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TeamCasey
04-18-2005, 08:06 AM
Gator Gubba's quickly covering chapped lips
Price, packaging and marketing make local brand major player

By Anna Guido
Enquirer contributor

Tim Burl (left) and Tamar Williams label Gator Gubba lip balm at Accupack Midwest Inc. in Bond Hill. With new outlets selling it, demand for the product has risen; now six people work full-time producing the lip balm.
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BOND HILL - Move over ChapStick, 99-cent Gator Gubba is here.

The Cincinnati-made lip balm sticks are outselling the market leader 2-to-1 at United Dairy Farmers stores in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana.

Gator Gubba was placed at the checkout counters of the locally owned chain of convenience stores just over six months ago.

The lip balm's colorful blue, green and yellow label is easy to spot, as is the brand's logo, a stylized gator wearing shades.

The gator doesn't mean anything. A focus group of school kids picked it out of nowhere. And the label is quick to note "we don't test on alligators or any other animals."

Along with the colorful label and gator, another lure may be that Gator Gubba is SPF 15 (a herbal variety is SPF 30) and boasts natural ingredients, including aloe, beeswax and avocado oil. Plus, the product sells for about 50 cents less per stick than ChapStick.

"We carry the market leader because people look for the market leader, but Gator Gubba is outselling ChapStick big time," UDF category manager Jay Scherer said.

Accupack Midwest Inc. in this Cincinnati neighborhood makes Gator Gubba under its KGM Consumer Group label. KGM is the marketing subsidiary of the family owned business, a packaging and filling company on Meta Drive.

Owner and founder Mark Proctor started manufacturing the lip balm in 1996 in the kitchen of his home in Green Township.

What inspired him? "I wanted my own product line," he said. "It's something I've always wanted to do."

Until recently, Gator Gubba was available only through Sally Beauty Co. Inc., a Denton, Texas, beauty supplies business with wholesale and retail outlets nationwide. The product wasn't that well known.

Gator Gubba sales are now triple what they were last year. Proctor attributes the growth to two things - UDF and his son, Greg.

"UDF has been great to us and instrumental in our growth," Mark Proctor said.

Greg Proctor, 22, joined the family business last year and immediately started marketing the lip balm.

"It really got off the ground when Greg got started," Proctor said.

Greg built it up carefully. "Dad was busy, and I actually had time to make KGM into a company," he said. "It took me awhile to get things going and to understand marketing."

Through the younger Proctor's marketing efforts, Gator Gubba is expected to be in hundreds of stores by the end of the year.

The pair would not disclose sales and production figures, but Greg said he has introduced Gator Gubba to nearly 500 distributors, retailers and "mom and pop" stores nationwide.

Competitors now know of Gator Gubba. "We were at a trade show and a competitor said, "Where did you guys come from? You're everywhere," Mark Proctor said.

In addition to Gator Gubba, Accupack makes a private-label arthritis cream called Joint Function GL. In the works is a Gator Gubba sunscreen lotion.

Increased Gator Gubba sales are likely to result in an expansion of the production line.

Where once a handful of employees worked on Gator Gubba one week a month, now a half dozen employees work on the lip balm full-time.

"I'll knock out a couple of walls," Mark Proctor said. "And we may have to convert to complete automation."