The Oral Care Market

November 8, 2005

All major segments of the market, toothpase, toothbrush and mouthwash, are growing thanks to higher-priced new product introductions

All major segments of the market, toothpaste, toothbrush and mouthwash, are growing thanks to higher-priced new product introductions

By James P. Hickey
Associate Editor

In a society that cares about appearance as much as the U.S. does, consumers continually look for new, innovative oral care products to provide an extra sparkle to their smiles. Oral care companies are marketing their products to different consumer segments in order to capture dollars in this growing segment. Toothbrushes made with bendable tips and a toothpaste that combats morning breath are just two of the new products in this category.

These product innovations have led to sales gains for all three oral care categories. In the toothpaste category, dollar sales rose 4% to $1.7 billion for the year ended Dec. 5, 1999, according to Information Resources, Inc. (IRI), Chicago. Colgate sits atop the category with sales of $475 million, up 5.3% from last year. Second place Crest’s sales rose 8.7% to $444 million. Aquafresh ($181 million), Mentadent ($136 million) and Arm & Hammer ($71 million) round out the top five.

Toothbrush sales rose 6.4% to $706 million for the year ended Dec. 5, 1999 according to IRI. Gillette’s Oral B brand had the three top sellers in the market: Advantage ($73 million), CrossAction ($50 million) and Indicator ($48 million). Private label sales totaled $47 million for fourth place and Colgate’s Wave was No. 5 with sales of $32 million.

Mouthwash sales rose 3.8% to $677 million for the year ended Dec. 5, 1999 according to IRI. Listerine dominated the market with $293 million in sales, up 7.3% from last year. Private label brands accounted for $133 million in sales, up 1.3%. Scope, with sales of $111 million, Plax ($38 million) and Act ($19 million) round out the top five.


Nighttime Relief
A new arrival to the toothpaste category is Arm & Hammer’s P.M. Billed as the first nighttime toothpaste to fight “nighttime breath,” P.M. is the company’s biggest opportunity for success with a new product since it entered the market in the late 1980s, according to Arm & Hammer.

Arm & Hammer P.M., offered in fresh and bold mint formulas, is specifically formulated to help fight nighttime breath, the unpleasant experience shared by every consumer, said Larry Koslow, vice president of marketing, Church & Dwight. “The reason for launching this new product is simply that consumers needed it,” said Mr. Koslow. “There are differences in oral care needs between day and night and currently no product deals with these nighttime issues.”

According to company research, saliva flow slows down at night allowing plaque to build up and odor-causing germs to form, creating “nighttime mouth.” Arm & Hammer P.M. is specifically formulated to fight this conditon with a combination of ingredients not found in any other toothpaste. “Both P.M. products have a continuous action formula, with zinc citrate, that provides a fresh clean feeling long after brushing,” said Mr. Koslow. “This formula remineralizes teeth every time it is used, reduces plaque in the middle of the night and fights odor-causing germs.”

P.M. Fresh Mint formula is also Arm & Hammer’s first non-baking soda toothpaste. “Fresh mint offers a smooth texture and a great taste while bold mint has baking soda and peroxide to deliver the strong mint taste consumers have long associated with Arm & Hammer,” said Mr. Koslow. According to the company, Arm & Hammer P.M. does not promise minty fresh “morning breath” upon awakening but fights and inhibits the build-up of germs over-night.

Consumer research indicates that P.M. will be the most widely accepted Arm & Hammer new product launch. According to the company, market research performed by Bases placed P.M. in the top 20% of toothpaste ideas ever tested. To support the product’s introduction, the company will invest $25 million to build consumer awareness with $15 million of that spent on advertising and a direct mailing program to more than 20 million consumers.

Colgate-Pal-molive is also introducing a new toothpaste this month, Colgate Sensitive Maximum Strength toothpaste. According to the company, the dual-formula technology in the toothpaste delivers maximum strength relief to consumers with sensitive teeth while fighting cavities with fluoride.

In development for more than five years, the new toothpaste has been clinically proven to be more effective than the competition in relieving the pain from sensitive teeth, according to the company. With regular use, it provides long-lasting protection against sudden sensations from hot, cold and sweet foods.

