Oct. 17 Editor’s Note: The co-creation pilot program officially launched today. Approximately 50,000 TREO razors are available for consumers to test and can be requested at www.gillettetreo.com.
Gillette’s famous tagline is “The Best a Man Can Get.” But if that man is a senior being shaved by a caregiver, even the best razors from Gillette–or other companies–haven’t been doing a great job.
That’s what the company realized about a year ago, when it started to design a new razor for “assisted shaving,” says Sushant Trivedi, brand manager for Gillette Global. Now, senior living providers and tens of thousands of individual consumers are starting to test that razor, dubbed the Gillette TREO.
About 750 million men across the globe use razors made by Gillette, which is owned by consumer goods giant Procter & Gamble. With aging populations in many countries, that consumer base is growing older—a fact reflected on social media, Trivedi tells Senior Housing News.
“We started seeing conversations pop up like, ‘I just quit my job to take care of my father, what do I do?’ Or, ‘I’ve been to a nursing home and gave my grandfather a shave, and he cried,’” he says.
Messages like these prompted the company to reflect on the needs of an aging population. As part of that effort, Trivedi and Principal Design Engineer Matt Hodgson visited nursing facilities in the United Kingdom and the United States, and they were disturbed by what they saw.
“At one of the nursing homes, we were sitting in the back as the nurse administered a shave, and as the shaving foam was applied to [the man’s] face, and even before the first stroke was made, the individual was clinging to his wheelchair,” Trivedi says. “Here you’ve got an individual who wants a shave and doesn’t want a shave at the same time. He received a couple cuts. He could not let loose of the bar [on his chair]. I was not expecting to see that.”
Gillette pioneered the disposable razor, producing the first prototype in 1900. But in the nearly 120 years since then, these razors all have been designed for a man shaving himself; Trivedi, Hodgson, and a team at Gillette’s innovation lab in the U.K. have spent the last year changing that, creating the TREO.
The name TREO refers to the three parts of the product that have been adapted to make it easier and more effective for a caregiver to administer a shave. The blade itself has been fashioned so that it provides a safe shave and does not clog with hair—a common problem with the disposable razors used in many senior care settings, Trivedi says.
The handle has been re-fashioned as well.
“The modern T-shaped razor has been designed to hold in our own hand, but the ergonomics go out of whack when you turn it around,” Trivedi says. “It’s very difficult for the caregiver’s wrist, and tough to get in certain spots, such as under the nose. This one is like a paintbrush for the caregiver.”
The third component is a clear shaving gel built into the razor, which also acts as an aftershave. It’s meant to hydrate the hair without moving to a sink, soothe the person receiving the shave with a pleasing fragrance, and allow the caregiver to see the skin and avoid pre-existing cuts.
Bringing TREO to market
The TREO has already gone through several iterations after being tested in the field, including by senior care providers. It has been enthusiastically embraced by testers, Trivedi says. In one case, the medical director of a nursing facility told Gillette that caregivers and residents refused to use the old disposable razors after trying the TREO, he says.
Now, Gillette is officially kicking off what it calls a “co-creation pilot program.” Private-pay senior living providers, skilled nursing facilities, and individual consumers all are involved already.
He did not disclose the names of any of the senior living companies involved, but Trivedi says the number of medical providers in the pilot is in the double digits. There is a limited quantity of TREOs available for the pilot program, but Gillette still is open to partnering with additional organizations. The pilot does not yet have an active website, but one will be created in the next few weeks.
As for what the TREO will cost when the product does hit the market, Gillette is not yet sharing its target price point.
“The focus is to come up with the best solution at the most affordable price point,” Trivedi says. “We’re cognizant that price is a very important factor.”
Even if the TREO is more expensive than the disposable razors being used by providers today, they still could end up with cost savings by switching to Gillette’s product, he believes. In one facility, he saw a caregiver go through five razors in a single shave because the blade kept clogging with hair. Not only is it costly to use so many razors for one shave, there are costs associated with the sharps disposal for those razors.
“Getting rid of a sharps bin is 10, 20, 30 times more expensive than getting rid of usual trash,” Trivedi says.
Gillette has been focused on the price of its razors for the general consumer market, as it has faced stiff competition from startups like Harry’s and Dollar Shave Club, which offer razors on a low-cost subscription basis. To win back market share, Gillette has reduced prices on its razors—a move that Procter & Gamble expects will cut into earnings for the first half of 2018.
If the TREO gains significant traction among the caregiving crowd, that could give the company a boost.
“We know the market size is big,” Trivedi says.
He points to statistics about rapidly aging populations in the United States and other countries, as well as the 1.4 million skilled nursing residents and 835,200 residential care residents in the United States as of 2014.
But he downplays the business case, saying that a sense of mission has driven the creation of the TREO.
“There’s a lot of passion, a lot of desire from everyone working on this product,” Trivedi says.
Written by Tim Mullaney