Oral Care Marketers Have a Reason to Smile

By Katie Rodgers, Editor, European Cosmetic Markets | December 1, 2008

There is certainly reason to be cheerful in the Big 5’s oral hygiene category in the past year with all five countries unusually posting an increase in both value and volume terms. This is positive news indeed in an increasingly unstable European economy and, in particular, good news for Germany, which managed an increase of 6.3% overall, despite having been officially declared as being in a recession as of mid-November. It seems that if this sector can keep up this momentum into next year, it can weather any storm the credit crunch can throw at it and keep smiling.

Changing Times

The French market has seen a dramatic reversal of fortunes over the past 12 months, recovering from its decline in 2006 to put on 8.34% to reach $626 million, according to French industry body FEBEA. Going into more detail, the mass market is still the biggest channel in France and grew more than 8%, while the pharmacy sector added 10%. However, the direct sales channel dipped 18% to $67 million, a worrisome development in a relatively small sector that’s showing no sign of an upturn.
French consumers are sinking their teeth into many new products. Fluocaril (P&G) has launched Bi-Fluoré, a toothpaste said to strengthen teeth and reduce the threat of cavities by remineralizing enamel and helping the teeth absorb fluoride. The result, says Fluocaril, is stronger, healthier teeth. Meanwhile, Aquafresh (GSK) has continued to push its iso-active toothpaste gel/mousse, which is billed as a “new generation” of toothpaste. The gel transforms into a mousse on contact with the mouth and reportedly eliminates 25% more bacteria in the mouth than traditional toothpastes.

Making Changes

According to industry association IKW, oral hygiene sales in Germany were up by 6.3% to nearly $1.8 billion, driven by consumer demand for premium oral products. Sources attribute the gain to cutbacks in the German public health system, which have forced consumers to pay for their dental treatments. 
Information Resources Inc. sales data for January to September 2008 has shown that although value sales of toothpastes and mouthwashes were flat at $752 million, volume did rise 3.9%. Meanwhile, whitening products, which are relatively new in Germany, registered a 4.4% gain in value terms to $117 million, while unit volume soared nearly 30% to 3.48 million.
Colgate has had a busy year in Germany, launching a plethora of new products to keep consumers interested. Earlier this year, the company added four toothpastes that are said to offer something for every member of the family. The lineup includes Karies-Schutz Plus Frischer Atem (anti-cavities plus fresh breath) complete with fluoride and essential oils. Fresh Gel is the choice for consumers who prefer a gel texture and 3-Fach-Schutz (three-fold protection) claims to prevent cavities, remove plaque and freshen the breath all in one convenient formula. The fourth toothpaste is Kräuter Weiss (herbal white), which contains bicarbonate of soda combined with lemon and herbal extracts that gently and naturally remove discoloration.

Gleaming and Bright

Italy’s oral hygiene sector performed better than expected in 2007, according to figures from Italian industry body Unipro. Sales of oral care products rose 5.3% to $854 million.
The category was led by mouthwash, which rose 19.2% to  $185 million. Toothpaste inched up 2% to $668 million. Sales in mass totalled $392 million, while sales in the chemists channel reached $158 million.
Like other Europeans, Italians have embraced teeth whiteners. To meet the demand, Colgate- Palmolive has launched Colgate Sensation White with Microcristalli Pulenti (Cleaning Micro Crystals). The product promises to show visible differences after only 14 days of use. There’s also a Colgate Sensation White toothbrush and the Plax Whitening mouthwash with its special formulation to prevent tartar formation. The company says that when all products are used in tandem, maximum results can be achieved for whiter, brighter teeth.

A Breath of Fresh Air

Meanwhile, sales in the Spanish oral hygiene market rose 5.4% to $200 million, according to AC Nielsen. Sales of mouthwash rose 11.3% while toothbrush sales gained 2.8%. Whitening and breath freshening products both posted substantial gains in the past year. Top brands in the Spanish oral sector are Colgate (28%), Henkel (13%) and GSK (11.5%).
New innovations in toothpastes in particular have abounded in Spain, with Henkel’s launch of Licor de Polo Pro-Salud leading the way. Pro-Salud offers a complete formula to prevent cavities and combat and eliminate plaque as well as protect gums. Meanwhile, Colgate’s new Max White formula eliminates superficial stains while Signal’s White Now acts as a cosmetic whitener by coating yellowish and gray colored teeth with a whitening film.

On the Up

The UK posted reasonable growth of 5.4% to $1.5 billion, according to figures from TNS Worldpanel.
Volume-wise, the amount of packs sold in the UK was also up by an albeit smaller, if encouraging, 2%, which at least shows that some innovation and excitement is creeping into the market slowly but surely. Sadly though, individual categories did not fare quite so well. Toothpaste sales fell 2.8%, while dental floss sales plunged 5.3% and denture cleaner sales fell 3.7%. Brand wise, Colgate topped the charts, closely followed by Oral B, Aquafresh, Listerine and Sensodyne.
There has been a flurry of activity in mouthwash launches, which may have helped bolster sales. Macleans has launched the Total Health Mouth rinse, which is said to provide anti-bacterial protection for the teeth. Also new from Macleans is Freshmint mouthwash, which freshens the mouth and helps protect gums. Meanwhile, GSK has also upped the ante with its Corsodyl brand by launching a $1.8 million TV campaign earlier in the year.
For once, it seems to be good news for all countries that make up the Big 5. Oral care certainly seems to be a category that offers reason to smile, even as the media is full of doom and gloom about the economic situation in Europe. If the sector can maintain the pace of innovation and investment in the new year, there will be more smiles all round for some time.

European Cosmetic Markets is published monthly by Wilmington Media. It provides in-depth data and analysis of the European cosmetics and toiletries market. For subscription details contact Wilmington Media, Tel: (44) 20 7549 8626. Fax: (44) 20 7549 8622