The company will launch a toothbrush with the toothpaste. With its soft bristles, compact head, flexible neck and rubber thumb grip, Colgate Sensitive toothbrush is designed to gently clean sensitive teeth and minimize pressure on gums.


The Market Brightens
The tooth whitening segment within the toothpaste category continues to grow, according to oral care executives interviewed by Happi. The whitening segment, the largest segment in the toothpaste category, is up 159% in dollar sales since 1996, according to A.C. Nielsen Co., and continues to expand in popularity. To capitalize on this, industry leader Colgate introduced Ultra Brite baking soda & peroxide whitening toothpaste last March. According to the company, the new product provides premium whitening and baking soda and peroxide benefits at a value price.

SmithKline Beecham launched its own whitening toothpaste last year, Aquafresh Whitening Advanced Freshness. “As the population ages, baby boomers are viewing oral care as a means to maintain a healthy lifestyle and a youthful appearance,” said Leslie Ashburn, communications supervisor, SmithKline Beecham.

Aquafresh Whitening Advanced Freshness is billed as a teeth whitener that kills germs in places a brush can’t reach while providing the benefit of long-lasting fresh breath. “A holistic approach to health and increasing demand to retain youthfulness is evident in the significant growth of whitening products, such as Aquafresh Whitening Toothpaste, in the marketplace,” Ms. Ashburn said.

But for some companies, the toothpaste competition is so fierce that they have shifted their attention elsewhere. Enamelon has decided to pull back from its U.S. oral care consumer business to focus on the professional and international markets, licensing its technology overseas.

“It’s hard to keep up with the bigger toothpaste makers,” conceded Alan Bianchi, director of marketing, Enamelon. “We will concentrate on our four existing lines and keep our distribution lines open, but our main attention will be the professional and international segment.”


A Pristine Smile?
While most companies concentrate on improving conventional toothpaste formulas, Body Electric is offering a natural alternative, Pristine tooth cleaning oil. “Most toothpastes contain chalk, abrasives, fluoride, foaming agents, sugar or chemical sweeteners, emulsifiers or preservatives,” said Mitch Short, president of Body Electric, Colville, WA. “Conventional toothpastes are full of chemical ingredients and harsh abrasives, not to mention fluoride, which is a toxic substance. The back of toothpaste tubes carry a poison control warning because of the use of fluoride, which studies have shown is a cancer promoter. Pristine is made entirely of pure, cold-pressed essential oils; there are no other ingredients.”

According to the company, consumers apply just two or three drops of Pristine on a toothbrush to clean teeth and gums. With regular use, the product reportedly reduces plaque and tartar and renews damaged or receded gum tissue.

Pristine’s formula contains essential oils of mint and almond, known for their antiseptic and antibacterial properties. “The highest quality control is guaranteed throughout the entire growing, harvesting, manufacturing and shipping process of these ingredients, so that the nutritional benefits and integrity of the products are preserved,” said Mr. Short.

Pristine is formulated for specific healing purposes. When a nutritional substance is contaminated with fillers and additives or processed with heat and pressure, the basic blueprint or matrix of the substance is altered so that the body can no longer recognize or use it, said Mr. Short. “When consumers use Pristine, they are supplying their gums and teeth with effective properties for cleansing and healing.”

According to the company, educating consumers is the key to changing their teeth cleaning habits. “The company’s philosophy is that many health problems can be caused by accumulated toxins in the system,” said Mr. Short. “You’re way ahead of the game if you don’t introduce toxins in the first place. Why put potentially dangerous substances in your mouth? When people stop to think about it, they are willing to try a safe alternative. Pristine educates consumers to change their habits.”

A 30 ml. bottle of Pristine, retails for $19.95 and lasts about two months, according to the company. It can be ordered through the company’s catalog (800-692-2390) or web site (www.toxictoothpaste.com).


Clean-up Tools
Product innovation was most evident in the toothbrush category last year as companies introduced toothbrushes to help consumers reach and clean their back teeth more effectively. In August, Colgate launched the Navigator toothbrush which features a flexible jointed head, allowing its flexible upper tip to follow the contours of the mouth to easily reach behind and between teeth. The soft, flexible head is designed to reduce the amount of pressure on gums.

