Do the White Thing

November 22, 2005

Oral care manufacturers continue to focus on new ways to produce pearlier whites.

Rembrandt has accelerated the teeth whitening process with the introduction of 2-Hour White.

When Procter & Gamble rolled out Crest Whitestrips in 2001, consumers flocked to the stores, spending upwards of $30 for a convenient, effective way to whiten their teeth at home. And so began the craze. Soon shelves were lined with strips, gels and liquids that guaranteed whiter teeth in two weeks or less, and consumers snapped them up. Although sales in the whitening category declined in 2004, consumers still desire a whiter smile through the use of everyday oral care products. In addition to whitening kits on the market, toothpastes, toothbrushes and mouthwashes offer a higher level of teeth whitening than previously available. But they want more.

“Consumers are looking for products that contribute to whole mouth health, not just whiter teeth,” commented Michele Szynal, spokesperson for Gillette. “Whiter teeth are still important, but consumers want more, such as healthier gums and effective plaque removal.”

Gillette, of course, was in the news last month when it agreed to be acquired by Procter & Gamble for more than $50 billion *

According to Euromonitor International, Chicago, oral care products grew just 0.7% in 2004, with sales in all segments reaching $4.3 billion. In the toothpaste category, Colgate-Palmolive remained the No. 1 marketer, according to Information Resources, Inc. (IRI), Chicago. Sales of Colgate toothpastes in supermarkets, drugstores and mass merchandisers, excluding Wal-Mart, reached $409 million, up 1.5% over last year’s dollar sales for the week ended Nov. 28, 2004. Procter & Gamble experienced a dollar sales increase of 4.9% in 2004, putting the company in second place with $373 million in toothpaste sales. P&G’s Crest remained the No. 1 brand, but sales slipped 11.5% to $162 million.

“Segmentation is the key trend that marked the oral care market in 2004 and will continue to be a prominent feature in strategies of both large and small players,” said William Cobbins, an oral care expert at Euromonitor. “To prevent oral care products from becoming pure commodities, makers are sparking growth by targeting products at specific groups of consumers. Moreover, this trend is being fueled by an uneven economic recovery and diverging economic fortunes of U.S. consumers.”

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The Newest Ways to Whiten
According to Euromonitor, the popularity of whiteners may be due, in part, to a merging of beauty and health products to the point that the two are almost indistinguishable. Interestingly, despite consumer demand, sales of whitening products declined 17.9% in 2004 according to IRI, with overall sales reaching $271 million in food, drug and mass merchandisers. (These figures do not include sales at Wal-Mart.) P&G remained the segment leader, holding the top three spots. The best-selling product was Crest Whitestrips Premium, with dollar sales exceeding $93 million. Launched in January 2004, the reformulation is stronger than the original Whitestrips so the product works quicker—results are seen in seven days opposed to 14, executives said. The original Whitestrips ranked No. 2 with $75 million in total dollar sales, with Crest Night Effects coming in third at $24 million.

Gillette entered the whitening foray last year when it acquired Rembrandt from Santa Maria, CA-based Den-Mat Corporation. The Rembrandt product portfolio of whitening toothpastes, bleaching kits, mouth rinses and breath fresheners helps round out Gillette’s oral care business, which includes the Oral-B line of products.

“While we will continue our focus on Oral-B’s core franchise in manual and power brushing, this acquisition places us in the dynamic whitening segment that will be a platform for future growth,” commented Bruce Cleverly, president, Gillette Oral Care.

In August, the company launched the Oral-B Rembrandt Whitening pen—an easier way for consumers to whiten their teeth while they sleep in just 14 days. The all-in-one gel applicator has a wide sponge tip, allowing for quick application to all teeth without making a mess.

For consumers in search of almost-instant gratification, the Oral-B Rembrandt 2-Hour White kit speeds up the whitening process. The kit contains a mouthguard-like device that users fill with bleaching gel and wear throughout the day in 20-minute intervals for a total of two hours. According to company executives, the product is clinically proven to whiten teeth up to four shades in the first 20 minutes of use.

Colgate Holds Strong at No. 1
Here are sales of the top 10 toothpaste vendors in food, drug and mass merchandisers for the year ended Nov. 28, 2004, excluding Wal-Mart sales. All dollar figures are in millions.
Company $ Sales % Change $ Share
Colgate 409.2 1.5 34.7
Procter & Gamble 372.7 4.9 31.6
Church & Dwight 121.3 -9.4 10.3
GlaxoSmithKline 109.2 -5.6 9.3
Block Drug 63.0 0.1 5.3
Rembrandt 29.9 -2.7 2.5
Tom’s of Maine 14.3 -0.9 1.2
Pfizer 9.4 -21.2 0.8
Del Pharmaceuticals 8.6 27.0 0.7
Oral-B 8.5 3.8 0.7
Category Total 1,180.2 0.2 100
Source: Information Resources, Inc. (IRI), Chicago

Colgate Simply White toothpaste provides noticeably whiter teeth in as few as 14 days, according to executives.

