Today’s oral care packs a one-two punch.
Many consumers believe that brighter, whiter teeth make one look younger, healthier, even savvier. For some, prepping for a special occasion has come to include a new outfit or hairstyle, day at a spa and even dental procedures. And what once could only be done at a DDS office has now taken shape in a variety of oral care SKUs available at the neighborhood CVS.
Sales of toothpaste alone totaled $1.4 billion in U.S. supermarkets, drugstores and mass merchandisers excluding Wal-Mart, according to Information Resources, Inc. (IRI) for the year ended Nov. 4, 2007. Factor in mouthwash ($675 million) and toothbrushes/dental accessories ($1.3 billion) and oral care sales soar to $3.3 billion.
According to a 2007 Packaged Facts report, “Oral Care in the U.S.,” there is an extensive overlap between categories and segments in the industry. Marketers actively develop and launch products positioned on multiple attributes—i.e., mouthwash that improves breath while removing tobacco stains or electric toothbrushes that double as flossing agents.
Packaged Facts projects that the U.S. oral care market will achieve relatively steady growth during 2006-2012, finishing the period at nearly $8.9 billion at retail. The total advance for 2006-2012 will be 17.6%, or more than $1.3 billion. However, when the future of the overall market is considered by category, only the projection for the gum/mouthwash/breath freshener category can be interpreted as truly positive. A lot has to do with a multitude of flavor and ingredient options angled toward a gourmand palette.
Flavor of the Month
Flavor has always been a staple in most oral care products’ marketability. Classic mint selections have given way to a barrage of exotic, even fruity tastes in toothpaste and mouth rinses. Tom’s of Maine’s chief operating officer Tom O’Brien points to citrus blends, vanilla and high-intensity flavor concepts like Colgate’s Max Fresh and Crest Expressions as the latest in flavor trends for 2007.
Dr. Simon W. Rosenberg, Center for High Tech Dentistry, New York, NY, points to the basics as recent patient preferences: “For polishing paste, it’s been mint (90% of his clients) or grape (10%)—no one seems to want the bubblegum, chocolate, raspberry or other exotic favors.”
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“It’s because natural essential oils, besides tasting great, also kill bad breath bacteria. Furthermore, there is no strange after taste with essential oils versus artificial mint flavorings,” says Dr. Katz.
Dr. Katz also notes that traditional Eastern flavors such as cinnamon, vanilla and clove are also gaining popularity in oral care products, as they help to stimulate saliva, which naturally keeps the breath fresh.
Ultimately, savory flavors may convince a consumer to sample a product, says Dr. Katz. However, “we find that consumers are now more educated and are mostly concerned with results. So, if a mouthwash tastes great, but does not eliminate bad breath, consumers will abandon it for what really works.”
All About Ingredients
While some may be drawn to oral care products based strictly on flavor, other consumers are interested in what the product can do for them—such as whitening, fresh breath, cavity and tartar protection, or gingivitis prevention delivered by an assortment of different ingredients, notes Tonia Elrod, external relations manager Procter & Gamble, Cincinnati, OH. She says that P&G offers such a wide selection of oral care products because all of its products are specifically designed to meet unmet consumer needs: “For example, a consumer who loves new experiences and wants to make brushing fun might choose our Lemon Ice or Vanilla Mint toothpaste, while a consumer who wants to prevent gum disease might choose Crest Pro-Health because of its proprietary Polyfluorite System.”
Michael Apa, cosmetic dentist, Rosenthal Apa Group, New York, NY, concurs that ingredients encourage the market to sway toward select SKUs, as “consumers are buying oral care products based more likely on ingredients than on flavors. These consumers now look for an active bleaching ingredient, hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide.”
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Infused with fluoride or not, premium oral care continues to dominate the market. “People are leaving the alcohol-based, burning mouthwashes and sweet, flavored toothpastes that were popular with their parents’ generation and are paying more attention to the quality of their oral care products. They want all-natural ingredients, non-irritating formulas, and effective products that actually kill germs and reduce gum problems. We are also seeing that consumers are being more faithful to brushing and rinsing at night again. This is a terrific development,” says Dr. Katz.
Health and Wellness
The beauty and health worlds are more entwined than ever before, as the mass market seeks to achieve outer beauty from the inside out. An example is the March 2008 launch of the new Crest Healthy Radiance Toothpaste System, a set of daily toothpaste and weekly deep cleaning strips.
According to P&G, it is Crest’s first and only daily paste and weekly strip set designed to strengthen enamel below the surface and deep clean to whiten teeth. The system comes with a mint-flavored paste and eight weekly strips (four upper, four lower) for weekly 30-minute treatments and is geared toward the first-time consumer for whitening strips.
