Unminty ToothpasteNovember 8, 2008
Arm & Hammer used to make toothpaste that doesn’t taste like mint. To find a commonly available brand that didn’t have that supposedly-refreshing but actually-overwhelming minty taste was pretty, uh, refreshing. I went to get some of it today, and discovered that they now only make mint-flavored toothpaste. This got me to thinking about how some types of competing products seem to all converge on some identical imagination of what the customer wants.
In Japan I was pleased by the wide range of variously-flavored drinks. Juice, black tea, green tea, mildly sweetened drinks, pop, and so on. Most supermarkets or convenience stores in the USA, though, seem to offer only sickeningly sweet pop or energy drinks. Whenever the topic of Japan’s supposedly superior quality baseline comes up, I reassure myself that while they have better stuff on average, we have a much wider range of stuff. In some areas, though, it doesn’t seem to be that way. All drinks have converged on Mountain Dew and Red Bull; all toothpastes have converged on hyper-minty ultra-whitening in a sparkly package. It’s kind of bewildering to look at the shelf and find five different brand names on what’s essentially the exact same product.
It’s nice that I can go to Whole Foods or some other hippie grocery store for proper bottled tea and unminty toothpaste, but I wonder if normal stores really can’t support any niches, and only the one main product model is worth selling.