Making the Most of Two Minutes
For consumers who don’t have the time, energy or money for at-home tooth-bleaching products, manufacturers have added advanced whitening ingredients to a product consumers already purchase and use daily—toothpaste. Last year Colgate introduced Simply White toothpaste, which contains a patented whitening accelerator in the gel to remove deep stains and whiten teeth in 14 days. The company also launched Sensitive Maximum Strength Plus Whitening, which soothes nerve ends, builds increasing protection against shocks of pain caused by sensitive teeth and provides long-term relief with regular use, said executives. In addition to whitening toothpastes, Colgate introduced MaxFresh, a toothpaste containing mini breath strips that dissolve instantly.

Adding to its growing roster of whitening products, P&G launched Crest Vivid White last March. Available in Invigorating Mint and Refreshing Mint, Vivid White whitens teeth while fighting cavities and tartar and removing plaque, according to company executives. It contains WhiteBond technology, which polishes stains and acts as a tooth-whitening protector to help prevent new stains from forming.

In September, P&G added a new flavor to the Crest Whitening Expressions line—Refreshing Vanilla Mint. The paste and liquid-gel toothpastes offer Crest’s whitening technology combined with a unique flavor such as Cinnamon Rush, Extreme Herbal Mint and Fresh Citrus Breeze. The motivation behind the line was to create a personal experience that offers whitening benefits and a fun, flavorful alternative to plain mint, according to company executives.

Arm & Hammer Enamel Care toothpaste from Church & Dwight is designed to whiten teeth by protecting tooth enamel. The toothpaste contains baking soda to gently clean and whiten teeth, fluoride to fight cavities and liquid calcium to fill in tiny crevices in surface enamel and restore enamel luster. According to company executives, some food and drinks such as soda, coffee, fruit and tomato-based products can remove minerals from the surface of the tooth enamel, leaving tiny, uneven crevices. Those crevices collect plaque and cause teeth to look stained and dull. Enamel Care fills them in. It is available in Natural Whitening, which contains a special silica whitening system, and Advanced Cleaning, featuring a combination of active cleansing agents.

This month Gillette introduces Oral-B Rembrandt Plus Whitening toothpaste containing Citroxain, a patented formula that is said to act as a stain protector, polishing the tooth surface and leaving it more resistant to new stains caused by coffee, tea, red wine and other foods. The toothpaste has been clinically proven to whiten teeth up to five shades after brushing daily for six months, executives said.

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Crest SpinBrush Pro Whitening is the newest addition to the Crest SpinBrush line of battery-charged toothbrushes.

Tools Of The Trade
According to Euromonitor, sales of manual toothbrushes totaled $633 million in 2004, up a modest 1.8% from the previous year. But for consumers who want to go beyond basic brushing, manufacturers continue to introduce new technology in battery-powered and electric toothbrushes. According Mr. Cobbins, battery-powered toothbrushes recorded their first year-on-year value sales decline in 2004, due primarily to intense competition that forced prices down sharply.

“As this pricing pressure subsides, I expect value sales to again make modest gains in 2005,” commented Mr. Cobbins. However, he said sales of electric toothbrushes will continue to do quite well. “These more expensive products typically are popular among more affluent consumers who have done well during the latest economic rebound. Value sales gains are expected to continue in the high single-digits in 2005.”

Oral-B launched Sonic Complete in August. The brush features three modes—clean, soft and massage—so consumers can customize their brushing experience. It also has advanced bristles designed to help clean along the gum line and hard-to-reach areas. According to company executives, consumer-use tests indicated that 61% of consumers who expressed a preference chose Oral-B Sonic Complete over Sonicare Elite.

Also introduced in August, the Oral-B Professional Care 8000 Series is a rechargeable toothbrush that features rotational-oscillation technology. Inspired by dental professionals, the 8000 Series offers special head options and accessories including a PowerPolisher brush head that contains a special polishing cup to whiten, polish and clean teeth; a DualAction brush head that combines two brushing motions; a tongue freshener; a two-minute timer to ensure proper brushing time and a pressure sensor that stops pulsations when the user is brushing too hard.

In January of last year P&G rolled out the newest addition to the Crest SpinBrush line—Crest SpinBrush Pro Whitening. The battery-operated brush removes up to 88% of surface stains, resulting in whiter teeth in 14 days, according to company executives. It has oscillating bristles shaped like the “prophy” cup used by dentists to polish teeth and a rubber polishing strip designed to trap more paste on the tooth surface. Like the other SpinBrushes in the line, Pro Whitening has a dual-motion brush head that combines oscillating and back-and-forth shifting bristles.

