Listerine is one of the world's best-selling consumer healthcare brands. Until comparatively recently it was the oldest and biggest brand in the OTC portfolio of drugs giant Pfizer. That business was sold during 2006 to Johnson & Johnson, who now control the brand worldwide. Listerine is by far the biggest-selling mouthwash, and the only one to carry an endorsement from the American Dental Association. It controls around 37% of the global market (Euromonitor 2018), more than three times that of closest rival Crest Pro-Health and Crest Whitening mouthwash. Unlike most of its competitors, Listerine uses alcohol to activate its breath-freshening oils, causing a tingling sensation. Some users were found to dislike this effect, and as a result a range of less intense flavours are also available as well as several alcohol-free products. Listerine's sales have continued to build on the back of a series of clever spin-off products which have extended the brand into other parts of the oral care sector. Combined sales of the oral care unit within J&J Consumer - Listerine is the only sizeable brand - were $1.5bn in 2019. At retail, Listerine is estimated to have sales of as much as $1.9bn annually. Katie Martin Decker is global president of J&J's essential health division, comprising Listerine and other brands. Kamran Shahzad is US marketing lead. Listerine's main rivals are P&G's Crest, Scope and Oral-B variants. Other rivals vary from market to market but include Colgate's Plax, Sanofi/Chattem's Act, GSK's Aquafresh, Biotene and Corsodyl and Unilever's Pepsodent, Mentadent, Signal and Close-Up. Sales of mouthwash generally, including Listerine, rose during 2020 in the wake of the Covid pandemic. Colgate-Palmolive and Unilever both publicised research indicating that, at least under lab conditions, mouthwash might eradicate Covid particles in the mouth. However, Johnson & Johnson played down the implications of that research, saying that there was not sufficient evidence to promote mouthwash as a "cure" for Covid. Listerine was originally introduced commercially in the US in the late 19th century by one of the predecessors to drug company Warner-Lambert. It was named in honour of Sir Joseph Lister, the English physician who had been among the first scientists to develop what was then a revolutionary theory that airborne germs spread infection.
Capsule checked 9th January 2021
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