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Can a “Seriously Friendly” David Take Down the Goliaths of Oral Hygiene? Meet ‘Hello’

Aaron Task
Daily Ticker

Coke vs. Pepsi...McDonald's vs. Burger King...Hertz vs. Avis... Budweiser vs. Miller... GM vs. Ford...Nike vs. Reebok...Visa vs. Mastercard.

You're probably familiar with these great business rivalries, past and present. Colgate-Palmolive (CL) vs. Procter & Gamble's (PG) Crest and Oral-B brands is another longstanding battle between corporate giants, in this case for the hearts and mouths of global consumers.

In 2013, the two behemoths controlled almost 50% of the estimated $31 billion global oral hygiene market, according to TREFIS.

Playing David to these corporate Goliaths is Montclair, NJ-based Hello Products, which is trying to make a dent in the market with a "seriously friendly" line of toothpastes, mouthwashes, breath sprays and toothbrushes.

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"We think less of taking market share from the big guys and more about telling a different type of story," says Craig Dubitsky, the firm's founder and CEO. "The incumbents talk about killing and fighting. Our tact is to be friendly."

Hello is also trying to differentiate itself by offering 99% natural oral hygiene products with flavors like "Mojito Mint" and "Pink Grapefruit Mint." The firm also sells biodegradable toothbrushes that are made from 50% recycled materials. Hello's products are made in America and feature packaging designed by BMW Group subsidiary DesignworksUSA.

"We use design as a transformational tool," Dubitsky says. "I looked at this category [and] didn’t see a whole lot of love, nothing that sparked for me a warm fuzzy feeling. We bring...something a little more magical and fun and delicious."

Indeed, Hello Products are packaged very differently from the traditional toothpaste, mouthwash and breath fresheners, and the 99% natural ingredients represent a big break from the standard industry offerings.

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"If you were starting from scratch why wouldn’t you make it as natural as you could?" Dubitsky wonders. Otherwise, "it's like if Tesla (TSLA) came out and said ‘let’s put the biggest horsepower gasoline engine’" in its new cars.

Comparisons to Tesla may be a stretch, but the strategy appears to be working: Currently available at Walgreens (WAG), Duane Reade and select Target (TGT) stores, Hello Products will soon be in CVS (CVS), Kroger (KR) stores, and Ahold's Stop & Shop and Giant grocery chains. Dubitsky won't disclose sales data for the small, privately held company but Hello is slated to be in more than 18,000 stores by Sept. 30, up from 7,800 currently.

"You can’t disintermediate the need to brush your teeth [but] there is an opportunity to come in and disrupt [the market] in a polite way," he says. "If you tell a different story, the world is your oyster."

And if the oysters leave you with bad breath, Hello has an 'app' for that.

Aaron Task is the host of The Daily Ticker and Editor-in-Chief of Yahoo! Finance. You can follow him on Twitter at @aarontask or email him at altask@yahoo.com

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