Oral Care Sales Keep Sparkling

November 14, 2005

Advanced products help consumers graduate to higher levels of oral care.

Crest Rejuvenating Effects is designed especially for women.

When it comes to less than perfect smiles, consumers are no longer willing to grin and bear it. Products that perform a multitude of benefits are propelling U.S. oral care sales. Although the segment is mature, consumers are willing to pay for pastes, gums and mouthwashes if they perform as promised.

As a result, products for those pearly whites are jewels for some companies. Euromonitor International, a London research company, reported that between 1997 and 2002 oral hygiene sales grew 19% to $4.5 billion in the U.S. Marketers have found new ways to appeal to consumers with teeth-whitening and breath-freshening toothpastes and higher-priced alternatives to manual toothbrushes.

Take, for example, the flurry of new products designed to whiten teeth. It started with smoker's toothpastes, while the rest of the population was being targeted for gingivitis. Then, the two ideas merged.

"The shift of the market has gone from hygienic to more cosmetic in focus," said Lee Linthicum, U.S. research analyst, Euromonitor International. "The trend started with whitening toothpastes several years ago. But recent claims that the health of teeth affects the heart have also led to a more preventative, proactive approach to health, that takes into account overall wellness."

The second fastest growing oral care category, trailing only gum, is whitening products, according to Information Resources Inc. (IRI), Chicago. At the professional level, the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry said tooth whitening procedures increased 300% between 1995 and 2000.

"There are currently two dominant trends in the market-whitening, which continues to be most widely sought singular benefit after cleaning and cavity protection, and breath freshening," noted Matt Knipmeyer, category manager of oral care at parent company Church & Dwight.

Colgate Simply White costs less than P&G’s Crest Whitestrips.

Claims for the Throne
Procter & Gamble (P&G), the oral hygiene leader with 18.6% market share according to Euromonitor, has been losing ground due to Colgate-Palmolive's Total brand. AC Nielsen reported Colgate Total Plus Whitening is the No. 1 tooth cleaner on the market. "Crest is losing share because the company hasn't been able to leverage its claims as successfully as Colgate has with triclosan," said Mr. Linthicum.

Tricolsan, an antibacterial agent, is said to prevent cavities, gingivitis and bad breath for up to 12 hours, even after eating and drinking. Recently Colgate-Palmolive launched Colgate Total Plus Whitening toothpaste as a counterpart to Colgate's Total Plus Whitening gel. Executives said 23% of consumers only buy the paste form. Colgate Total Plus Whitening toothpaste is available in three sizes.

Colgate is also turning heads with its new Simply White clear whitening gel. Executives said the invisible gel is painted on teeth twice a day and results can be seen in a couple of weeks. The product, available in a nail polish-type bottle and brush, is based on a polymer technology that adheres to teeth and whitens. The lower price point of Simply White, $14.99, gives it an advantage over Crest Whitestrips, $44.

At the time of launch in September, Colgate executives estimated the at-home whitening category would more than double from $187 million to $400 million in 2003.

Stains are the Bane of Many
Perception is a huge drive behind the need to whiten teeth. Seventy-one percent of Americans said they are less likely to marry someone with bad teeth and 74% believe bad teeth can hurt career success, according to the Mentadent Smart Mouth survey. Also, 33% said whitening is the attribute they look for most when shopping for toothpaste.

Unilever's Mentadent, the No. 8 toothpaste brand according to IRI, was re-staged last year. The company also added Mentadent White & Clean toothbrush and Mentadent Tooth Whitening system. Executives said the toothbrush is the first designed specifically to whiten teeth using a whitening ribbon that runs through the micro-fiber bristles to help promote clean, noticeably whiter teeth. It also has a triple-angled neck that provides ergonomic cleaning for hard-to-reach areas.

Mentadent's tooth whitening system includes an oral rinse, a dual chambered toothpaste with peroxide gel and activator paste, two mouth trays, a manual and dose paddle. The products are used once a day for 10-15 minutes.

