NORWEGIAN oral care company Jordan aims for a double-digit sales growth in Malaysia this year in spite of the shrinking toothbrush market.
Its president (Asia-Pacific) Knut Leversby said the total market, in which some 300 brands compete, contracted by more than 10% last year, and the decline continued during the first half of this year.
“Jordan is nevertheless targeting a 15% growth this year and we’re on track to achieving it,” he told Star Business at Jordan’s regional head office in Petaling Jaya.
Jordan is the country’s number three toothbrush brand, after Colgate and Oral B. The top three brands make up 40% of total Malaysian sales, but Leversby declined to reveal Jordan’s sales.
Leversby said he was stumped as to why research showed the overall market was declining. “In most countries, the market grows. And I’m sure in Malaysia it would grow, too, because the standard of living is improving – a typical sign of good health,” he said.
He theorised that the decline may be due to longer-lasting materials used in toothbrushes or people’s cautious spending due to economic reasons.
But he denied that the market had matured. “Dentists recommend that you change your toothbrush four times a year, and in Malaysia, the average is just a little more than one per year (1.09 times),” he said. That is lower than Singapore’s 1.75, and in Japan – the Asian market where consumers change toothbrushes most frequently – the figure is 2.83 times.
Leversby sees a particularly big potential for Jordan in provision shops, where traditionally it has been weak due to its premium pricing (RM4.90 to RM8.40). But earlier this year it introduced Jordan Smile, a lower-priced toothbrush (RM2.90) designed in Malaysia for the Asian market.
“Half of total toothbrush sales in Malaysia occur at provision stores so we can’t just leave that channel untouched,” he said. Currently less than 20% of Jordan’s sales occur in provision stores. They mainly take place in hypermarkets and supermarkets (50%) while the rest are through channels such as pharmacies and Chinese medical halls.
Would launching a cheaper product affect Jordan’s premium image? “That was one of the reasons we held back earlier,” Leversby said, “but we have since felt we have such a quality product selling at that price that it would definitely not harm our image as we achieve wider penetration.”
Leversby holds high hopes for Jordan Smile, partly because the brand’s main distributor in Malaysia is Fumakilla marketer Texchem, which is strong in the provision trade. “We expect sales in provision shops to grow faster than the overall 15% growth that we target for this year,” he added.
Besides toothbrushes, Jordan is also promoting dental floss. About half of the US population floss, compared with only 7% in Europe and even less in Asia, according to him. “Currently less than 10% of our sales come from floss,” he said.
However, Jordan’s floss sales rose by an encouraging 40% in the first half of this year. “We have done sampling (free floss included with toothbrush) and have provided educational materials. All these helped,” Leversby said.
Unlike other top toothbrush brands, Jordan does not advertise much on the mainstream media, but instead opts to spend 60% to 70% of its marketing budget in and around stores, such as for in-store displays and promotions. The last time Jordan advertised on TV was before Leversby joined Jordan’s Malaysian operation in 1995.
“It’s important in any type of marketing that you don’t spread your funds thinly over many different activities. It’s better to go deep and be persistent in what you are doing,” said Leversby, who has worked for Jordan for 40 years.
Innovation is important to Jordan, which gives an “innovation guarantee” to the trade channels that it would introduce at least one new product every year.
Jordan is in 10 markets in Asia, and the main markets – which account for 70% of its regional sales – are South Korea, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia.