In Toothpaste, Ingredient Choice is Sticking With Customers

This one ingredient is creating waves across the toothpaste industry

Three of the top ten best-selling toothpastes on Amazon share one distinct attribute; they are fluoride-free. Flipping the common conventional knowledge that fluoride strengthens your teeth, lesser-known brands are successfully encouraging customers to embrace toothpaste that doesn’t carry fluoride.

The controversy of fluoride

Over the last decade, there has been mixed opinion about the positives and negatives of fluoride. In terms of the bad, some claim that fluoride creates “white streaks” on children’s teeth, may weaken bones, cause autism, and can be a risk to young children.

In contrast, the Center of Disease Control claims that fluoride is among last century’s most significant health advances. Further, a wide range of scientific studies have been published to prove that fluoride is not a threat—but, instead, it is a natural mineral that can repair tooth decay.

The big players in the toothpaste industry, such as Colgate, defend fluoride as a beneficial ingredient given that it is not overused. In addition, scientists from the British Dental Association recently used statistical analysis to demonstrate that fluoride-free toothpaste does not reduce cavities.

Smaller brands are winning … with fluoride-free

Regardless of the facts, these lesser-known brands are proving that providing consumers the option to pick between fluoride and fluoride-free toothpaste pays off.

The three top-selling brands of fluoride-free toothpaste are Tom’s of Maine, hello, and Uncle Harry’s – all with a product in Amazon’s “Top-Ten” toothpastes. Hello and Uncle Harry’s remain independent brands and, although in 2006, Colgate-Palmolive acquired an 86% stake of Tom’s of Maine, the company’s products remain distinct from Colgate’s mainstream strategy.

And it seems that consumers are actively searching for these fluoride-free toothpastes. One customer review on Amazon writes, “Happy to find fluoride free! I wanted to get away from fluoride toothpastes and I’m very happy with this product.”

Another review mentions that people are looking for fluoride-free toothpastes because of health concerns, stating, “As someone who has to avoid Fluoride if at all possible due to health issues I had a hard time finding a fluoride free toothpaste that resembled regular toothpaste.” Further reviews reinforce this mindset, that fluoride is a “toxic” ingredient, a “great perk,” and “harmful to          our bodies.”

For each of these brands, the “fluoride-free” option is the top-selling toothpaste (on Amazon) among the rest of their product portfolio.

What should big brands do?

This article in no way or shape supports the anti-fluoride movement. It is difficult to argue against fluoride’s immense benefits. However, in contrast, the purpose of this article is to suggest that big brands—like Unilever, P&G, and Colgate-Palmolive—look further into “fluoride-free” toothpaste as a way to provide a choice to consumers.

Conspiracies and rumors of fluoride being consequential will continue to spread throughout gossip columns and news. Instead of fighting these claims, big brands should recognize that many consumers prefer to have a choice.

In the end, it’s hard to refute that fluoride-free toothpaste is selling quickly off the (virtual) shelves. But the big players continue to ignore it.

The smartest strategy for these brands may be to launch a new line of toothpaste that provides customers the choice between fluoride and fluoride-free versions.

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