Rembrandt, the No. 3 tooth powder/polish vendor and No. 7 toothpaste vendor according to IRI, introduced several new products in 2002. Rembrandt 3-in-1 is a triple-action product that includes a whitening rinse, bleaching gel and fluoride toothpaste. A patented ingredient derived from a papaya enzyme, Citroxain, removes stains and whitens teeth, according to executives. The gel also contains a bio-available peroxide, which removes stains without abrasion, and fights the plaque and bacteria that cause gum disease. Parent company Den-Mat, Santa Maria, CA, said whitening results can be seen in as little as two weeks.

"The baby boomer phenomenon has trickled down to teeth," said Bette Light, a Rembrandt spokesperson. "Dis-coloring occurs as result of aging, smoking and drinking wine and coffee. But white teeth has become a standard of beauty; the market is much broader than its original base."

Rembrandt's new Quick White Disposable bleaching kit is for consumers on the run. It provides 28 unit-dose capsules with a mint gel and mouthguards that can be disposed of after use. The mouthguard is worn for 20 minutes.

In addition, two new products were introduced under the Intense sub-category: Rembrandt Intense Stain Removal mouthwash and Rembrandt Intense Stain Removal bleaching kit. The alcohol-free mouthwash uses Amysil, an enzymatic formula that cleans and dissolves stains from teeth, but doesn't harm teeth enamel or gum tissue, according to executives. The bleaching kit contains Citroxain and alumisil to remove stains. The product whitens teeth up to seven shades in two weeks. The kit costs $45.

The Female Equation
P&G's Crest, the No. 1 toothpaste and powder/polish brand according to IRI, offers several whitening products, such as Crest Whitestrips, but the company has decided to put a spin on its efforts by focusing on women. Crest Rejuvenating Effects is a multi-benefit toothpaste specifically designed to help keep women's smiles looking younger longer through a combination of remineralizing, revitalizing and restoring ingredients.

Executives said aging mouths have problems such as tooth decay, gum disease and discoloration. P&G said the toothpaste enables women to treat their mouth with a daily regimen, as they would treat their skin. In fact, the idea came from a consumer group tested for Olay Total Effects. Rejuvenating Effects has cinnamon and vanilla flavors and aqua packaging to attract women.

"Everything surrounding the product is imbued with a beauty aesthetic-from its shimmering, aqua packaging, to the in-mouth experience, to its advertising featuring Vanessa Williams," explained Bryan McCleary, a P&G spokesperson.

Rejuvenating Effects fills a gap in toothpaste between the cartoonish products for children and the therapeutic ones for baby boomers, roughly ages 12 to 50.

"Crest has started a trend to increase marketing segmentation," said Mr. Linthicum of Euromonitor. "Generally, a company can gain higher margins with women."

Executives said Rejuvenating Effects' proven fluoride formula helps rebuild minerals to strengthen tooth enamel. A dual-action blend of patented cleansers and anti-tartar agents also brightens teeth. Crest Rejuvenating Effects is available as a paste and liquid gel.

The restaged Mentadent line has a whitening kit and toothbrush.

An Electrifying Experience
Another way that marketers are changing the landscape of oral care is by offering alternatives to manual toothbrushes. Only 10% of consumers have purchased battery-powered brushes, but well over 50% are interested in them, according to P&G's Mr. McCleary. The mechanical motion of powered toothbrushes is reminiscent of the deep cleaning that occurs at the dentist's office.

The new Crest SpinBrush Pro, which costs less than $8, provides a combination of rotating and laterally translating, V-cut bristles to polish teeth. As a result, gingivitis (which is caused by plaque bacteria) is reduced by nearly 60%, according to one study. Teeth are also 62% whiter after four weeks.

Crest SpinBrush Pro was also designed to be easy-to-use with its slim handle, molded thumb and pointer-finger rest. The toothbrush is available with accents in six vibrant colors. A set of two replaceable heads costs $6.99.

