RE: Breath Mints: A Hot War for America's Cool Mouths

From: Lawrence DeBivort (debivort@umd5.umd.edu)
Date: Sun Feb 24 2002 - 15:37:40 GMT

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    From: "Lawrence DeBivort" <debivort@umd5.umd.edu>
    To: <memetics@mmu.ac.uk>
    Subject: RE: Breath Mints: A Hot War for America's Cool Mouths
    Date: Sun, 24 Feb 2002 10:37:40 -0500
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    Please, pleae, pleeeeeeease tell me this is a joke.

    And what in the world is Harvard doing with a 'marketing proferssor'???

    I think I am going to go throw up.

    Lawrence

    > -----Original Message-----
    > From: fmb-majordomo@mmu.ac.uk [mailto:fmb-majordomo@mmu.ac.uk]On Behalf
    > Of Wade T.Smith
    > Sent: Sunday, February 24, 2002 11:35 AM
    > To: skeptic@listproc.hcf.jhu.edu; memetics@mmu.ac.uk
    > Subject: Fwd: Breath Mints: A Hot War for America's Cool Mouths
    >
    >
    > Breath Mints: A Hot War for America's Cool Mouths
    > By ALEX KUCZYNSKI
    >
    > http://www.nytimes.com/2002/02/24/fashion/24MINT.html?pagewanted=print
    >
    > MORRIS PLAINS, N.J. -- On a wintry Tuesday afternoon, Dr. Richard W.
    > D'Souza, the vice president for oral health care of Pfizer , stood in
    > front of a shelf stacked with gallon jugs labeled Artificial Saliva and
    > Pooled Human Saliva, and spoke about the art of killing.
    >
    > "They are nasty little buggers, and they should die," Dr. D'Souza said,
    > offering a look through a microscope at a dish of proliferating microbes
    > swabbed from a colleague's mouth. "We have learned how to get rid of
    > them, how to annihilate them, how to kill the wild germs in their
    > natural habitat."
    >
    > Dr. D'Souza is the General Patton of bad breath. And his fervor is not
    > out of place. As the mere breath mint becomes a fashion accessory and a
    > statement of identity, the $3 billion fresh-breath industry is
    > exploding, pitting giant corporations against one another in the race to
    > freshen gamy American mouths.
    >
    > In the last 18 months, major mint and gum manufacturers Kraft Foods,
    > Pfizer, the Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company, Hershey Foods and Playtex Products
    > have introduced breath-freshening products and repackaged old ones to
    > refashion the humble breath mint or mouth spray.
    >
    > At Pfizer, Dr. D'Souza and Dr. Pauline C. Pan, a senior microbiologist,
    > supervised the development of the Listerine PocketPaks, a stamp-size
    > container that dispenses strips that look like murky-green Scotch tape
    > and dissolve on the tongue. The PocketPaks can be bought with a matching
    > key chain and will be giveaways at the Oscars.
    >
    > The appeal of the mint as accessory stretches across demographic lines.
    > Where bad breath was once considered the province of old men with dental
    > problems and cigar habits, it is now being peddled to the public as an
    > affliction that affects all ages, from 8 to 80.
    >
    > At the same time, the pop-cultural implications of a freshly minty mouth
    > have shifted significantly for Generation X, from the happy-go-lucky
    > innocence of a Dentyne smile to more salacious connotations
    > highlighted by Monica Lewinsky's descriptions of the intimate effects of
    > Altoids. Elizabeth Wenner, a spokeswoman for Kraft, which manufactures
    > Altoids, said its product had altered the landscape.
    >
    > "Altoids changed many Americans' perception of what a mint could be,
    > namely, an essential lifestyle accessory," she said. "Eating and sharing
    > Altoids became somewhat of a social ritual, particularly among young
    > adults, predominantly in urban areas."
    >
    > Beyond Generation X, manufacturers are playing on the baby boomers' lust
    > for self-improvement by packaging mints to highlight their therapeutic
    > uses. (Wrigley has even introduced a minty antacid gum called Surpass.)
    > And manufacturers are using novel packaging mints on key chains, mints
    > in containers that make sound effects, mint strips that dissolve on the
    > tongue to market to children and young adults.
    >
    > But the obsession with fresh breath is not all the boomers' doing. The
    > industry began to grow after the InterScan Corporation in California
    > developed a device called the halimeter in 1992, which measures foul
    > breath, or halitosis. (InterScan normally makes instruments that detect
    > toxic gases in factories.) Armed with the new research the halimeter
    > provided, manufacturers went nuts.
    >
    > Continuing a five-year growth trend, sales of breath-freshening mints,
    > gums and lozenges were up 15.3 percent in 2001, said Susan Fussell, a
    > spokeswoman for the National Confectioners Association. That rate far
    > outpaced sales of chocolate, sweet chewing gum and other candies, which
    > grew by 2.9 percent.
    >
    > "The biggest trend today is breath freshening," Ms. Fussell said.
    > "You're seeing a proliferation, especially in the last year and a half,
    > in anything that is going to make your breath minty, minty fresh.
    > Everyone is rushing to get something out."
    >
    > Packaging is crucial. If consumers shun the Binaca Blast atomizer, with
    > its geeky 1970's evocations of John Travolta's Casanova role on "Welcome
    > Back, Kotter," they can try Binaca Power Blasts mints, which come in a
    > cartoonish tin that makes a loud Snapplesque popping noise when opened
    > or closed, and the slogan reads "Fresh Breath Is Just a Click Away!"
    >
    > "It's become trendy," Ms. Fussell said. "Who has the latest mint? Who
    > has the newest container on the playground? And that expands into
    > Generation X, with Kate Spade mints and Victoria's Secret selling
    > lipstick-shaped mints."
    >
    > David A. Shore, a Harvard marketing professor, said the PocketPaks could
