Features

European Oral Care Market

November 28, 2006

European Oral Care Sales Show Signs of Recovery



Georgina Caldwell
European Cosmetic Markets



Compared to Americans, Europeans aren’t famed for their oral hygiene—we don’t even demand that our celebrities have a good set of knashers! Yet, the constant health campaigns and oral care messages are trickling through and more and more Europeans now have a daily oral hygiene routine. 

And manufacturers must have breathed a collective sigh of relief when the stagnant European cosmetics and toiletries markets came up trumps in the oral hygiene category. France put on 2.59% to exceed $680 million in 2005, according to ECM calculations based on figures from the FIP. Germany also reported a positive performance, with the IKW calculating a 2.2% increase to nearly $1.4 billion. The Italian market was less heady, mirroring the cosmetics and toiletries market’s overall stagnancy with a rise in value of 0.5% to nearly $710 million (Unipro). The UK was buoyant, building on last year’s growth with an increase of 5.45% to nearly $735 million, according to TNS Worldpanel and Spain also turned in growth in every sub-sector, with value sales for the first half of 2006 reaching $174 million.

Still, the work isn’t over. Teeth cleaning products still achieve under 100% penetration across the Big 5, according to Taylor Nelson Sofres Worldpanel, with 98% of women brushing their teeth on average 15 times a week and 97% of men brushing their teeth 14 times. Unsurprisingly the British are the worst, with just 96% penetration. Furthermore, far from the three-step program that dentists would have us believe is an acceptable minimum in oral hygiene, mouthwash and floss just aren’t widely used.

Across the Big 5, mouthwash enjoys a penetration of just 12% and use of dental floss is even lower, with a penetration of just 7%. Here, however, at least the Brits don’t fare the worst; they are far more willing to go the extra mile than the French, where penetration for both mouthwash and floss is just 5%.

Mentadent’s Integral chewing gum  promises to keep teeth clean for up to three hours.
So how can manufacturers push ancillary oral hygiene products on reluctant consumers? This year several of the big multinationals have come up with the solution through multifunctional launches. Realizing that consumers across the Big 5 are perfectly happy with their toothpaste and manual brushes, they have worked hard to integrate mouthwash and floss into these two products. Unilever rolled out Signal (called Mentadent in some markets) C-Fresh toothpaste, using Core & Core technology to produce a gel toothpaste with a core of gel mouthwash. The toothpaste boasts the antibacterial action of a mouthwash and the protection and cleaning properties of a toothpaste. GSK brought out Odol-med3 Extreme Plus Mundspül-Lösing in Germany—claiming that this mouthwash could also reach the difficult to reach areas of the mouth, and therefore replace the floss step.

Toothbrushes That Do More



Toothbrushes are becoming multi-functional too, as manufacturers add tongue-cleaning panels and roll out toothbrushes that are capable of reaching into inter-dental spaces, such as Signal’s new Air Precision. In terms of format, however, the manual rules the roost. Electric/rechargeable brushes have a penetration of just 15% across the Big 5, dropping to just 3% in Italy. Germany is the most important market in terms of electric toothbrushes, with 27% penetration.

Incorporating several products into one wasn’t the only trick up manufacturer’s sleeves. Given its status as an essentially commodity product, the only way to grow the oral hygiene market is to either encourage consumers to spend more, or spend more often (or both). While the latter has been an ongoing strategy for a number of years, so far consumers just aren’t buying into it. Despite repeated recommendations from dentists to buy four toothbrushes a year and six toothpastes, the majority of consumers make do with considerably less. In France, consumers buy just 3.3 toothpastes a year on average. Now manufacturers are concentrating their efforts on increasing the number of oral hygiene occasions in the average day, by introducing dental chewing gums and portable sprays, such as Mentadent’s Integral chewing gum range, which promises to keep teeth clean for up to three hours and GSK’s Odol-med3 portable antibacterial mouthwash spray.

As for spending more, manufacturers are repositioning the oral hygiene category as a more cosmetic industry in order to persuade consumers that their mouths speak volumes, not only about their approach to personal hygiene, but also about their approach to beauty. They are now trying to persuade us that not only should our teeth be clean, but they should look good too.

A Slowdown in Whiteners


In the past five years, the growth of the whitening sector has been the industry’s attempt to up the ante in the oral hygiene stakes, but now that virtually every manufacturer is in the game, the industry is looking for new avenues to explore. The whitening sector slowed considerably this year, perhaps because professional whitening treatments are becoming more commonplace, and not a week goes by without another salon installing a cosmetic dentist to cater for the demand for a beautiful smile. Bad press regarding the corrosive effects that continual whitening treatments can have on the teeth has prompted several brands to reassess their whitening offering, emphasizing the natural elements of treatments and toothpastes. Guaber’s Blanx, for example brought out several whitening kits with active ingredient artic lichen and bamboo micro-granules to produce a non-abrasive whitening effect.

Now, manufacturers have jumped on European’s biggest fear—aging—and adopted it as their own. Europe’s aging population—Italy, not Japan, has the oldest population in the world—means that anti-aging treatments have boomed in the skin care sector and with the advent of Colgate’s Time Control, no doubt the other oral care brands are waiting in the wings to assess the viability of bringing out their own anti-aging variant in hopes of providing a sales boost.
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