New Sensations in the Oral Care Market

November 14, 2005

From acquisitions to innovations, the oral care market is flourishing with new partnerships and technology.

Crest is spicing things up with Whitening Expressions, a collection of three spicy-flavored toothpastes.
The year 2003 will not be listed in the oral care archives as just another ho-hum year; it was a year of unprecedented activity. Multinationals took a bite out of the oral care market in 2003 with business deals, which will impact the oral care segment for the long-term.

“Several major players in the U.S. oral hygiene market made strategic moves in 2003 to acquire brands that filled gaps in their existing product lines,” explained William Cobbins, an oral care expert at Euromonitor International, Chicago.

The acquisitions were made, in part, due to sluggish sales. Euromonitor said the U.S. oral care market dipped 1.8% to $4.26 billion in 2003. These results exclude tooth whiteners and power toothbrushes. Information Resources Inc. (IRI), Chicago, reported most category sales fell in 2003, except for one shining segment—tooth whiteners. This is where much of the growth was focused for the past year and is expected to be a focus for years to come.

Colgate Tops Toothpaste Sales
Colgate-Palmolive leads the U.S. toothpaste category, according to IRI. Here are sales of the top 10 vendors in food, drug and mass merchandisers for the year ended Nov. 30, 2003. Figures do not include Wal-Mart sales. All dollar figures are in millions.
Brand $ Sales
% Change
Colgate-Palmolive 421.3
Procter & Gamble 364.8
GlaxoSmithKline 121.5
Chesebrough Pond’s 72.0
Church & Dwight 65.8
Block Drug 63.6
Rembrandt 31.0
Tom’s of Maine 14.6
Pfizer 12.0
CCA Industries 8.8
Category Total 1,217
Source: Information Resources Inc., Chicago.

Mergers & Acquisitions
Mr. Cobbins noted that several major oral care players last year opted to complete their oral care product portfolios and extend their strongest brands into areas of new growth. They did this during a relatively quiet year.

“Firms were feverishly using the lull in the economy to position themselves for optimal gains during the expected economic recovery in 2004,” Mr. Cobbins noted. “The impact will likely be continued dominance in national and regional markets by one or two very large players, with private label and smaller firms selling at the value end and within niche categories like natural and health-inspired products.”

For instance, Procter & Gamble purchased the Glide floss business from W.L. Gore & Associates, Newark, DE, which will continue to manufacture the fiber for the floss. Glide, the No. 2 retail brand in the U.S. according to IRI, is P&G’s first floss. “The acquisition of Glide fits P&G’s strategy of smart, small acquisitions on billion-dollar brands and increasingly sourcing innovation from outside P&G,” said Beth Marshal, external relations specialist, oral care, P&G. “While Glide was the only [P&G] oral care acquisition of 2003, it was a natural fit...P&G will now feature a complete oral care regimen.”

Meanwhile, Colgate-Palmolive acquired GABA Holding AG, a $300 million Swiss oral care company with notable strengths in the European pharmacy channel and European dental community. GABA’s products are said to have a therapeutic positioning. Colgate experts hope to build its global presence, just as the company did in Asia in 1985 with the purchase of Hawley & Hazel, and the 1995 acquisition of Kolynos, which expanded Colgate-Palmolive’s presence in Latin America.

“The GABA acquisition should have a similar effect on our overall European toothpaste business, where we are already No. 1,” insisted Reuben Mark, Colgate-Palmolive chairman and chief executive officer, in an official statement.

But while some multinationals were buying, others were selling. “At the opposite end, some firms like Unilever are shedding brands that are weak in particular markets to concentrate on brands that have a competitive advantage in different regions,” observed Mr. Cobbins.

Church & Dwight agreed to purchase Unilever’s North American toothpaste and toothbrush brands Aim, Mentadent and Pepsodent in September for approximately $115 million. This also included licensing rights to Close-Up toothpaste.

“The primary decision was to give us critical mass in the category and to be a more important partner with retail consumers, but we also gained a stronger presence in the fast-growing dollar store class of trade,” insisted Dave Fox, vice president of marketing, oral care, Church & Dwight.

Church & Dwight executives said the transaction will triple unit sales and more than double dollar sales in the U.S. oral care sector. The company also plans to reinvigorate the Unilever brands, which were not priorities for Unilever. “We will give these brands marketing and product development support,” Mr. Fox said.

