Oral Care: A Brush With Breath

February 4, 2007

Oral care companies must find new ways to resuscitate sales that have lost their wind.

A Brush with Breath

Oral care companies must find new ways to resuscitate sales that have lost their wind.

LaToyah Burke
Associate Editor

FOR MOST CONSUMERS oral care is about the two P’s: prevention and preservation. The prevention of cavities, gum disease and tooth loss helps to preserve teeth and gums. Since almost all oral diseases can be prevented with proper maintenance, consumers are holding manufacturers responsible for providing products that preserve the health of their teeth and gums. However, dwindling sales indicate that many consumers aren’t exactly thrilled with the offerings in the oral care market.

According to Kline and Company, oral care is one of the smallest categories of the cosmetics and toiletries industry, accounting for less than 10% of global industry sales. The total size of the worldwide oral care market is $15 billion at the manufacturer’s level. Products being offered today seem to lack the innovation to stir up excitement in the category. Though the oral care sector hasn’t posted a significant gain since the incorporation of whitening products, it remains a mainstay in the cosmetics sector due to the inherent need for oral care among consumers.
Crest Whitesrips provide premium whitenting at home.
Oral care is no longer the traditional baking soda concoction that once pervaded America’s bathrooms in the quest for a bright smile and fresh breath. It has blossomed into an intricate detail in many consumers’ beauty routines; a necessity to the perfect smile and a beacon to first impressions made everywhere. Though they don’t replace a trip to the dentist, oral care products must be good enough to maintain oral health between or even in lieu of dental visits. In addition, these products must deliver, and it had better be quick.

With more products being offered that cater to at-home treatments in addition to fostering maintenance, more consumers are concerned with efficacy and quality rather than just a mouth rinse and paste routine. When it comes to oral care, more often than not the pressed for time consumer is concerned with usability-on-the-go that improves the way their smile looks as opposed to a drawn out oral care routine.

Shower, Shave, Smile

These days, oral care products are marketed as beauty products rather than toiletries. For instance, oral care sales experienced quite a surge when whiteners came to the forefront, which changed the platform for oral health. Consumers started looking at oral care as another way to enhance beauty. During the past few years, whitening ingredients have made their way into just about every facet of oral care. The popularity of products designed to whiten and brighten have led many companies to offer this benefit across the board of oral care products. The whitening concept has moved beyond strips and now, whitening agents and ingredients are incorporated into chewing gum, toothpaste and even mouthwash. Crest claims that by incorporating its new Crest Whitestrips Daily Multicare into a beauty routine, consumers can enhance their smile’s appearance.

Companies that bank on the popularity of whiteners must now pay special attention to the fact that consumers have less time dedicated to their morning routine. When Crest Whitestrips were introduced five years ago, tooth whitening involved wearing a tray for eight hours a day.  Crest Whitestrips slashed that daily regimen to just  one hour and created a more user-friendly approach to at-home tooth whitening.

Enter Crest Whitestrips Daily Multicare, the newest addition to the Crest Whitestrips product lineup. Crest Whitestrips Daily Multicare contains thin, flexible strips coated with a gel formula designed for daily use. Since the strips are used daily, the rate of whitening is higher than the rate of everyday stain buildup so stains do not have time to accumulate.

Crest Whitestrips Daily Multicare works in three ways: remove surface stains, whiten by deep cleaning and protect teeth from everyday stain buildup. This multi-faceted approach helps keep teeth white and brilliant. Based on these benefits, Crest Whitestrips Daily Multicare is the only whitening product from Crest formulated to help transform a smile in only five minutes a day, every day, according to the company.

Colgate Luminous strengthens and whitens teeth.
Each kit includes 42 pouches containing one upper and one lower strip for both convenience and portability. There are five different Crest Whitestrips products, each designed so consumers can choose the best product for them, their lifestyle and their desired level of whitening: the two-week whitener—Crest Whitestrips Classic, the seven-day Crest Whitestrips Premium, the 10-day treatment—Crest Whitestrips Premium Plus, age-defying Crest Whitestrips Renewal, and the new five minute daily solution—Crest Whitestrips Daily Multicare.

“When people are busy, beauty care can often take a back seat, but it shouldn’t have to,” explained Elizabeth Adkison, brand manager for Crest Whitestrips. “Crest Whitestrips Daily Multicare is a convenient, effective five minute daily solution to help make your smile look brighter.”

This advancement in tooth whitening is being touted as the five-minute daily solution for your smile. The advances don’t stop there. Crest is also preparing to “launch a new brand of toothpaste—Crest Nature’s Expressions—with natural flavored ingredients such as Pure Peppermint Fresh, Citrus Clean Mint and Green Tea Mint,” explained Ms. Adkison.

Not Your Ordinary Toothpaste

Some of the changes in trends during the last five years have to do with products being introduced in all shapes, forms and sizes that promise to brighten teeth. Another trend—seen across the board when it comes to personal care products—is the use of natural ingredients in toothpastes and mouthwashes. This segment continues to grow as more consumers adopt a more natural lifestyle. Oral care products that are free of artificial dyes, flavors and sweeteners will continue to grow in popularity, according to Kline and Company.

Colgate recently introduced Max Fresh toothpaste, a new product that incorporates mini breath strips so that the consumer can not only feel it working but also see its components from the moment it is squeezed from the tube.

Colgate Luminous promises to safely lift off yellowing stains and reinforce enamel layers by rebuilding weak spots on teeth. It is aimed at the mature consumer who is concerned about keeping his teeth strong. Colgate Luminous combines health and beauty for a unique brushing experience. Its fluoride mineral formula helps strengthen enamel, brighten teeth and enhance their natural shine. Michael Sload, vice president, U.S. Oral Care said, “Colgate Luminous helps strengthen enamel and reveal a shiny, sparkling smile so consumers can look and feel radiant.”