"It's really the beginning of the end of manual brushes, and we predict that over the next 10 years ordinary manual brushes will be obsolete," insisted Mr. McCleary. "Consumers are switching over to electric brushes en masse because of the availability of high-quality electric brushes at low prices."

For power operated brush users, Rembrandt has launched Rembrandt Power Brush Whitening gel. The low-foam gel lightens stains and does not slip from the toothbrush's moving head.

In April, Gillette will launch the Oral-B CrossAction Power toothbrush. It combines Oral-B's CrissCross bristle and rotating PowerHead technology. Executives said clinical tests show the CrossAction Power toothbrush significantly reduces plaque and gingivitis. The brush is available in emerald, magenta, violet and blue.

Some insist that battery-operated toothbrushes are just a part of the bigger picture.

"Battery-operated toothbrushes are a stepping stone for more expensive, rechargeable toothbrushes," insisted Euromonitor's Mr. Linthicum. "This long-term phenomenon will build volume and sales. Battery toothbrushes are now just $1-2 more than manual toothbrushes which, due to recent advancements, have become more expensive."

Consulting the Manual
Euromonitor predicts manual toothbrush sales will fall 17.4% between 2002 and 2007. Despite shrinking sales, companies haven't stopped satisfying the needs of those who prefer using a little elbow grease to brush their teeth. Gillette executives discovered that only 45% of all manual brush users were satisfied with their toothbrushes in terms of plaque removal and gum health.

Last month, Gillette launched Oral-B CrossAction Vitalizer manual toothbrush. The perimeter of the brushhead has soft gum stimulators and the interior features Gillette's unique CrissCross and Power Tip bristles that lift and sweep away plaque between teeth and on the gum line. CrossAction Vitalizer is sold in four translucent handle colors: aqua, indigo, chartreuse and raspberry.

Johnson & Johnson also recently launched Reach Max, a manual toothbrush designed to get to those hard-to-reach places.

Will Great Taste Mean Less Filling?
Taste is an important factor when designing an oral care product. Every person is unique in his or her likes or dislikes, but there are general preferences. Mint is popular, but it can't be too overpowering. Some companies are taking a nontraditional path in terms of taste and product choice to encourage oral health.

Johnson & Johnson recently launched a Groovy Grape flavor under its Act dental rinse line. The flavor appeals to children and its fluoride power is said to reduce children's cavities by 40%, which is more than brushing alone. IRI reported Act is the No. 5 mouthwash brand with annual sales topping $19 million for the year ended Dec. 1, 2002.

A recent product from Pfizer, Cool Mint Listerine PocketPaks oral care strips, dissolves instantly and releases the powerful germ killing ingredients found in Listerine Antiseptic (thymol, eucalyptol, methyl salicylate and menthol). Executives said the strips kill 99.9% of odor-causing bacteria within 30 seconds.

"This product is viewed to be superior to others because it kills germs rather than masking halitosis," said Mr. Linthicum of Euromonitor.

In response, Wrigley's recently launched Winterfresh Thin Ice breath strips.

Even some chewing gums can whiten teeth. Orbit White, the result of a partnership between P&G and Wrigley, features a Dual Action Whitening ingredient from Crest that whitens teeth and prevents new stains from forming. It is available in two flavors: peppermint and spearmint.

"Fresh breath and a clean mouth on the go are really taking hold as a trend in oral care," explained P&G's Mr. McCleary. "Oral care is going beyond the bathroom sink, with consumers now able to care for their teeth between brushing."

Pfizer's Trident White has a milk-derived whitening ingredient called Recaldent. The gum is sold in peppermint, spearmint and wintergreen flavors.

