DIY toothpaste maker’s journey to $12 million in sales

A surprising solution to the plastic pandemic is rising in popularity — zero-waste toothpaste tablets.
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An estimated 1.5 billion toothpaste tubes are discarded into landfills every year worldwide, and a lot of that plastic ends up in the ocean. But rather than reinvent the tubes themselves, a unique solution to the plastic pandemic is rising in popularity — zero-waste toothpaste tablets.

Often packaged in reusable aluminum or glass jars, toothpaste tablets are essentially toothpaste in a powdered form that’s pressed into a pill-sized tablet. Using them requires chewing a single tablet and letting it dissolve into a paste with a little help from saliva, or a swig of water before brushing.

In hopes of mitigating plastic pollution, more and more consumers are saying goodbye to tubes altogether and instead, adding these eco-friendly toothpaste tablets to their daily oral care routine. 

Why Toothpaste Tablets Are Going Viral

Just because this toothpaste comes in a solid state doesn’t mean consumers have to sacrifice any health benefits, or that satisfactory fresh-mouth feeling delivered by traditional toothpaste. Many toothpaste tablet brands use a similar formula as compared to leading oral care brands.

In addition to a focus on protecting the planet, brands like Bite place a strong emphasis on ingredients that are good for the body, too. Bite’s toothpaste tablets use all-natural ingredients like sodium bicarbonate (standard baking soda), calcium carbonate (the stuff that makes up limestone), and xylitol (a natural sweetener).

Even better, tablet formulas have no need for potentially harmful preservatives such as parabens. (Liquid mixtures are prone to breeding bacteria and mold over time, so without these ingredients, toothpaste wouldn’t stay fresh).

With so many benefits, it’s no surprise that the market for plastic-free toothpaste tablets is growing. It’s currently valued at about $20 million and expected to almost double over the next five years. A single package of the tablets can run around $10, and many companies are getting in on the action: Native, Hello, and Archtek, to name a few.

But the undisputed leader in the toothpaste tablet revolution is Bite, the company that made the little bits go viral in the first place. 

The Brand That Started It All  

Lindsay McCormick founded Bite in 2017 to give consumers a toothpaste alternative that was plastic-free from start to finish. After noticing her own wastefulness while going through countless mini toothpaste tubes on business trips, McCormick embarked on the venture with zero experience in the oral care industry.

“I was still working full time, and then I was on Bite until two or three in the morning,” McCormick recalls. After unsuccessfully testing hundreds of recipes, attending online chemistry classes, and turning to conversations with dentists for help, she landed on the perfect powdered formula to compress into a bite-sized tablet.

Running off of sheer will and determination, McCormick built her business from the ground up, but it wasn’t easy. She knew that as a small startup, and one with a commitment to a sustainable supply chain, the cards were already stacked against her.

In its first year of business, Bite sold just $6,000 worth of toothpaste tablets. But after a viral Facebook video garnered millions of views, sales skyrocketed. In the following week, the company made $200,000 worth of sales — it was every entrepreneur’s dream.

McCormick later pitched her idea on the hit show Shark Tank where she received an offer of $325,000 for a 15% stake in the company from Mark Cuban. Even after turning down Cuban’s offer, McCormick and Bite have seen incredible success. The company now offers a complete line of sustainable and all-natural oral care products, from plant-based dental floss to toothbrushes.

A Commitment to Sustainability

What makes Bite unique from other manufacturers of toothpaste tablets? The brand doesn’t just claim to care about the environment; it’s fiercely committed to ensuring that every ingredient is sustainable.

When customers pointed out that the palm oil used in an older formula might not be sustainably sourced, McCormick immediately took action. Although Bite’s toothpaste bits contained Ecocert palm oil, after doing some digging, McCormick couldn’t confirm that the oil wasn’t coming from at-risk areas.

The rapid harvesting of palm oil, used in countless products from soap to tortilla chips, has decimated forests in Indonesia and Malaysia, and destroyed habitats for already-endangered orangutans. “By our customers calling it out, my eyes were opened to that issue,” McCormick says, “and we decided to completely reformulate.”

The move to reformulate a tried-and-true tablet was risky, as it meant finding new sources and increased pricing. But the company went above and beyond, choosing to absorb the increased costs to do right by their customers.

And their supporters responded to that decision in a big way. Just months after going palm oil free on Earth Day in 2020, the company’s sales nearly doubled. “For me, that was just a reminder that doing good in business, is good for business,” McCormick says.

McCormick’s sustainable toothpaste tablets aren’t just a good business idea; they’re helping prove to big-name brands that consumers care about the environmental impact of their practices. As Bite’s website states: every little bit counts.

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