What’s Hot and What’s Not
Whether from multinational or local companies, consumers continue to seek out multi-purpose and convenient items.

“All-in-one products continue to be a strong trend,” insisted Kathleen Taggersell, spokesperson for Tom’s of Maine. “People are looking for more than just cavity prevention; a healthy smile reflects a healthy body.”

Mr. Cobbins cited multi-purpose products such as toothpastes that clean teeth, freshen breath and prevent tartar, as standard in the industry. “Adding whitening is the newest benefit to the long laundry list that makes products more appealing,” Mr. Cobbins added.

Despite lackluster sales in several oral care categories in 2003, the $334 million tooth whitening sector registered gains of 36%, according to IRI, for the year ended Nov. 30, 2003. This figure does not include Wal-Mart sales. The desire for whiter teeth is evident across the board from grocery store products to dental offices.

The American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry (AACD) said today’s most popular cosmetic dental treatments include whitening, bonding, implants and veneers. Executives said thanks in part to the success of ABC’s hit television program “Extreme Makeover,” cosmetic dentistry has gained popularity.

According to IRI data for the year ended Nov. 30, 2003, Crest Whitestrips was the No. 1 tooth bleaching brand with sales of $166 million, up 5.2% from the previous year. During the year, P&G launched Night Effects. It was the No. 3 tooth whitener with sales of $35.5 million, as reported by IRI for the same time period. This overnight tooth-whitening system uses P&G’s patented LiquidStrip technology that slowly releases a whitening ingredient to remove stains and buildup within two weeks, executives said. Crest Night Effects retails for $14.99.

P&G also introduced a seven-day whitening regimen, Crest Whitestrips Premium, nationwide in January. Executives said it is clinically proven to remove 14 years of stain buildup in just seven days.

Meanwhile Colgate updated Simply White, the No. 2 brand in the segment, with Simply White Night, an at-home, clear, paint-on gel that is applied once at night. The product uses a polymer technology to adhere to and whiten teeth without the need for rinsing. It costs $14.99.

Private label manufacturer Wisdom Oral Care Ltd., Evanston, IL, also entered the tooth whitening market in March with Brush-On Whitening liquid gel for Rite Aid drugstores. IRI reported private label tooth bleaching brands ranked No. 10 for the year ended Nov. 30, 2003.

For any time of day, BriteSmile, Inc., Walnut Creek, CA, launched the BriteSmile To Go, a portable, lightweight whitening pen. With a click of the pen, a clear, time-released whitening formula is released and applied to teeth. It is applied twice daily. Also, Den-Mat Corp., Santa Maria, CA, launched the Rembrandt Lightning Plus Bleaching gel, Rembrandt Sapphire Light and Rembrandt Allegro in 2003.

Paste Heightens the Whitening War
Consumer demand for whiter teeth is impacting other categories too. Toothpastes with whitening ability are also bountiful on the oral care scene. IRI data shows toothpaste sales slid 3.7% for the year ended Nov. 30, 2003. Colgate-Palmolive, the No. 1 vendor in the toothpaste market, saw sales fall 3.5% in 2003 to $421 million. To help revive sales, Colgate launched Colgate Simply White Whitening toothpaste in December. It removes deep and surface stains and protects against cavities and tartar with high-cleaning silica, hydrogen peroxide and a patented white accelerator, executives said.

Plus+White The Smoker’s Whitening toothpaste, new from CCA Industries, East Rutherford, NJ, is formulated to remove tough tobacco stains and whiten and polish teeth simultaneously, according to executives.

GoSmile launched essential oil-infused am and pm toothpastes to lift the senses.

One, Two, Three—Cheese!
In front of cameras, consumers’ smiles are getting wider thanks to a slew of tooth whitening products.

One company claims the throne to the “smile care” category—GoSmile in New York City, created by dentist Jonathan B. Levine. “The concept behind our oral care products is that they are professionally formulated and the actives in the products really have a serious effect on your smile,” explained GoSmile president Stacy Levine.

In addition to portable GoSmile tooth whitening ampoules, the company offers two toothpastes formulated with essential oils to either stimulate or relax the senses in the GoSmile AM and GoSmile PM toothpastes, respectively.

