Some people sing in the shower, but not Bob Taylor. This 49-year-old Minneapolis businessman often uses his ablution time to think of new ways to clean up—literally and lucratively. Having made a splash in the bath-products market with strawberry and green-apple shampoos, soap puffs packaged in brandy snifters and bubble bath wrapped in fruit and vegetable-seed packets, he was also the first to successfully market liquid soap in 1978. Now Taylor is bubbling over his latest creation: Check-Up, the first pump-dispensed toothpaste in the U.S. (The Germans invented a version of the pump 10 years ago). Since last March when he introduced Check-Up, 20 million 6½-inch, 4.1-ounce stand-up containers of the mint-flavored paste have been sold at $2.39 (compared with $1.40 or so for a similar amount of toothpaste in a standard tube). Despite the high-gloss price, Taylor believes pumps will eventually command 20 percent of the $900 million-a-year toothpaste market.
His competitors seem to agree. Colgate introduced its own pump last September (for a suggested retail price of $1.69 for 4.5 ounces), and Crest and Aim have just put their versions on the market. For consumers the new vacuum or mechanically powered gadgets are a welcome change from the familiar old tubes, which have been around since the 19th century. Better yet, all those squabbles over who didn’t squeeze the toothpaste from the bottom or replace the cap will no longer work spouses or siblings into a lather.
Entrepreneur Taylor likes to think the decay-fighting formula of his product is a big part of its appeal. (Most other manufacturers, of course, make the same claim.) Overall, contends Taylor, the pump promotes mental as well as dental health. “People are happier in the morning,” he says. “They don’t have to be frustrated after squeezing a messy tube.”