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A Polished Performance

By Katie Middleweek, European Cosmetic Markets | November 19, 2010

Oral care sales are up in much of Europe.

It has been a largely positive year for the oral care category in the Big 5 with all countries making gains in value terms, apart from Spain, which reported a decline of 1.5%. However, Spain did post an increase of 4% in volume terms—at least one reason for the country to smile. There were also some interesting new product launches, which catered to all segments of the market—from the more mature customer to the naturals fan.
 
Doing All White
 
According to SymphonyIRI France, the oral care market for toothpaste in France rose 4.2% last year to $507 million, while toothbrush sales increased 3.6% to $230.3 million. But it was in the smaller category of whitening kits, mouthwashes and other dental products where the most growth took place—an impressive 18.2% gain to $147.5 million.
 
Both whitening and electronic toothbrushes are big business in France and this was combined in one new product launch in particular. Philips focused on whitening with the launch of a new rechargeable adult brush, Sonicare Healthy White, which features a new brushing technology featuring 31,000 movements per minute, and three brushing modes: cleaning, sensitive, and clean and white. When in the clean and white mode, the brush claims to remove tea, coffee, tobacco and red wine stains, helping to whiten teeth by at least two shades in two weeks.
 
Clean and Bright
 
According to data from SymphonyIRI Germany, the oral care market there, which again focuses primarily on toothpastes, has also pulled in good sales, putting on 4% to $533.7 million in 2010. Volume figures were also optimistic, growing 1.7% to 266.51 million units this year. The mouthwash category also performed well, growing 4.8% to $166.8 million this year, and it also saw a very healthy 8.3% rise in volume terms, totalling 15.3 million units.
 
Just like in France, the German market also saw an interesting new electric toothbrush launch with the debut in August of the Omron Sonic Style—a toothbrush which is billed as “slim, stylish and light” and operates with a sonic technology that can produce between 20,000-30,000 strokes per minute. This is the first time that Omron, more famous for its blood pressure monitors, has made the move into dental hardware, but German consumers have responded well.
 
Scrubbing Up Well

Although the gains were not as strong as those recorded in 2008, the Italian oral care sector did post a growth of 2.1% to $914.5 million in 2009, according to industry body Unipro. Mouthwashes and dental rinses put in the best performance, climbing 6.8% to $221.4 million, but the normally more popular toothpaste sector only saw minor growth of 0.7% to $348.2 million. It was for this reason that many oral care manufacturers have concentrated their efforts on the toothpaste sector in 2010 with a slew of new launches.
 
Italian Coswell, for example, launched“Biorepair” Total Protective Repair and Fast Sensitive Repair toothpastes. The introduction was supported by an extensive television advertising campaign. Total Protective Repair is said to be 40% more efficient at fighting cavities than traditional toothpastes and it also claims to repair the tooth enamel. Meanwhile, Fast Sensitive Repair claims to provide relief for sensitive teeth and, for even more rapid results, can be applied directly to the base of the tooth with a 30 second finger massage.
 
Down in the Mouth

The tail end of the economic crisis in Spain has meant that all consumer sectors have been affected in 2010, even the more utilitarian ones such as oral care. According to SymphonyIRI Spain, the segment actually lost ground, falling 1.5% in value terms to about $470 million, although volume did post a healthy 4% increase and accounted for 67.5 million units this year. Industry insiders might put this down to the fact that consumers are now looking for much better value oral care products, although they are still having to buy a decent amount, as they really cannot go without these everyday items. This has inevitably meant that hypermarkets and supermarkets are now much more popular places to shop for oral care wares.
 
Despite a somewhat lackluster year, there were still some new product launches on the Spanish market with natural oral health becoming more popular. For example, market leader Colgate Palmolive introduced a toothpaste based on herbal extracts of chamomile, sage, myrrh, eucalyptus and mineral salts. And in another rollout based on natural ingredients, the company has brought out Colgate Propolis. Which is based on the anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties of propolis from bees to promote good oral health.
 
Trading Up
 
It was all smiles for the UK oral care market. Kantar Worldpanel reported sales rose a gleaming 6.1% in 2010, which boosted the category to nearly $1.3 billion. Volume-wise, things were also on the upswing, with oral care units rising 2.8% to nearly 728 million. This might suggest that UK consumers, who traded down in the midst of the recession, have once again started spending when it comes to their oral care needs. Of this total, toothpastes take up the majority of the sector, accounting for a 37.2% share.
 
Another sector making gains is that of denture cleaning. In response to the recent revelation that 45% of denture wearers use toothpaste to clean their dentures, GSK has extended its Poligrip portfolio to encourage wearers to trade up to specially designed products, as brushing can scratch denture surfaces making them more susceptible to bacterial growth. Poligrip 3 Min Ultra Denture Cleansing Tablets remove stains to restore whiteness and work in just three minutes, making them suitable for daytime as well as night-time use, while Poligrip Total Care Denture Cleansing Tablets kill 99.9% of odor-causing bacteria. They are also claimed to help reduce plaque-induced irritation.
 
In terms of new product launches the Big 5 has seen some varied additions in the past year, not all of them focussing on the traditional areas of toothpastes and mouthwashes. There has been some genuine innovation in the field of electric toothbrushes, as more European consumers get on board with this style of brushing. Meanwhile, denture market launch activity indicates that manufacturers are more aware than ever that they must cater to all market segments in order to keep pulling in sales. These latest results verify that marketers are doing their job.

About the Author
Katie Middleweek is editor of European Cosmetic Markets, a monthly magazine that provides in-depth data and analysis of the European cosmetics and toiletries market. Tel (44) 0207 193 7447

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