent, led by a nine per cent growth for toothpastes alone.

“We enhanced our leadership position by registering a 56 per cent volume market share for Jan-Sept 2013 versus 54.6 per cent in Jan-Sept 2012,” the company said.

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Image: A technician takes a sample from a toothbrush to measure how much of phthalates it contains during a demonstration at a laboratory,
Photographs: Thomas Peter/Reuters
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HUL is estimated to have a market share of 26 per cent in toothpastes, followed by Dabur at 18 per cent.

P&G’s share is negligible at the moment.

But its ambition to grow in toothpastes have been partly fuelled by its performance in the toothbrush business, where it is the number two to Colgate with an estimated 28 per cent market share.

Colgate has a volume market share of 41.4 per cent in the Rs 1,000-crore (Rs 10-billion-)-a-year toothbrush market.

Like toothpastes, Colgate had upped the ante in the brush market, with launches such as SlimSoft.

P&G, according to sources, has managed to withstand this pressure and grow.

A P&G spokesperson had said earlier, “India offers great opportunity for our brands to drive trial, reach and consumption.

“We will not take our eyes off top-line growth.”


Image: A man arrives at the Hindustan Unilever Limited headquarters in Mumbai.
Photographs: Danish Siddiqui/Reuters
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