    > have been a huge failure.
    >
    > "Consumers have greater trust issues with products that come into
    > contact with the skin or the mouth," he said. "But the beauty of the
    > PocketPaks is that they did not stray too far from the parent brand,
    > Listerine. They developed a kind of mystique and maintained a level of
    > comfort at the same time."
    >
    > Searching for that same magical combination, the long-conservative
    > Wrigley company, under a new chief executive, has introduced Orbit, an
    > intensely flavored pellet gum packaged in a credit-card-size plastic
    > case designed to appeal to young adults. The company revamped
    > Winterfresh which it now distributes at events like the MTV Music
    > Video Awards and the Extreme Games and Big Red, dumping the jingle
    > "kiss a little longer" in favor of the musings of Clyde, a hipster who
    > dispenses fashion advice.
    >
    > Competing against Wrigley is Hershey Foods, which bought Carefree from
    > Nabisco in December 2000 and revamped it as the hipper, kid-friendly
    > Carefree Koolerz.
    >
    > Responding to a post-Altoids consumer preference for nasal-flaring
    > flavors, Amurol, a Wrigley division, introduced Everest, a pellet gum
    > that tastes like Altoids, looks like Altoids and comes in a tin like
    > Altoids. Battling back, Kraft Foods added new extra-strong flavors to
    > its Altoids line.
    >
    > And last October, after five years of research and development, Pfizer
    > introduced the PocketPaks. The inch-square plastic box dispenses sheets
    > of Listerine distilled onto a substance called pullulan, a carbohydrate
    > matrix that dissolves on contact with saliva.
    >
    > The strips, which are about as intensely flavored as Altoids, have
    > become something of a fashion necessity. The PocketPaks sponsored four
    > parties before the Emmy Awards, and Pfizer distributed them at the
    > Golden Globes, to modeling agencies, to the Mets and to National
    > Basketball Association players, following the marketing principle that
    > if cool people are seen using this product, everybody else will catch
    > on. Pfizer plans more parties timed to the Oscars.
    >
    > To older consumers, it can remain Listerine, just in a different version
    > of the dependable medicinal liquid that lived in grandmother's medicine
    > chest, while to new consumers, it is a toy, packaged in a new way
    > subconsciously evocative of the illicit LSD stamp sheets, for
    > instance or the sacred, like communion wafers, Mr. Shore of Harvard
    > said.
    >
    > "You can't ignore the Freudian aspect of it, and the novel oral
    > sensation," he added.
    >
    > But PocketPaks do not play everywhere, Dr. D'Souza noted. "The French
    > think we're foolish," he said.
    >
    > Peter J. Brown, a medical anthropologist at Emory University, said
    > Americans have long been ridiculed for their obsession with fresh breath.
    >
    > "Americans believe that the natural tendency of the body is to decay,
    > and we have to ward that off constantly, to the point of obsession," he
    > said. "But people do tend to think of fresh breath as an indicator of
    > good health. We perceive having bad breath as unattractive, as the
    > opposite of beauty."
    >
    > Whether or not PocketPaks make consumers feel beautiful, the sales
    > volume is beating Altoids: 54.5 million units in 2001 in supermarkets,
    > chain stores and mass merchandisers, excluding Wal-Mart, according to
    > Information Resources , which tracks consumer buying. Altoids, by
    > contrast, sold 49.4 million units. PocketPaks have yet to beat the still
    > dominant Tic Tac, which sold 95 million units last year. But there is
    > room for growth: unit sales for Tic Tac were down by 7.2 percent, and
    > sales for Altoids were down by 4 percent.
    >
    > The notion for the PocketPaks originated in Japan, where pullulan is
    > used in candy and also as an edible paper to wrap candies and mints.
    >
    > The first time Dr. D'Souza tried it, he knew it needed refinement for
    > the American palate.
    >
    > "Ick," he said. "I spat it out. It tasted like paper."
    >
    > But he noticed that it dissolved quickly on the tongue.
    >
    > "We had to figure out how to make it appealing to American consumers,"
    > he said. "It had to dissolve fast and be pleasurable, convenient and
    > innovative." Dr. D'Souza and Dr. Pan played around with the basic
    > carbohydrate film, changing flavors and adding surfactants to make it
    > break up faster on the tongue. For five years, sensory experts, market
    > researchers, dentists, microbiologists, physical chemists, physical
    > chemical engineers and manufacturing experts worked out the kinks.
    >
    > Wes Pringle, the group marketing director of oral care at Pfizer,
    > supervised the design of the package, which he called particularly
    > important. It had to be discreet and portable, he explained, and
    > extremely small, which distinguished it from other products on the
    > market. "In the end, when we found that the product could fit into the
    > small, front `fifth pocket' of a pair of jeans, we knew we were
    > successful," he said.
    >
    > Copyright 2002 The New York Times Company
    >
    >
    > This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the
    > Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
    > For information about the journal and the list (e.g. unsubscribing)
    > see: http://www.cpm.mmu.ac.uk/jom-emit
    >

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    This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the
    Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
    For information about the journal and the list (e.g. unsubscribing)
    see: http://www.cpm.mmu.ac.uk/jom-emit



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