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Shining bright: Grin Natural’s campaign encourages education and awareness of Kiwi kids’ dental health

In 2013 Tara Tan says she couldn’t find a natural toothpaste on the market that inspired her, celebrated nature, and was a product she was compelled to use. 

“The market was full of big brands competing to out-shine one another with bold packaging and explosive graphics but so many of these products were full of synthetic chemicals, wrapped in glossy petro-plastic wrapping,” she says.

An idea was sparked, and after 18 months of researching, testing and refining, Grin Natural was born. Now, Tan is the general manager and co-founder for Grin Natural, and its toothbrushes and toothpastes are stocked in over 600 retailers around the country.

The company offers cornstarch and bamboo toothbrushes, with biodegradable handles, and natural toothpastes which include ingredients such as manuka oil, fennel and organic sea salt. A recent offering from the brand are two kids’ toothbrushes, coming in pink and orange (as with other Grin Natural products, they have biodegradable handles and are made from corn starch) and kids’ toothpaste. 

While toothbrushes for children are nothing new, Grin Natural decided to make it more than just about the product, launching a ten-week nationwide campaign ‘Share a Grin’ in early July, alongside Rowena Bahl Creative. For every Grin Natural product purchased at a New World supermarket or online, the company is donating an eco-friendly toothbrush to a Kiwi kid in need with the goal of donating 50,000. 

The donated toothbrushes will be distributed via local charities and organisations selected by New World, school events and through social enterprise Eat My Lunch, and social media influencer Makaia Carr has been appointed as campaign ambassador.   

Grin Natural’s marketing manager Paul Stokes says New World is a natural fit for the company and ensures a strong distribution countrywide to make sure those outside of the Eat My Lunch delivery catchment (Auckland/Wellington/Hamilton) receive toothbrushes.

“New World is also made up of owner-operators who are passionate about giving back to their local communities,” he says.

Foodstuffs is yet to confirm which local charities will receive the donated toothbrushes, which Stokes says sits currently at 23,000 brushes ready for allocation. 

As well as the donated toothbrushes, there is an educational layer to the campaign with visits to schools to raise awareness of the importance of dental hygiene. The visits consist of a talk from a dental hygienist, interactive roleplays, and brushing session.

Stokes says the role plays simulate certain scenarios, such as what happens when you eat certain foods.

‘We want to make it fun and enjoyable and understand for five-year-olds and above,” he says. The talks cater to children up to the age of 12.

Stokes says school visits are currently focused on low decile (1 – 3) schools in Auckland, Hamilton and Christchurch, with 20 schools visited so far, with a visit to Clendon Park School in Manurewa next up.

Education is crucial, and the earlier the better, says Stokes, in order to ensure less long-term dental problems. This is light of a report from Child Poverty Action Group which found that dental caries (commonly known as tooth decay) is the most common chronic disease seen in children, and is one of the leading causes of hospitalisation for children in New Zealand.

 “In order to play our part in a more effective way, we couldn’t just give a bunch of brushes away – the promotional model on its own wouldn’t be enough. This is why we’ve created an educational layer as part of the campaign, to really address some of those underlying issues that have been discovered by organisations like Child Poverty Action Group,” says Stokes. 

Tan says she is extremely proud of how the campaign has gone so far – and hopes to see the initiative excel in providing as many Kiwi kids with toothbrushes as possible.

And it’s not just the campaign which is resonating with Kiwis, as Stokes says the company is growing at approximately 300 percent year-on-year over the last two years, and over 50 customers have taken advantage of the company’s recycling programme (where tubes and toothbrush bristles can be recycled), ensuring another good step towards a better Aotearoa. 

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