It’s hard for me to stick to habits. Still, brushing my teeth is perhaps the only habit that I never let go of. But I know I am not doing it right. Thoughtlessly rubbing the brush over my teeth (usually only the front side) for maybe 30 seconds won’t cut it, I know.
And data shows this is exactly what most Americans are doing. They are slacking off when it comes to brushing their teeth. They are just quickly going through the motions without following the recommended routine — placing your brush at a 45-degree angle to the gums, gently moving the brush back and forth, cleaning inside surfaces of the front teeth, tilting the brush for…. it goes on and on. That’s why dental visits are skyrocketing. The CDC says 42% of adults have some form of gum disease.
This is where the electric toothbrush comes in.
The Rise of the Electric Toothbrush
Electric toothbrushes are gaining popularity, especially among young Americans. Study after study is proving that electric toothbrushes do a better job at removing plaque from your teeth when compared to manual brushes. According to Statista, around 131 million Americans used electric toothbrushes as of 2020. This figure is estimated to reach 138 million in the next two years.
Until a few years back, the electric toothbrush industry, which is expected to reach $5 billion by 2030, was dominated by major players like Philips and Oral B. But now, ambitious new startups are betting to disrupt the market.
One of the most notable of these is Brüush, Canadian-based electric toothbrush company founded by Aneil Manhas in 2018.
Before founding Brüush about four years ago, Aneil served as President and CEO of an outdoor recreational vehicle company (ATVs, dirt bikes, etc.) and also founded an electric bike company.
Insider Monkey sat down with Aneil to ask what inspired him to launch an electric toothbrush company, discuss future growth plans for Brüush and what key problems he’s trying to solve in the industry.
The Beginning of Brüush
What initially got Aneil’s attention was how cumbersome the buying experience was when it came to electric toothbrushes.
“You have to get an attendant to go unlock the case, figure out what brush head fits your device, determine whether you need soft bristles or extra soft bristles – you know, a very cumbersome process,” said Aneil.
Keenly aware of the disruption going on in the razor industry, Aneil thought: Why not apply the same model to a similar problem in the oral hygiene industry?
“I was very intrigued with the subscription razor businesses, Dollar Shave Club and Harry’s, and how successfully they disrupted that industry. And really at that point was just very surprised that nobody had taken that model, which had worked so well for that category, and applied it to the electric toothbrush industry because I thought the problem was very similar with the electric toothbrush heads being expensive and the retail buying experience being very poor.”
Why Aren’t People Moving from Manual to Electric Toothbrushes?
Aneil thinks part of the reason why young Americans aren’t making the shift from manual toothbrushes to electric despite the obvious health benefits is the weak value proposition, a problem his company is trying to solve.
“I think dentists would agree that you should be brushing electric over manual. But despite that being the case, the vast majority of North Americans are still using a manual brush, which really speaks to the fact that they haven’t found the electric brush value proposition compelling.”
Aneil believes Brüush is solidifying the value proposition problem by offering a quality product at an affordable price.
“On one hand you have the Philips Sonicare and Oral B who make great product, but it can be expensive with their high-end models retailing for over $200. On the other hand, you have some emerging players that offer products at a lower price point, in that $50 to $80 range, but their product quality is far inferior. What we really tried to do is bridge the gap and offer a product that’s comparable with the Philips Sonicare and the Oral B high-end models, but at the lower price point of $79.”
Brüush’s Addressable Market: “Everybody with Teeth”
When asked what share of the growing market — expected to cross $6 billion by 2031 — he thinks Brüush could capture in the next five years, Aneil didn’t provide a percentage, but noted that the company’s addressable market is extremely large – virtually “everybody with teeth!” So far, Brüush has had a lot of success capturing the millennial and Generation Z customer, which are demographic groups that are underpenetrated when it comes to using an electric toothbrush.
“70% of our customers are within that 18 to 45 year old demographic. I think the other important thing to note is that we’re very much going after the person that’s currently using a manual brush and trying to convince them that there’s never been a more opportune time to upgrade to electric. Sure, we have people that have switched from a Phillips Sonicare or an Oral B to a Brüush, but our target customer is very much that 18 to 45 year old manual brush user.”
It seems Brüush is laser-focused to woo digital-savvy, younger audiences who spend a lot of time on social media and love to brag about the cool new digital stuff they buy. Brüush has over 28,000 followers on Instagram and the brand signed a partnership with comedian Kevin Hart in 2020, who is featured in several promotional videos for the company on YouTube.
Brüush is focused on scaling its subscriber base and is also very excited to be expanding its oral care lineup early next year. Aneil briefly touched upon the company’s future plans:
“When I think about the rest of 2022 and beyond, first and foremost it’s scaling our e-commerce business. We have 28,000 subscribers currently and are obviously looking to increase that number aggressively. I think the other important thing to note is that we’re going to be launching five new oral care products next year. We’re going be launching four consumable products, toothpaste, mouthwash, dental floss and a whitening pen all in the first quarter of next year, followed by an electric toothbrush design for kids in the second quarter. All of the new products will be high quality and have the same premium look and feel as our electric toothbrush.”
Asked if he believes electric toothbrushes come under the category of consumer discretionary and if his company could face revenue growth challenges as consumers cut back on discretionary spending due to rising inflation, Aneil said:
“I think one of the benefits of an electric toothbrush is the fact that you’re making a $79 investment that comes with significant oral care benefits. Firstly, having clean, white teeth and nice smile is an important part of one’s overall confidence. Furthermore, an investment into an electric toothbrush could in fact lead to cost savings down the road since improved oral health could reduce the need for future dental work. So, when you think of how important maintaining good oral hygiene is, I think a $79 investment is still modest when you weigh it against the benefits of using a high-quality electric toothbrush product.”
Aneil said Brüush has not seen any fall in revenue growth due to the current inflation problem.
Aneil, who went to Ivey Business School at Western University for his Honors in Business Administration (HBA), thinks low price isn’t the only factor that differentiates Brüush from industry juggernauts like Philips and Oral B. He also speaks to the convenience of Brüush’s subscription model and the sleek design of Brüush products as important parts of the company’s value proposition.
Once you buy a Brüush toothbrush and subscribe to their auto refill plan, the company sends you three new brush heads every 6 months for $18.
Because Brüush has been targeting a younger demographic, it wanted to stand out in terms of design and steer clear of the “medical device” look and feel for its products.
“We really wanted to design something that was unique, that our target demographic would be proud to have on their countertop. So, we paid a lot of attention to detail, not just the unit itself, but also to the packaging. I think our unboxing experience is very Apple-esque and really sets the stage well for that consumer’s kind of first use of the product. It also creates a very shareable moment on social media, which we’ve really benefited from as many of our consumers have showcased the product and their unboxing experience on Instagram helping to build awareness.”
Asked whether Brüush could consider moving into emerging markets to offset rising competition in North America, Aneil said the company would “absolutely” consider this opportunity down the road.
“When I think about the future, we certainly want to expand our distribution footprint. So far, we’ve been focused on scaling our e-commerce business. But we want to take an omni-channel approach and add some retail partnerships, as well as some dental partnerships. Also, North America is a very competitive market when it comes to oral care, so we are also going to look at expanding into some new geographies.”
Aneil believes the future is bright for his company and he’s excited about the upcoming products and business cycle.
“I think we are on the cusp of a high growth, exciting phase for the business, especially when you consider that the holiday shopping period is around the corner and the new product launches we have coming in the new year.”