“The aromatherapeutic formulas encourage people to take care of their teeth,” insisted Ms. Levine. “You know, it’s such a mundane experience, brushing teeth. Normally people spend 20 to 30 seconds on it. But you should really brush your teeth for one to two minutes.”

The toothpastes also have higher levels of fluoride and desensitizers, as well as white cranberry extract to prevent the adhesion of bacteria that are known to cause periodontal disease. Go-Smile products debut in Sephora stores this month and also retail in specialty and department stores.

Church & Dwight’s Arm & Hammer Enamel Care toothpastes debut this month, which also promote a big, bright smile. Executives said over time, acids from food weaken tooth enamel and leave stain-collecting crevices. The toothpastes contain liquid calcium and baking soda to clean teeth and fill in surface enamel to provide a brighter, more lustrous smile, said Mr. Fox. Clinical studies showed a 23% increase in gloss and 13.7% decrease in roughness after three months of use, according company data.

Church & Dwight research also indicated the two most sought after oral care benefits were cosmetic and therapeutic results, so two formulations were developed, Enamel Care Extra Whitening and Advanced Cleaning.

Tasty Treatments
Some multinationals are trying to spice up the whitening toothpaste category with just that—spices. Procter & Gamble introduced Whitening Expressions in September. These toothpastes are said to provide whitening power in three surprising flavors: Cinnamon Rush, Fresh Citrus Breeze and Extreme Herbal Mint.

“Our research showed that consumers wanted to enhance their everyday experiences, including brushing,” said P&G’s Ms. Marshal. “Our target consumer is someone who is looking to enhance their everyday brushing routine through scents and flavors, someone who likes to express their individuality in everything they do.”

P&G teamed up with renowned chef Emeril Lagasse in ads showing the connection between spices and toothpaste.

If citrus is your fancy, Pfizer Consumer Healthcare introduced Natural Citrus Listerine mouthwash with the germ-killing benefits of original Listerine mouthwash, but with a less intense flavor.

In other mouthwash news, J&J introduced Act Plus Freshening, a breath freshening fluoride rinse. A new flavoring technology delivers a cooling sensation to the mouth. Executives said the rinse reduces cavities up to 71%.

Crest has expanded its Whitestrips line with a Premium variant.

The Breathalyzers
If fresh breath tops your must-have list, several marketers have not forgotten you. Colgate-Palmolive is launching Colgate Total Advanced Fresh 2in1 toothpaste this month, a liquid gel version of Colgate Total that contains the therapeutic benefits of Colgate Total and freshens breath for 12 hours, according to executives. This follows the launch of Colgate Total Advanced Fresh in June.

Thanks to Breath-Re-phresh from Tasker Capital Corp., Wellesley, MA, garlic-laden meals are no longer a worry. Said to be the first oral hygiene breath drink, Breath-Re-phresh combines shiitake mushroom and citrus extracts, vitamins, xylitol, copper sulfate, ginger and spearmint to control the bacteria and sulfur compounds that are known to cause bad breath.

Aquafresh launched Extreme Clean with a micro-active foam that creates germ-killing bubbles to kill bacteria that cause bad breath. It also imparts an icy-cool tingling sensation. Aquafresh Extreme Clean was shown in tests to kill 99.9% of odor-causing bacteria, executives said. This toothpaste targets young, active adults.

Kids Just Wanna Have Fun
Children are an important consumer group for oral care marketers. In fact, February is National Children’s Dental Health month. To help kids adapt to the teeth-cleaning routine, Tom’s of Maine, the No. 8 toothpaste vendor according to IRI, now offers Silly Strawberry under its line of natural fluoride-free toothpastes. It contains mild fruit extracts for kids’ sensitive taste buds and a flip-top cap for little hands.

Tom’s of Maine also recently introduced “Dental Health for All,” a five-year program to help underprivileged kids receive oral care. The company is donating 75,000 toothbrushes and toothpastes to public dental clinics in the U.S. and grants for dental equipment.

“There is so much work to be done, especially because with Medicare, oral care is often not covered, so when there’s a dental emergency, parents have to take their kids to the emergency room,” said Tom’s of Maine’s Ms. Taggersell.