The toothpaste comes in Crystal Clean Mint, Paradise Fresh and Cinnamint flavors. The packaging features a diamond icon, vibrant colors and a scratch-and-sniff sticker for each flavor. Colgate’s products for oral care include toothpastes such as Colgate Total, Simply White and Max Fresh and toothbrushes that are segmented by type—electric, gum care or deep cleaning.

On Colgate’s website, interactive features such as the fresh breath assessment aim to educate the consumer. There are other interactive guides to assist consumers in making purchases for oral care as well, including articles on oral hygiene, links to other sites for further information and even a section dedicated to oral and dental health organized by age.

Show Me That Smile

Oral care consumers appreciate and reward differentiation with loyalty and profits. After all, without variety, the only point of difference is price. Consumers will spend more money for better whiteners that work fast. These products must pull through in a pinch before weddings, picking up the kids and taking them to practice, the 20-year class reunion or even prepping for an interview.

Oral-B Vitality is an affordable power toothbrush.
Oral care is often overlooked in relation to its importance in social aspects. Consumers turn on the television or listen to talk from experts as well as fellow consumers explaining how bad breath impacts their social lives. Desperate for a life-altering solution, these self-conscious consumers will gladly pay a premium price at the supermarket or drug store for the cure for bad breath blues. More often these days, a private label manufacturer can help. According to Information Resources Inc., private label oral care manufacturers have penetrated 5.5% of the floss sales category, 3.3% of the accessory and tool category and 5.6% of the manual toothbrush category. The private label sector posted a growth of 9.6% in 2006 in the whitening category.

Oral-B Vitality is a new toothbrush line that makes Sonic technology affordable. For less than $20 Vitality is available in Precision Clean, Dual Clean and Sonic. They are also rechargeable and last for five days. Some of the benefits of the Vitality include a two minute timer that pulsates to alert the consumer when he or she has reached recommended brushing time and a soft, non-slip, rubberized, ergonomic grip that provides comfort and control when wet.

These affordable power toothbrushes are meant to help consumers who still use manual brushes improve their oral health. According to Oral-B research 54% of adults have some form of gingivitis and 78% have one or more cavities or fillings.

“Many consumers aren’t aware that an oscillating-rotating rechargeable toothbrush removes more plaque than a manual toothbrush and can help prevent oral health problems,” said Dr. Paul Warren, vice president, global professional and scientific relations, Oral Care P&G. “Toothbrushes that rotate and oscillate are more effective than other types of toothbrushes in reducing plaque and gingivitis.”

The current assortment of products may have staying power, but innovation and the ability to target different demographics may be the push that oral care needs to post gains, according to Kline and Company. When the oral care segment’s sales decline consumers are saying it’s time for something new. They still want tried-and-true solutions, but are more willing to test new products that address new concerns.

Some of the gains in oral care have been in the denture category. Fixodent, which holds a commanding 41% of the market rose 2% in 2006, according to Information Resources Inc. Meanwhile, sales of other brands such as Super Poligrip and Sea Bond stripped less than 1% in sales, but continue to be major players in the denture adhesive and bonding category.

Children’s Oral Care

Dr. Fresh first helped children learn about healthy oral care by introducing the FireFly, a toothbrush that lights up to ensure sufficient brushing time. Now the company has taken it one step further with the Float’n FireFly with Feet to combat toothbrushes that get left lying around the bathroom to collect moisture and germs. The Float’n FireFly with Feet from Dr. Fresh comes in many colors and offers a choice of characters like Dr. Dash, Lightning Lance and Pepperoni Pepe. The toothbrush stands upright for hygienic storage. The light up feature even stops working after three months, indicating that it’s time to get a new brush.

Firefly mouthwash appeals to kids.
According to Daniel Enriquez, vice president of sales, Dr. Fresh Inc., “Compliance issues are not new to oral care, although some of the innovative ways manufacturers are promoting compliance certainly are, especially with today’s youngest consumers. Until recently, most manufacturers licensed popular kids’ characters to appeal to children.”

Dr. Fresh has transposed its timing technology into a new product for mouth rinsing. The Firefly MouthSwoosh Anti-Cavity Fluoride Rinse features a light-up timer cap that flashes for the amount of time children should rinse to get maximum protection. The rinse features a pink bubble-gum flavor that is alcohol-and sugar-free.

Consumers who purchase children’s oral care products are driven by what’s hot in the market. Cartoons and movie releases are strong motivators. Products that educate consumers, but that are also flashy and fun work well in the children’s oral care category.

The children’s products that Colgate offers feature some of the most popular figures known to youngsters, SpongeBob SquarePants, Dora the Explorer and Barbie adorn toothpastes and toothbrushes.

The oral care market will post nominal gains during the next few years. Growth in oral care, according to Kline & Company, will depend on the introduction of more innovative products. Sales may be hampered by weakening sales in the tooth whitening and denture products category and the mature status of the toothpaste category, the largest category in the class of oral care products.

Consumers who demand innovations and solutions challenge oral care companies to offer more. Their ongoing appetite for newer and better products is what drives the category.

Strong growth in other categories like lip balms and toothbrushes are expected to offset weakness shown in tooth whitening and denture product categories. As a category, oral care has a long way to go. Consumers are constantly shopping for newer, better and improved solutions. When retail stores carry similar assortments it ends up disappointing the best paying customers—customers that don’t mind spending a little extra for results.
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