From dental hygiene for pets to over-the-counter remedies, the wafer-thin dissolving strip shows no sign of meltdown.

The three-year-old, melt-in-your-mouth wafer-thin strip certainly has gained momentum among consumers since the 2001 launch of Pfizer's Listerine PocketPaks. Dissolving breath freshening strips hit US$200m in US sales just one year later and it's been off to the races ever since on the new products front.

According to the Naples, NY-based Productscan Online database of new products, a total of 128 different strip products hit packaged goods markets around the world in just the first nine months of 2004, more than a five-fold increase from 2002.  But what is even more impressive is how the market for dissolving film strips is spreading to new categories, including OTCs and pet treats/dental hygiene.

"Looking ahead, Listerine PocketPaks may go down in history as the starting point of an entirely new category of products," said Tom Vierhile, executive editor of Productscan Online. "While breath fresheners were a starting point for the strip technology, they are plenty of signs that the dissolving strip delivery system may just be getting started."

Wafer-thin strips for a bad cough

Consumers who have trouble swallowing pills will be happy to know that dissolving film strip-based vitamins are beginning to hit the market. Earlier this year, Marlton, NJ-based Momentus Solutions debuted Healthy Moments Arthur Supplement Strips for Children featuring the popular children's character Arnold in a range of flavours including Bubble Yellow, Tangy Lemonade and Wacky Watermelon Multi-Vitamin Strips.

Cold and flu medication makers also appear to be bullish on dissolving film strips. Parisippany, NJ-based Novartis has debuted Theraflu Thin Strips in varieties like Long Acting Cough and Cough & Runny Nose in Cherry and Grape flavours, respectively. Both are said to "melt instantly" with "no mess" unlike liquid cough and cold medications.  "These could be the first of many pharmaceutical products based on edible, dissolving film strip technology," said Vierhile.

Dogs love it too

Even pet product manufacturers are getting in on the act. Totowa, NJ-based Health-Tech, Inc. thinks that dissolving film strips have canine appeal. The company introduced Lickety Strips Dissolving Treat Strips this past spring as the "quickest, most convenient way to train, treat & reward your dog." Dogs are expected to take to the Beef, Bacon, Chicken, Liver and Peanut Butter-flavoured treat strips that come in a bone-shaped dispenser.

Yip Yap Breath Strips for Dogs, The Sock Puppet Instant Breath Strips with Calcium and Hartz Natural Mint Flavor Dental Breath-Strips for Dogs are similar introductions that have hit the market this year.

A worldwide phenomenon

This trend is not confined to the United States only.  Productscan Online has logged breath strip introductions in the Netherlands, Japan, South Africa, the Philippines, Colombia and the United Kingdom this year, to name just a few countries.

One of the more interesting permutations of the dissolving film strip trend is the launch of Pocket Suds Soap on the Go! Dissolving Soap Strips in the United Kingdom. New from Ranir Corp., the strips are packaged just like breath strips, but are formulated with tea tree oil as a natural antibacterial agent. The strip format offers strong convenience benefits as it is much more portable than bar soaps, shower gels or even waterless hand cleaners.

Another innovative use of the dissolving film strip technology comes from Gloucester, MA-based Alltracel Pharma which is just introducing Seal-On Blotters for Minor Cuts + Shaving Nicks in the United States. Packaged just like breath strips, these thin film strips are to be placed on minor cuts such as shaving nicks. The strips then form a gel-like layer over the wound to stop bleeding fast and speed healing.

"One of the few limitations of dissolving film strips right now is the size of most strip products. The small size means that only a limited quantity of active ingredients will fit onto a strip. Larger size strips could be one solution to this size constraint. Don't be surprised to see larger dissolving film strips just around the corner," added Vierhile.