In case you are wondering what the opportunity cost of our consumer culture is, I suggest it is 234%: the net difference between a tube of Crest or Colgate toothpaste and their lowly competitor: AIM.

There are over 330 million people in the United States; almost all of us use toothpaste. The American toothpaste market is dominated by two major brands: Colgate (36% market share) and Crest (30% market share). That leaves a third of the playing field for all those down-market brands, such as Aquafresh, Ultrafresh, Arm & Hammer, and that 50’s favorite, Pepsodent; plus the niche pastes like Sensodyne, Parodontax, and Pronamel; as well as the preferred choice of the crunchy set: Tom’s of Maine.

I don’t use any of those toothpastes. I use AIM, a reddish gel, manufactured in New Jersey. AIM sells for $1.19 cents per 5.5-ounce tube at my local Target, as opposed to $2.79 for a similar size tube of Colgate or Crest. If you live near a Family Dollar, you can still get AIM for a mere 99 cents.

Surely, AIM must be inferior to Crest or Colgate, since it sells for less than half the price. I asked my hygienist, who informed me that AIM is easily as good as other mass market toothpastes. They all have fluoride, and AIM’s gel consistency is better for teeth and gums than abrasive toothpastes. I also checked online, where an NBC survey of dentists confirmed that AIM is considered equivalent by most dentists, and actually preferred by many.

So if AIM is equally good at less than half the price, it must dominate the market, right? The toothpaste aisle of my Target has rows and rows of Colgate and Crest, in a dizzying array of tube sizes, with a variety of embedded features. On the bottom shelf sits a single-wide stack of AIM.

Why is it that a perfectly good toothpaste that sells for dimes on the dollar of the popular brands has such a small market share, and so little shelf space? The answer is simple. When was the last time you saw an advertisement for AIM?

The next time you buy toothpaste, you can save 234% if you simply reach down to the bottom shelf. Or, choose Crest and Colgate and rack up another victory for Madison Avenue.


About paulefallon

Greetings reader. I am a writer, architect, cyclist and father from Cambridge, MA. My primary blog, is an archive of all my published writing. The title refers to a sequence of three yoga positions that increase focus and build strength by shifting the body’s center of gravity. The objective is balance without stability. My writing addresses opposing tension in our world, and my attempt to find balance through understanding that opposition. During 2015-2106 I am cycling through all 48 mainland United States and asking the question "How will we live tomorrow?" That journey is chronicled in a dedicated blog,, that includes personal writing related to my adventure as well as others' responses to my question. Thank you for visiting.
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2 Responses to AIM!

  1. Larry says:

    Funny. I have used Ultrabrite for many years. You missed them in your list. I like the taste, I get good check-ups and I think it keeps my teeth somewhat white despite drinking black coffee and red wine all the time. You can only find it at Dollar stores (for a dollar) and I bought a bulk box online recently from a dollar store.

  2. paulefallon says:

    I like the idea of buying bulk, especially if it tastes good!

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