Executives said the donations will help thousands of kids. In addition, the U.S. Surgeon General said more than half of children ages five to nine have at least one cavity or filing, according to Johnson & Johnson (J&J).

To get kids to brush, J&J added popular Japanese animation figures to its Reach brand. The new Reach Yu-Gi-Oh! toothbrushes and toothpaste feature Yugi, Kaiba and monster cartoon characters. A Yu-Gi-Oh power toothbrush will roll out nationally next month. It has been available in Wal-Mart since October.

Colgate-Palmolive entered into several licensing agreements to develop kid-geared toothbrushes with Lego Jack Strong 1,2 flavoring for Colgate 2in1 Kids, Baby Looney Tunes3 toothpaste with a musical cap and He-Man 4 oral care products.

Dualstar Consumer Products, Beverly Hills, CA, launched mary-kateandashley toothpaste in September. Named for teen superstars Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen and co-branded with GlaxoSmithKline’s Aquafresh, the toothpaste features a bubble cool flavor and the girls at age 13 to appeal to young consumers. Executives said this is an industry first—a children’s toothpaste co-branded with live celebrities.

Cleaning the Teeth, Naturally
Consumer demand for natural ingredients has filtered down from other personal care categories. “Many Americans have grown wary of man-made chemicals and perceive ingredients derived from plants and herbs as healthier,” noted Euromonitor’s Mr. Cobbins. “Now, plants and herbs which have been proven to benefit health in other applications are being added to oral care products.”

The natural segment was largely targeted by smaller companies, but now, multinationals are exploring this avenue as well.

“While these products currently represent niche markets, they are high growth opportunities that the larger players are not ignoring,” Mr. Cobbins noted. “So expect to see more products from mass market brands that include herbal extracts or other ‘natural’ ingredients.”

Tom’s of Maine, Kennebunk, ME, developed a line of Natural Liquid toothpaste designed to adhere to the toothbrushes better from tube to mouth to lessen messes in the sink. This type of toothpaste has been popular for some time in Europe, according to executives. It is also prevents bathroom messes, especially when using electric toothbrushes. “It seeps down into the bristles, so the toothpaste doesn’t fling all over the bathroom,” said Tom’s of Maine’s Ms. Taggersell. The liquid toothpaste is available in Anti-Plaque plus Whitening, Anti-Plaque Tartar Control plus Whitening and Goofy Grape for Children varieties. The children’s version is fluoride-free and designed for children who are learning to brush and may accidentally swallow toothpaste.

Also new are Natural Tartar Control mouthwash and Natural Oral Moistening mouthwash. Both complement existing toothpastes for tartar control and dry mouth. Ingredients such as non-alcoholic witch hazel and zinc target tartar, while birch tree extract (xylitol) effectively soothes dry mouth. They do contain alcohol and are packaged in clear bottles, rather than the former opaque mouthwash bottles. The mouthwashes also feature the photography of Steven Foster. “We responded to substantial consumer research we collected and revised our packaging,” explained Ms. Taggersell. “Whatever ingredients are inside are reflected on the packaging. It is very attractive on the shelf and very informative for consumers.”

Jason Natural Cosmetics, Culver City, CA, won the 2004 Gold Medal for the best tasting natural toothpaste from the Quality Institute International and American Tasting Institute for the third consecutive year. Specifically, the company’s CoQ10 Plus Gel toothpaste, which is available in Power Smile, Sea Fresh, Healthy Mouth and NutriSmile flavors, and the Oral Comfort mouthwash spray with CoQ10 were honored. All of the products contain certified organic aloe vera gel to soothe and reduce irritated and inflamed gums and coenzyme Q10 to reverse gum disease.

In other natural oral care news, Nature’s Gate, Chatsworth, CA, launched Nature’s Gate Zap breath strips. These breath fresheners, available in Mint with Green Tea and Anise with Green Tea, contain antioxidants which have been shown to promote healthy gums by inhibiting the growth of bacteria, according to executives. The breath strips are also biodegradable, and formulated without preservatives or sweeteners. A 24-pack of breath strips costs $2.69.

