A young company that sells kid-friendly oral health care products continues to grow, but its officers say it has been more challenging than expected to break into the market.
Mick Janness, president of Branam Oral Health Technologies, said the Toledo, Ohio, company shipped its largest order to date on Wednesday and will have its products in as many as 1,300 new stores this month.
"That's a significant accomplishment. We're proud of it, but at the same time, we've got a lot more to get done to bring the company to the next level where we ultimately want to be," Mr. Janness said.
With the new stores, Branam's toothpastes, tooth gel and chewing gum will be in roughly 3,000 stores in all 50 states.
The idea behind the company came from pediatric dentist Steve Branam.
Mr. Branam, whose office is in Oregon, said tooth decay has decreased in every age group over the past 15 years except those 2 to 5 years old.
In that group of youngsters, it has grown significantly.
Already the holder of a patent on an alternative pacifier design aimed at reducing tooth and mouth problems, Mr. Branam looked to xylitol to develop a line of products that would reduce tooth decay in young children.
High concentrations of the naturally occurring, safe-to-ingest sweetener have been shown to reduce mouth bacteria that causes tooth decay and cavities.
Mr. Branam and Mr. Janness said their company uses xylitol from a variety of U.S. suppliers who produce it from birch trees and corn plants.
Mr. Janness joined Mr. Branam in 2008, and Branam Oral Health Technologies began signing distribution deals in 2010.
The company was expecting sales of $3 million in 2011, but a lack of capital investment kept that from happening.
Even though the company has proven revenues, many investors aren't interested. That, Mr. Janness said, is indicative of the struggle that non-tech startups face.
The company has received about $1 million from investors, including more than $700,000 from Rocket Ventures, a venture capital fund.
Sales are on track to reach a pace of $1 million annually by the end of this year. Officials hope to be profitable by the first quarter of 2014.
In addition to challenges over finding funding, Mr. Branam has been frustrated both as a dentist and as a businessman by the lack of a focus on prevention of tooth decay, especially in young children.
"Most dentists treat tooth decay as a condition," he said. "You come in, you have a cavity, we drill it out, we fill it and you're good to go. Tooth decay is a disease caused by bacteria."
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recognizes xylitol as an effective way to help prevent cavities. Mr. Branam said a 90-day blind study on patients in his office found that his toothpaste lowered decay-causing bacteria in children's mouths by 72 percent.
Other studies of xylitol's effectiveness have shown mixed results.
Mr. Branam said the effectiveness depends on getting the right concentration.
His Yum Yum Bubblegum toothpaste -- the company's top selling product -- is 33 percent xylitol by volume.
Block News Alliance consists of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and The Blade of Toledo, Ohio. Tyrel Linkhorn is a reporter for The Blade.