“People are taking a holistic approach to their wellness routine more than ever before, recognizing the health-beauty link,” says David Dintenfass, associate director of Global Whitening at P&G. “We developed Crest Healthy Radiance for women who embrace the notion that beauty starts with health from within.”
Also in March, Crest Whitestrips is expanding its formula options to include Crest Whitestrips Daily Whitening + Tartar Protection. The new added ingredient, pyrophosphate, binds to the surface of teeth to prevent calcium and phosphate ions from forming together to build a crystal that develops and forms tartar. The dual action ingredients on the strip interact with teeth to provide a two-part benefit available for the first time in a five-minute teeth-whitening strip.
Novel technology delivers a whole new dimension of freshness in today’s oral care market. For example, Colgate-Palmolive recently rolled out its Colgate Max Fresh Toothpaste with Mini Breath Strips—touted as the first and only whitening toothpaste infused with tiny breath fresheners that dissolve in the mouth instantly upon brushing.
“The vibrant colors and visible breath strips in the toothpaste will truly stand out on shelf, telling the consumer this is something new and different,” said Suzan Harrison, vice president and general manager, Colgate U.S. Oral Care. “We’re confident that once consumers try it, they’ll like it.”
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“Modern chemistry now allows the blending of pure and natural ingredients into pleasant tasting oral products,” says Dr. Katz. “Years ago, it was nearly impossible to make oral products without the addition of saccharin, detergents and a wide range of foaming and coloring agents. Today, the new leading-edge manufacturers in oral care use formulas that include xylitol, proprietary natural oxygenating compounds, aloe vera, essential oils and other natural ingredients that taste great, are great for you, and get the job done better than any of the products that have come before.”
The Green Wave
Packaged Facts reports that in the dental preparations and gum/mouthwash/breath freshener categories, there has been some confusion of the benefits of natural formulations. Controversy has resulted devolving on two ingredients—namely fluoride and sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS).
The market research firm points to two major natural brands—Jason and Tom’s of Maine—that are now sold in versions both with and without fluoride. As for sodium lauryl sulfate, this foaming agent and surfactant also used in shampoo, body wash and other personal care items, has long been suspected as a carcinogen, notes Packaged Facts.
“There have been several manufacturers who portray a homemade or small town natural approach to dental marketing,” says Dr. Rosenberg of the Center for High Tech Dentistry. “Most are made in large factories, just like the national brands we see advertised everywhere. This is probably best, in light of the recent cases of foreign made toothpastes that contain toxic chemicals such as propylene glycol and lead-contaminated components or tube packaging.”
Marketers’ use of either substance in otherwise natural or organic toothpaste, denture cleanser, mouthwash, floss or other products may be motivated by the desire to reach a wider audience, especially through the mass market, says Packaged Facts. The above-mentioned brands, first made widely available in the natural food/HBC channel, are now often found alongside Colgate and Crest in supermarkets, chain drugstores and mass merchandisers.
This spring, mass-market naturals company Tom’s of Maine will introduce a patent-pending new formula with the launch of its Natural Clean & Gentle Care and Sensitive Care toothpastes. According to the company, the Tom’s research team has discovered that the natural ingredient glycyrrhizin, from purified licorice root, creates a foaming action for dispersing ingredients in the mouth. The Tom’s of Maine formulas are rolling out in a variety of function and flavor combinations: anti-cavity plus whitening SLS-free fluoride toothpaste, anti-cavity plus dry mouth soother SLS-free fluoride toothpaste, anti-plaque plus whitening SLS-free, fluoride-free toothpaste and anti-plaque SLS-free toothpaste.
Swedish cosmetics company Oriflame is making a foray into the dental realm this spring with its first toothpaste formula, Optifresh. Containing a combination of sea algae rich in zinc, iron, calcium and phosphor that helps “remineralize” tooth enamel, and fluoride which protects teeth from acids known to cause cavities and tooth decay, Optifresh is hoping to capture the attention of the naturals consumer.
There are even eco-friendly toothbrushes in the expanding oral care marketplace. After 10 years in the making, Italian bath, body and hair care company Acca Kappa is introducing its Bioceta line—a collection of eco-friendly hairbrushes, combs and toothbrushes. The Acca Kappa Bioceta Toothbrush uses natural bristles and is derived from cotton.
A Bright Future?
Rather than promoting natural ingredients, dentists will be touting the benefits of the natural look this spring. Notes Dr. Apa: “A big trend of 2008 will be more natural looking cosmetic dentistry. Not a bright white Hollywood smile, but more natural and real.”
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Ms. Elrod also tells Happi that while the popularity of health-focused products like Crest Pro-Health line will continue to be a mainstay for 2008, marketers will also explore products that combine health and beauty, as “this trend is gaining popularity because consumers not only want to feel good, they want to look good.”