Toothpaste market in for a war

Hyderabad: With rumours of FMCG giant Procter & Gamble ready to launch its toothpaste, Crest, in India and the South Korean giant LG already having introduced its toothpaste, market leaders Hindustan Lever and Colgate Palmolive may soon begin to feel the heat. To add to this, smaller players are aggressively re pricing their products, the toothpaste market is all set for some bloodletting.

Industry watchers say the $44 bn Procter & Gamble, is getting set to give HLL and Colgate-Palmolive a run for their money by launching its multi-billion global toothpaste brand, Crest, in India at a price of Rs21-25 for a 135 gm pack. P&G delayed the launch of Crest as Ajanta, the watch manufacturer, entered the market with a 50 per cent price differential to the leading brands. Ajanta launched a 200 gm pack for Rs20.

Crest, launched globally in 1955 as the world's first fluoride toothpaste, is a part of P&G's global healthcare business unit. It is currently one of the leading toothpaste brands in markets like North America, Western Europe and China.

Apart from this LG Care has also launched a range of household products in India including Cliden toothpaste priced on par with Colgate and Close-Up.

Moreover, since the beginning of the year, small players like Anchor Beauty and Ajanta have been giving HLL and Colgate Palmolive a tough time with price discounting and freebies. The net result has been that the two MNCs have fought back on the pricing front as well as with new product launches leaving the smaller players with stagnant or falling market share. HLL and Colgate Palmolive have managed to retain their leadership in the market.

The latest to fire the salvo has been the Gujarat-based Anchor Beauty and Healthcare. Despite being priced at the lower end of the price spectrum, the company has been losing market share. In a bid to increase its sales, the company has introduced a 60 per cent discount on the MRP for a combipack of Anchor White toothpaste along with an Anchor Premium toothbrush. While the MRP for a 200-gram Anchor White toothpaste and toothbrush is Rs54 and Rs15 respectively, the combipack is being offered at only Rs25.

Though officials say the offer is initially open in Delhi, the company is offering discounts in several other markets.

Asked whether the company had announced a price discount due to falling market share over the last couple of months, Sanjay Shah,MD, Anchor Beauty and Healthcare acknowledged the loss but declined to quantify it.

HLL's Close-Up and Colgate Palmolive's Colgate 200gm packs retail for Rs40. HLL with its Pepsodent and Close-Up brand has 36 per cent of the market while Colgate is the undisputed leader with about 50 percent share. The size of the toothpaste market is about Rs2,500-crore.

Shah claims 14-15 per cent market share for Anchor White toothpaste while ORG figures put its share at 7.8 per cent.
HLL and Colgate Palmolive, the former already suffering from price wars unleashed by P&G, may have gear up for a prolonged battle now in toothpaste.