Turns out that brand loyalty in toothpaste is so high that retailers are reluctant to eliminate small brands after trying out a product because shoppers will actually go somewhere else. Over time this has led to retailers carrying quite a few brands and now consumers are getting annoyed at the quantity of selection.
From the WSJ:
It should be so easy: Buy toothpaste. But few shopping trips are more bewildering.
An explosion of specialized pastes and gels brag about their powers to whiten teeth, reduce plaque, curb sensitivity and fight gingivitis, sometimes all at the same time. Add in all the flavors and sizes, plus ever-rising prices, and the simple errand turns into sensory overload.
Manufacturers acknowledge the problem and are putting the brakes on new-product introductions. …
Trader Joe's intentionally limits selection possibly because when consumers are overloaded with choices it raises the cognitive demands of choosing. When we're under pressure, we're also more likely to pick the brand we're most familiar with, the one at eye level or the one on sale.
In The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less psychology professor Schwartz provides ample evidence that we are faced with far too many choices on a daily basis, providing an illusion of a multitude of options when few honestly different ones actually exist.
(H/T Simoleon Sense)