In an alliance of two major oral care brands, Royal Philips Electronics and P&G joined forces to create the IntelliClean System from Philips’ Sonicare and Crest. Set to debut at major retailers this spring, IntelliClean is billed as the first integrated power toothbrush and liquid toothpaste dispensing system. The system combines the patented Sonicare high-speed bristle motion with new specially formulated liquid toothpaste from Crest. With the push of a button, the paste produces micro cleaning bubbles that, working with the dispensing system, penetrate deep between teeth and along the gum line, cleaning the hard-to-reach areas.

“We are always looking for new ways to bring meaningful innovations to consumers, and the IntelliClean System combines the technology and experience of two leading oral care brands,” said Ayman Ismail, general manager, global oral care at P&G.

For consumers who prefer the tried-and-true tool for polishing pearly whites, Colgate introduced the Whitening toothbrush. According to executives, the manual toothbrush removes stains up to 50% better than the Colgate Plus toothbrush. It features specially designed bristles to reach between the teeth and along the gum line and soft polishers to remove stains and polish teeth.

“Manual toothbrushes continue to be the No. 1 form of brushing,” commented Ms. Szynal of Gillette. “However, more and more consumers are recognizing that the best plaque and stain removal is provided by power toothbrushes that feature rotation oscillation technology.”

Oral-B Brush-Ups offer consumers a new way to get fresh breath.

Fresh Perspectives
Another multi-functional product is Johnson & Johnson’s Act x2 Anticavity Fluoride mouthwash, which launched in September. The mouthwash strengthens teeth to prevent cavities while killing germs that cause bad breath. According to Fatima Saliu, product director, Personal Products Company, a division of McNeil-PPC, Inc., consumers’ lives are increasingly busy and complex, so they need multi-benefit products to make their lives easier.

“The newest addition to the Act product line, Act x2, was born out of the insight that consumers want effective products that can deliver multiple health benefits,” commented Ms. Saliu.

Last spring, Gillette offered consumers a totally new way to achieve fresh breath on-the-go. Oral-B Brush-Ups are disposable textured teeth wipes that slide over the finger, allowing users to wipe the surface of their teeth, gums and tongue without water. They are individually packaged for convenient use anywhere. Consumer response has been “incredible,” said company executives, and BusinessWeek named Brush-Ups one of the best products of 2004.

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Bringing the Dental Experience Home
Any dentist would confirm that a complete oral care routine must include flossing. But according to a national survey sponsored by McNeil-PPC, Inc., only 24% of all U.S. households use dental floss. Last March, Gillette introduced the Oral-B Hummingbird, a battery-powered interdental device designed to make flossing faster and more convenient than when using traditional floss. The device has two interchangeable attachments—a gentle flosser and a soft mint dental pick—that vibrate between the teeth and along the gum line to remove plaque.

Holland, MI-based Air Force, Inc. recently introduced Dental Air Force, a new home dental cleaning system that allows clients to keep teeth clean and white between dental visits. The appliance uses air and a dental cleaner with water to break through the plaque barrier. The air oxygenates the spaces between the teeth and along the gum line, making it difficult for bacteria to live. Baking soda acts as a neutralizing agent on the acids produced by the bacteria and breaks up the plaque, while the water flushes away the debris on the surface of the teeth. According to Piero Policicchio, a dentist who founded the company in 1995, the system can also be used with hydrogen peroxide to whiten teeth just like professional bleaching.

“We are the only FDA-approved product that can replace the need for brushing or flossing,” said Dr. Policicchio. “A toothbrush-toothpaste combination is extremely abrasive. This appliance not only cleans teeth, it also cleans equally on the entire surface, not just along the gum line. This removes equal amounts of plaque everywhere, versus a toothbrush that only cleans on the surfaces that are exposed and—in most cases—over-cleans them.”

Dental Air Force is no small investment. The counter top unit, which weighs approximately 20 pounds and is about the size of a toaster, retails online for $239 plus the cost of the dental cleaner. The company has been conducting a soft-launch of the product for the past two years and plans to really begin promoting it within the next 18 months.

Finding A Focus
Moving forward, Mr. Cobbins said segmentation will continue in the industry. The large players will continue to dominate with brands that have mass appeal but they will also cater to consumers seeking value-added products. That’s where smaller companies can find a place for themselves, as well.

“Successful smaller players who cannot compete with the marketing budgets of the big guys will probably find it more profitable to abandon their unfocused mass market brands and place their energy into developing and growing specialized brands that meet the needs of specific consumer niches,” he said.

Although there doesn’t seem to be a “next big thing” around the corner that will shake up the industry like Crest Whitestrips did four years ago, consumers continue putting their money where their mouths are when it comes to multi-functional products that provide cleaning and whitening benefits in a convenient form. In addition to oral health, consumers are willing to pay more for products that boast beauty benefits, noted Mr. Cobbins.

“Oral care makers have targeted value-added products at more affluent consumers who are most likely to perceive oral care as not purely everyday hygiene but also a beauty enhancement,” commented Mr. Cobbins.

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