Business As Usual

A Hapee smile for Pinoys

- Rose Dela Cruz -

Forty years ago, only one dominant toothpaste brand lingered in the mind of Filipino consumers to a point where it became a generic term for toothpaste. But slowly, this dominance was challenged and continues to be challenged by Hapee toothpaste, a product of 20-year old Lamoiyan Corp., an all Filipino company.

As of last year, Hapee accounted for over 20 percent of the P8 to P9 billion local toothpaste market sharing it almost equally with Unilever’s Close Up while Colgate retained the leadership with over 40 percent (from a high of 90 percent four decades ago).

Lamoiyan president Cecilio Pedro recalled that the battle for a share of the market pie was very difficult because “you had to keep reminding the consumers that there are other brands that suit the Filipino tongue and teeth better than the dominant brands.”

But Lamoiyan’s biggest edge in the local market was that it understands the Filipino mind better than the multinationals and it understands the economic nuances of the Filipino consumers. “So when we introduced toothpaste in sachets, something unheard of anywhere in the world, we clicked instantly because we were addressing both the need of Filipinos for oral hygiene at a price they could easily afford,” Pedro said.

It also reached out and partnered with dental associations and schools in promoting oral hygiene through easy to understand messages and distributing toothbrushes and toothpaste in the remote areas of the country.

“In our small way, we have improved the lives of people in the remote barangays. We have taught the people the value of constantly brushing (3 times a day) their teeth so they can keep flashing that world-famous warm Filipino smile,” Pedro said echoing the message of Dr. Eliezer B. Blanes, president of the Philippine Dental Association during the 100th anniversary of PDA held at the Mall of Asia last Jan.27.

Pedro also announced that Hapee has been going the rounds of the Asian market, the ethnic stores of America and even parts of the Middle East, where large communities of Filipinos abound.

“We will continue expanding our export markets because Filipinos abroad look for us there,” Pedro said.

But more than expanding its market share and revenues, Lamoiyan is more concerned about how to reach the “poorest of the poor” and “giving them the same opportunities as those in urban centers.”

Lamoiyan tied up with the Department of Education in promoting oral hygiene among public schoolchildren of poor families, whose income levels could hardly afford such “luxuries” as toothbrush and toothpaste. Lamoiyan had been spending P2 to P3 million a year for the past three years for such information and education campaigns.

The multinational companies, he said, used to do this before but abandoned the campaigns because of the huge cost. But Hapee—being a truly committed Filipino company—is sustaining the campaign at any cost, Pedro said.

His vision for Hapee is to be the second top brand in two to three years, here and abroad.

Lamoiyan’s plant has a capacity of 12,000 tons of toothpaste a year. “Right now, we depend on the market from balikbayans (returning to their work place) as well as from local distributors who farm out the toothpaste to ethnic stores,” Pedro said, adding that “maybe someday we will be sold in chain stores in the US, Middle East and even major centers in Southeast Asia and the entire Asia.”







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