The Navigator was also designed to dove-tail with consumer brushing techniques. Its contoured handle and cushioned gripping dots provide a secure, comfortable thumb placement while the padded rubber strip is comfortable to hold, according to the company.

Last year SmithKline Beecham introduced Aquafresh Flex Tip toothbrush with a flexible tip design. The toothbrush features a patented flexible neck that bends to absorb brushing pressure and prevent irritation; a patented “ball joint” helps clean plaque in hard-to-reach places and a flexible tip with a separate set of bristles reaches narrow, hard-to-get-to places.

“The Flex Tip toothbrush has been a tremendous success,” said Ms. Ashburn. “It has a 2.3% share of the market and continues to grow. Television advertising began in November and the Flex Tip success has propelled sales to the highest level since the introduction of Aquafresh Flex in 1991.”

But not all new toothbrush launches have flexible tips. Johnson & Johnson, which created the angled neck toothbrush, recently introduced Reach Plaque Sweeper Between, said John McKeegan, spokesman, Johnson & Johnson. “The toothbrush features raised inner bristles to reach deep between teeth to clean away plaque while densely packed bristles clean around and behind hard-to-reach back teeth,” Mr. McKeegan said.

The most successful toothbrush launch last year was Oral-B’s Cross-Action, which, according to IRI, was the No. 2 toothbrush brand in the U.S. The toothbrush features CrissCross bristles, which work in opposing directions to penetrate, lift and sweep away plaque.

To enhance the brushing action, the brush includes four different types of bristles: Dense PowerTip bristles clean behind back teeth; Teal CrissCross bristles penetrate to lift and sweep away plaque; Micro-Textured bristles remove plaque and Blue Indicator bristles fade to let consumers know when it's time to get a new toothbrush.


Catering to Kids
In the kids segment, toothpaste manufacturers are licensing cartoon characters. Oral-B has teamed up with Nickelodeon to produce a line of products inspired by one of the network’s shows, Blue’s Clues. Oral-B Blue’s Clues products are designed for preschoolers ages two and older with kid-friendly features to help young consumers develop proper oral care habits.

According to the company, the new products empower kids by helping them master the skill of brushing their teeth and offer interactive toothbrush packaging to stimulate their imaginations.

Featuring an oversized handle to make it easier for little ones to brush, the Oral-B Blue’s Clues toothbrush is ergonomically designed to fit the hand of a preschooler and each toothbrush features one of the show’s characters: Tickety Tock, Mr. Salt and Mrs. Pepper, Slippery Soap or Mailbox. The Blue’s Clues Blue’s Berry Bubble flavor toothpaste features a paw print-shaped cap insert so that toothpaste dispenses in a paw print shape. Every toothbrush package features an interactive game, puzzle or activity.


Mouthwash Mania
Mouthwash category leader Warner Lambert ventured into the tartar control mouthwash market with Tartar Control Listerine mouthwash. According to the company, it is the only mouthwash that helps prevent tartar build-up better than brushing with regular toothpaste alone and is just as effective as regular Listerine in killing the germs that cause bad breath, plaque and gingivitis. It is available in a winter mint flavor.


Looking Forward
Executives who Happi interviewed stated that increased innovation in the oral care industry will continue to be a direct response to the consumers’ demand for new and improved products. “There will undoubtedly be major innovation as new product news of a unique selling proposition creates consumer interest and demand,” said SKB’s Ms. Ashburn, pointing to 1995 when Aquafresh moved into the whitening segment.

Ms. Ashburn said consumers’ oral care product interests can be broken down into three categories: healthy teeth, whiter teeth and a combination of the two. “Products that fit into these segments have a great chance of success as long as they meet consumer expectations,” she said. “The sensitive segment should also continue to grow as the baby boom generation ages and new products are launched to try to grab a bigger share of that growing market.”

Niche marketing will continue to increase as technology enables marketers to specifically target the appropriate consumers. “Price may become an issue, but the oral care category has many different price levels,” she said. “The issues for the consumer should be one of value for the price and does the product deliver.”

Church & Dwight’s Mr. Koslow sees functionality as a growing trend. “Customers are being drawn to the functionality of a product,” he said. “Consumers will pay for a product with added benefits as long as it delivers. Also, whitening products continue to be a growth market as appearance enhancing products are desired by the consumer.”

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