A Small Fish in a Big Pond
Taste has always been one of Tom's of Maine's greatest strengths, according to executives. Tom's of Maine was the No. 9 toothpaste vendor with sales of $13.4 million for the year ended Dec. 1, 2002, according to IRI. This year, the company is not solely focusing on taste, but also the aging baby boomer population that needs extra help maintaining teeth.

"We found that as people get older, they are concerned about more than just fighting cavities," said Kathleen Taggersell, spokesperson for Tom's of Maine. "They have more therapeutic problems."

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said 75% of Americans have some form of gum disease, but most are not aware of it. To fight gingivitis, Tom's of Maine launched Natural Antigingivitis toothpaste. Executives said gingivitis is a disease of the gums that occurs when plaque accumulates on teeth, producing toxins and irritants that lead to red, puffy gums. The toothpaste cleans teeth and helps prevent plaque using zinc citrate. It is available in peppermint and anise flavors.

Zinc citrate is also featured in Tom's of Maine's Natural Tartar Control & Whitening toothpaste. Available in peppermint and fennel varieties, the toothpaste contains silica to gently remove stains. Also new is the unflavored Homeopathic-Style toothpaste with baking soda that does not chemically interfere with homeopathic remedies. Additionally, Tom's Homeopathic-Style Whitening toothpaste is safe for homeopathic followers with natural calcium and silica, and a mild apricot flavor.

Tom's of Maine also introduced Natural Anticavity and Dry Mouth toothpaste. Executives said millions of people have dry mouth, which can be caused by smoking, diabetes or other reasons. For those affected, strong mint flavors and high levels of foaming agents in toothpaste can make brushing difficult and sometimes painful. This low-foam toothpaste uses mild flavors such as apricot and fennel. Additionally, the extract of xylitol from birch trees was added to soothe dry mouth.

Adios Halitosis
Halitosis, or bad breath, can be effectively eliminated with some new products. Industry experts said bad breath can be caused by poor oral hygiene, periodontal disease, tongue coating, food impaction, unclean dentures, faulty restorations, dry mouth and overgrowth of anaerobic bacteria.

Church & Dwight, the No. 5 toothpaste vendor with annual sales of more than $73 million according to IRI, launched Arm & Hammer Advance Breath Care last year. The line includes four products: mouthwash, mints, toothpaste and gum. Executives said the combination of sodium bicarbonate and zinc provides three-hour protection against bad breath. Zinc is also very substantive to surfaces in the mouth and purportedly keeps working hours after brushing, chewing or gargling.

More recently, Arm & Hammer introduced Complete Care-two toothpastes for very different problems: Arm & Hammer Plus Extra White to brighten teeth and Arm & Hammer Plus Intense Fresh to eliminate halitosis. Both contain baking soda, an ingredient executives said penetrates the microscopic pits and crevices of the tooth, as well as whiten and deodorizes.

Executives said younger consumers are willing to pay higher premium for breath freshening products. On the other hand, whitening tends to skew toward older consumers, because the need for whitening increases with age due to long-term effects from smoking and drinking coffee.

GlaxoSmithKline's Aquafresh brand introduced two new products last year: Aquafresh Multi-Action Whitening and Aquafresh Whitening Advanced Freshness. Aquafresh is the No. 4 toothpaste brand in the U.S. with sales of $85 million, according to IRI for the year ended Dec. 1, 2002.

Tom’s of Maine’s Antigingivitis toothpaste is therapeutic.

Pearls of Wisdom
With all the new innovations in the oral care market, it is hard to imagine that someday, there will be even more updated products. But oral care, it seems, remains a work in progress.

"Technological advances always bring new opportunities," asserted Tom's of Maine' Ms. Taggersell. "For example, people are learning more about tooth whitening today; there weren't as many options before."

Whatever the future holds, consumers across the board are busy. Products that easily fit into this lifestyle will inevitably be successful.

"Convenience, speed and comfort are the main concerns of consumers," Rembrandt's Ms. Light insisted. "Of course we encourage professional treatments, but consumers are also looking for fast and convenient products."