The toothpaste industry may be a difficult one to break into, but New Orleans-based Theodent – the maker of a luxury, non-toxic, fluoride-free toothpaste – is doing just that. Theodent has three toothpastes on the market – Theodent Classic, Theodent Kids, & Theodent 300 – that eliminate the need for fluoride and use Rennou, a patented mineral derived from cacao, which the company says will stimulate the growth of tooth enamel. Additionally, Theodent is non-toxic, and thus safe to swallow, which has the potential to be disruptive in the oral hygiene market. Although all of the company owners are Louisiana residents, Theodent’s main markets include California, Texas and the Northeast United States. Theodent executive Jantzen Hubbard tells the company’s Louisiana innovation story:
[Q] What was the inspiration behind Theodent?
[A] Theodent toothpaste was born in 2012, based on the research of Drs. Tetsuo Nakamoto, William Simmons, Alexander Falster and Arman Sadeghpour, through a collaborative research effort with Tulane University, The University of New Orleans, and the Louisiana State University School of Dentistry. Theodent toothpaste is the culmination of 30 years of basic science research that ultimately translated into intellectual property and commercialization due to the enormous economic potential of replacing fluoride in all oral care products on the market. The founders of Theodent, Tetsuo Nakamoto, Arman Sadeghpour, William Simmons and Joseph Fuselier were determined to create a biotech company in New Orleans that would start a revolution in oral care and ultimately help millions of people all over the world to strengthen their enamel and reduce dental cavities.
[Q] Why did the founders pick Louisiana to develop Theodent?
[A] Theodent was created in Louisiana because it is a product of Louisiana academic institutions and Louisiana residents. Theodent will remain in Louisiana because it’s a great place to do business. Evidenced by the variety of incentives it offers, the State of Louisiana seems motivated to maintain that reputation.
Coincidentally, Theodent toothpaste is not the only dental industry breakthrough birthed in Louisiana. In fact, dental floss’ origin is traced to Dr. Levi Parmley, a New Orleans dentist, in 1815.
The unexpected advantage of establishing in Louisiana was the State of Louisiana’s Angel Investor Tax Credit and the Research and Development tax credits. These programs were instrumental in helping the company raise capital and help pay for the extensive research and development a biotech company has to employ to get a product on the market.
[Q] What is Theodent doing that no other company is doing?
[A] The vast majority of toothpaste for sale in markets across the world contains fluoride, a controversial additive. Theodent toothpaste contains a compound found in chocolate that is clinically proven more effective at remineralizing and strengthening human enamel with none of the toxicity. Consumers everywhere are continually becoming more aware of what they put in and on their bodies, causing a boom in the natural-products industry. Theodent provides a safer alternative to fluoride-based toothpastes, uniquely qualified to follow this consumer behavior evolution.
[Q] How does Theodent impact the Louisiana economy?
[A] As one of the first biotech companies in New Orleans, and the first commercial product out of the BioInnovation Center on Canal St., we are leading the way for others to follow. Theodent is currently being sold in Whole Foods Market stores all over the country, and we are partnering with distributors in Canada, Hong Kong, Russia and Japan. We’ve won international design awards for excellence in packaging and have been featured in The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Wall Street Journal and in fashion magazines such as W Magazine, Cosmopolitan, Elle Canada, Essence Magazine and Marie Claire. This continued brand expansion will continue to bring positive attention to Louisiana’s business climate and provide the state with tax revenue.
[Q] What challenges did Theodent face in the development phase, and how did it overcome them?
[A] Clearly, it’s difficult for a young toothpaste to compete with giants in the industry like Crest and Colgate. We knew that if we went with traditional packaging and branding, our products would get lost in a sea of blue, green and white boxes on the toothpaste aisle at the grocery store. We decided to go with an innovative fresh take on toothpaste packaging with a super luxe stark brown and copper color palette with our packaging, which has subsequently won several high profile design awards and generated a lot of press purely through packaging innovation. Theodent has now achieved a Red Dot Design Award and two shiny International Packaging Design Awards.