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Crest Makes a “Be” Line for Millennial Wallets

By Mike Breen · April 2nd, 2014 · Lost in the Supermarket
The Crest brand dominates most toothpaste aisles with a cornucopia of flavors and brushing focuses. You can get Crest products that zero in on whitening, “stain protection” and “enamel renewal,” as well as fresh breath, “gum protection” and “cavity protection” (things one would assume all toothpastes were designed to do). And the flavor spectrum includes citrus, cinnamon and a ridiculous array of “mint” variations — peppermint, cool peppermint, clean mint, fresh mint, fresh clean mint, smooth mint, cool mint, herbal mint … you get the idea. 

Though they hit the “enough flavors” mark long ago, in late January, three new food-like additions to the Crest family were announced. 

Rolled out under the “Crest Be” banner, the new line of toothpastes doesn’t even pretend to be anything more than a novelty. In a press release for the products, a marketing director is quoted as saying the new Be line “was developed out of the research and insights that consumers are looking for experiential purchases. The new toothpastes not only provide the foundational benefits needed for oral health but allow for an unexpected experience through flavors that offer personal expression.” 

The Be flavors are all about marketing and branding. With a seeming focus on online marketing, the sales approach is similar to campaigns for unusual flavors of products like, for example, Lay’s potato chips. And like those products, it’s clearly being marketed to “Millennials” (aka young people who have money to spend, are online constantly and personally express themselves with things like toothpaste choices). 

If my attempts to find Be toothpastes in area supermarkets are any indication, the campaign has been a big success. Well, at least with one of the flavors.

I was able to locate Lime Spearmint Zest and Vanilla Mint Spark immediately at a Northern Kentucky Kroger store. But there was an empty space next to both, where the other new taste — Mint Chocolate Trek — once sat before being snatched up by people who couldn’t resist the allure of expressing themselves so uniquely. It took visits to six different stores in two states before I finally came across the chocolate toothpaste at a Target on Cincinnati’s west side. 

The packaging is eye-catching, with a playful, colorful design style that is right up the Millennial alley. Each flavor has it’s own color and buzzword. The mint chocolate one has orange writing and reads, “Be … adventurous.” The vanilla is emblazoned in hot pink lettering that says, “Be … inspired.” The lime’s packaging has green print (which actually makes sense!) and implores the user to “Be … dynamic.”

Mechanically, all three do what one expects toothpaste to do — each variation has “Cleans. Fights cavities. Whitens. Freshens breath.” printed on them (blunt periods included, because commas are so Gen X). 

Curiosity is a driving force behind the apparent popularity of the Be flavors, particularly the Mint Chocolate Trek. Who hears the words “chocolate toothpaste” and doesn’t wonder what it could possibly taste like? My first response was, “Well, that would be good for getting kids to brush their teeth.” My second was, “If I was a kid, I would totally have sneaked the tube into bed and ate the whole thing.” Given the fluoride, that’s not safe, particularly for toddlers. The Be box warns to keep it out of reach of children under 6 and call for help if “more than used for brushing is accidentally swallowed,” but that’s FDA-mandated for all fluoride toothpaste. And toothpaste tastes have long been kid-friendly, with flavors like strawberry and bubblegum part of the norm.

A natural reaction would be that brushing with these flavors would be akin to brushing with cake frosting (or eating cake frosting right after brushing), but the Be “experience” is, indeed, a surprising one. The Vanilla Mint Spark worked best; the mint and vanilla flavorings mingle nicely together, with a subtle, pearly sweetness from the vanilla and the mint providing that refreshed feeling that normally comes post-brush.

Be’s Lime Spearmint Zest is also unusual but the mint and lime blend is less enjoyable. I thought it might be the citrus/mint combination in general, so I grabbed a bottle of the Hello brand’s Pink Grapefruit Mint toothpaste. Though I can’t think of anything worse to eat after brushing your teeth than grapefruit (try it sometime), Hello makes it work in their toothpaste somehow.

The initial flavor burst of chocolate that comes when brushing with Mint Chocolate Trek is pretty delicious and straight-up chocolaty, with the mintiness creeping up gradually. Though the aftertaste isn’t quite as refreshing as the vanilla mint toothpaste, the overall experience is a pleasant one, far from what most people would expect.

The dessert-ish Be flavors are enjoyable enough that I’ll happily finish off the tubes I bought … or maybe use them to express myself by decorating a cake. But decades of conditioning through the use of plain ol’ mint toothpaste will probably not break my usual routine of buying whatever toothpaste is on sale. Be toothpaste is fun, yes, but, bottom line, I just want my teeth clean and breath fresh — no extended “experience” needed.


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