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Finally: Toothpaste in a clear tube

A new ultraviolet light barrier film developed by Sealed Air Corp.(www.sealedair.com) is the key component in what's believed to be the first transparent toothpaste tube available on the market. The new tube for Colgate-Palmolive Co.'s Max Fresh® fluoride toothpaste, which is infused with mini, dissolvable mouthwash beads, is available at a number of retailers nationally. Launched as an extension of the Max Fresh brand, the oral care product teams clear toothpaste gel and mouthwash to enhance the toothpaste's ability to freshen breath. The Max Fresh tube comes in a dazzling, metallic paperboard outer carton that's die-cut with a viewing window that displays the product through the clear tube on store shelves.



Colgate-Palmolive hopes that its latest Max Fresh product, which comes in Minty Wave (green gel) and Mint Burst (blue gel) flavors, will boost sales and make consumers beam with a toothy smile.

A strong performer

The brand has been a strong performer in the fresh-breath market segment overall. Toothpaste sales rose just 2.8 percent last year, but sales in the fresh-breath subsegment jumped 8.5 percent, according to AC Nielsen.

Colgate-Palmolive's CEO Ian Cook said recently that the company is comfortable with profit expectations for its business this year, despite a souring economy, because consumers still need basic staples such as toothpaste. Available at retailers nationwide since August, the one-piece tube comes in a 6-oz size. The clear tube body meets a translucent shoulder that's embossed on opposing sides with the Colgate name, and is topped with a white flip-top cap (the caps are stamped with the Zeller Plastik[www.zellerplastik.com] logo). While clear tube structures have been available for decades for other types of products, producing this one for toothpaste wasn't as simple as the packaging might suggest.

Sealed Air's development of the proprietary, coextruded, multilayer film coincided with Colgate-Palmolive's national launch of MaxFresh with Mouthwash Beads, as an extension of the brand. The film not only shows off the product, but helps protect the ingredients that give the toothpaste its color. If not for the development of the barrier film, the toothpaste's color could fade in the presence of UV light, moisture and oxygen, explains Sealed Air. While it can be produced in a variety of gauges, the film structure for the finished tube is 275 microns thick (approximately 10.8 mils).

"Patents are pending for our inventions related to this development," says Joe Ramirez, Sealed Air's manager of new business development. "Two key benefits of the film are that consumers can see the tube's contents and they can easily tell how much product remains." The film structure is quite complex, Ramirez adds. "But any time we can take something new to the marketplace while giving consumers a new benefit, it's groundbreaking."

Clearly a long time coming

Colgate-Palmolive says it has been interested in a clear toothpaste tube for about a decade. "Colgate had a challenge and asked us to help create something new to North America: A clear toothpaste tube with a UV light barrier," says Ramirez. "There are a couple of reasons why a film like this hasn't been available before. Traditionally, techniques employed to block or absorb UV light can make a flexible film hazy and unstable. The ingredients used to give toothpaste its colors can fade over time because of UV light. This film prevents the UV light from penetrating the tube and causing the product color to fade. If it was easy to come up with, [it would have been done before]. But seriously, there's a delicate balance between blocking enough UV light and producing a film that can withstand the abuse a toothpaste tube encounters."

Time to buy more

The obvious benefit of the clear tube, he says, is that consumers can see the contents and can easily tell how much product remains in the tube. This is a real convenience over opaque tubes because the consumer knows immediately when it's time buy more toothpaste. The mouthwash micro beads are also clearly visible.

"Our engineers overcame the hurdles to develop a film formula that also gives great tube performance, including feel and clarity," Ramirez points out. "We are excited about this groundbreaking film, which we feel could change the face of oral care packaging."



PD is told that Colgate-Palmolive converts the printed film rollstock into tubes at its own manufacturing locations, and fills and ships them for distribution. Along with toothpaste, the new, clear, multilayer film can be provided in several gauges for a variety of other applications such as creams, lotions and even food products—wherever UV light barrier protection is important for package formats other than a tube, such as a pouch, a sachet or lidding material.

Currently, however, Colgate-Palmolive is the only user of the film, Ramirez says. Sealed Air is hoping that will change soon, though the jury's out as to when.

Still need to brush

Colgate-Palmolive's clearly smiling. Its reported worldwide toothpaste market share hit a record 44.48 percent last year, while its toothbrush share exceeded 20 percent, spurred by new products and gains in the U.S. Mexico and China, according to a report in January by MarketWatch.

Selling its products in some 200 countries, the company seems to be side-stepping the economic slowdown. In the January report, Cook said that lower oil prices, product-price increases and more cost cuts should boost Colgate-Palmolive's gross profit margin in 2009. In the fourth quarter of 2008, the company also disclosed that its net income rose by 20 percent to $497 million bolstered by the debut of new toothbrushes and toothpastes, the latter including MaxFresh with mouthwash beads.





More information is available:
Sealed Air Corp., 800/845-3456.
www.sealedair.com.
Zeller Plastik, 847/247-7900.
www.zellerplastik.com.



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