Fiddling with Floss
Another way to treat bad breath is removing particles of food stuck between teeth. Floss is the solution; however, nearly 90% of consumers floss infrequently or not at all, according to the American Dental Association. The most popular reasons are forgetfulness, laziness or an inability to put hands into the mouth. Reach Access Daily flosser is a new disposable snap-on head with a strand of shred-resistant floss. This flosser is also fitted with easy-to-hold grips and an angled neck to help floss back teeth. Four colors are available (mango, aqua, raspberry and lime) and it can fit in toothbrush holders to remind consumers to floss daily, according to executives. The Reach Access Daily flosser retails in a pack of 8, 22 or 28 disposable snap-on heads.

Aquafresh also introduced an innovate way to floss. New Floss ‘n’ Cap, available in Aquafresh’s Cinnamon Splash and Whitening Cool Mint toothpaste flavors, combines a toothpaste tube with a cap containing floss. Executives said the triple-coated floss expands with use to dislodge food particles and plaque between teeth.

Johnson & Johnson launched Reach Tartar Control floss with an ingredient proven to reduce tartar buildup embedded in the floss fibers.

Oral-B added the Professional Care 7000 series with extra features such as a brushing timer and oscillating bristles.

Brushing is No Longer Boring
Sales in the $1.34 billion manual and power-operated toothbrush segment, have slowed. Last year, sales of these products dipped 3.1%, but companies continue launching new products to stir up product sales.

J&J’s added Reach Max Brightener, a toothbrush with polishing pads designed to remove dulling film to reveal a bright, youthful smile. The toothbrush’s pads are chemical-free and enamel-safe. A J&J survey showed more than 83% of consumers nationwide rated their teeth as their top priority in looking their best. Also new from J&J is the Reach Tooth & Gum Care toothbrush with soft, feathered bristles designed to reach below the gum line.

Colgate-Palmolive introduced the Colgate Whitening toothbrush, a manual toothbrush with unique soft polishers to help remove stains and polish teeth. It also has a comfortable elastomer rubber handle. Executives noted whitening toothbrushes were an untapped segment. The brush is available in three vibrant colors and full head soft and full head medium bristle forms.

Also to whiten teeth, Procter & Gamble launched the Crest SpinBrush Pro Whitening battery-operated brush. It is said to guarantee an 88% whiter smile in 14 days. The brush has a dense field of oscillating brushes, shaped like the prophy cup used by dentists, to better contact and polish the teeth, and a rubber polishing strip to hold more paste. Dual-rotating brush heads also clean between teeth. Five colors are available: blue, green, lavender, gold and rose.

In August, The Gillette Company introduced Oral-B Professional Care 7000 series, an advanced line of power toothbrushes featuring 15% faster oscillation than the Oral-B 3D Excel and a new quadrant timer to remind users to go to another quadrant of the mouth every 30 seconds for optimal two-minute brushing. Braun Oral-B power toothbrushes remain No. 1 in the power segment with sales of $44.6 million, even though sales fell 37.3% from 2002, according to IRI. Executives insisted rotating oscillation has been proven to be more effective and gentler in removing plaque and reducing and even reversing gum disease than other types of power toothbrushes, including toothbrushes with sonic technology. Studies also suggested there is a link between healthy gums and a healthy heart.

Power toothbrushes have more bells and whistles than ever. For example, the Oral-B Professional Care series toothbrushes come with two brushing speeds, Indicator Bristles that fade to signal when it is time to replace the toothbrush, a new Full Charge Indicator and a variety of brush heads. The Professional Care 7000 series also features a pressure sensor that stops the brush’s pulsations when the user is pressing too hard. They range in price from $69 to $99 each.

The Right Package
All the acquisitions and product development that occurred in 2003 have one goal—boosting sales. One way to gain the upper hand with tried-and-true products is new packaging. Church & Dwight recently updated the packaging on several of its Arm & Hammer toothpastes, including Dental Care, Peroxi Care, Complete Care and Advanced White. Executives describe it as a bright new look, with bolded print on a white backdrop. The signature Arm & Hammer logo is still prevalent.

“The No. 1 reason was to gain a stronger shelf presence with the blocking of one color rather than a multi-colored package,” explained Church & Dwight’s Mr. Fox. “No. 2, we redesigned to provide a more therapeutic-looking packaging consistent with our baking soda heritage.”

Only time will tell which strategy stands a better chance in the evolving market—familiar brands or innovative products. Either way, established companies and new players are both trying to take a bigger bite out of the ever-growing oral care market.