Never Heard of Hoed & Shouders? It’s a Top Seller in Venezuela

Products such as Convenrt toothpaste and Yahnsan’s soap illustrate a knockoff brand bonanza in a country with massive product shortages.
Corrected

You most likely have tried, or at least heard of, Head & Shoulders shampoo. But Hoed & Shouders? No? How about Max Quottro razors or Aluays pads or Yahnsan’s soap?

In the economic basket case that is Venezuela, these are the hot new consumer products. Very distant relatives of famous American-born brands, they are crowding shelves that earlier this year were pretty much empty of anything, authentic or otherwise, that most people could afford.

 A Caracas grocery store sells “hoed & shouders” shampoo.
Photographer: Fabiola Ferrero/Bloomberg

Now there’s an alternative-universe bonanza of copycats from China with labels that read like brand names tossed into a blender.

Shoppers might be fooled by packaging that shamelessly mimics what’s for sale in the U.S. The unpronounceable Convenrt, for instance, is in Colgate toothpaste’s classic white-on-red script. But flip the containers around, and the fine print discloses that the items hail from Hong Kong, or Guangdong, or Fujian provinces. Some don’t list any ingredients; some list a few that are vaguely similar to what’s in the original. While these knockoffs would seem to infringe on the intellectual property of companies like Johnson & Johnson and Procter & Gamble Co., legal cases can be tough to pursue in developing countries like Venezuela. 

The surge in knockoffs is welcome—though not exactly a cause for celebration—in a country where the socialist government’s byzantine system of economic controls has sparked acute shortages of toilet paper, antibiotics, bread, and much more. That the clones are on the cheapish side is a plus. Inflation is out of control in Venezuela, running at an annual pace of more than 2,000 percent over the past three months, according to Bloomberg’s Cafe Con Leche Index.

Head & Shoulders sells for 118,000 bolivares, but Hoed & Shouders is 32,000. That’s about half the cost of a filling lunch in Caracas. Not bad, especially if it really makes your scalp stop itching.

“Quottro” shavers for sale in Caracas. 
Photographer: Fabiola Ferrero/Bloomberg

 

“Convenrt” toothpaste for children. 
Photographer: Fabiola Ferrero/Bloomberg
“Yahnsan’s” soap. 
Photographer: Fabiola Ferrero/Bloomberg

 

“Pentex” and “aluays” hygiene products in Caracas.
Photographer: Fabiola Ferrero/Bloomberg

 

(Corrects spelling of Guangdong in fourth paragraph and annual rate of inflation in fifth paragraph. Updates to detail difficulty of following legal cases in Venezuela.)