Similar to other beauty markets, growth in oral care in Eastern Europe soared 12.4% to top $2 billion in 2017, according to Euromonitor International. Double-digit growth was recorded across all product categories, including toothpaste and toothbrushes. The more mature Western European oral care market grew 2.8% to $9.6 billion during the same period. Here, dental floss and tooth whiteners posted faster growth than established sectors, such as toothpaste, toothbrushes and mouth fresheners. While Germany, the UK, Italy and France dominate in terms of sales, the fastest-growing markets are in Eastern Europe, with Turkey, Belarus, Ukraine and Georgia, all posting growth of between 7% and 13%.
Burning Desire for Charcoal
Despite the maturity of many European oral care markets, new product development has continued at a fast pace, especially with products offering natural or free-from ingredients. Much of the innovation is coming from smaller indie brands. For example, Aesop has moved into oral care with a toothpaste and mouthwash formulated with natural ingredients such as sea buckthorn, cardamom and wasabia japonica.
“Ingredients such as charcoal and coconut are (also) growing in popularity due to their specific targeted effects and claimed efficacy to satisfy growing consumer demand,” said Clotilde Drape, research analyst, Euromonitor.
Regular use of charcoal toothpaste removes stains and whiten teeth due to its light abrasive properties.
“The trend has been around for a couple of years now and is still popular,” adds Andrew McDougall, associate director, beauty and personal care, Mintel, who points out that charcoal-based scrubs are also hitting the shelves now.
An example is Activated Charcoal Teeth Whitening Powder from Pro Teeth Whitening Co. This 100% natural and vegan formula contains coconut shell charcoal. However, according to GlobalData’s research, just 20% of Europeans believe charcoal to be effective in a beauty/grooming product.
“Brands need to better educate consumers of its benefits in oral health and its functionality in product formulations,” maintains Jamie Mills, analyst, GlobalData. “In doing so, this is likely to improve the longevity of charcoal usage in the industry beyond the sensory novelty it provides such as color and texture.”
Meanwhile, Drape has noted that whitening products are on the rise in markets such as the UK, Germany and the Netherlands, where white healthy teeth are a sign of social status and healthy lifestyles.
“In the UK, Boots is now offering a wide range of brands such as iWhite, Spotlight Whitening and Mr. Bright which all offer easy and convenient at-home whitening kits and devices,” she says.
Routines Need Work
And yet, Europeans aren’t all that interested in healthy teeth and gums, according to Mintel research. For example, in the UK, just 65% of adults who brush their teeth do so twice a day, while 34% of flossers use dental floss once a day, which runs contrary to professional advice that people should follow an oral care routine twice a day.
“Elsewhere in Europe, we see that in Germany, Italy and Spain, 17% of consumers say it is only necessary to visit a dentist when they think they have a problem with their teeth,” explains McDougall, “while 53% of consumers in France say it is not necessary to use mouthwash every day.”
Furthermore, in France and Germany, 44% and 38%, respectively, agree that it is not necessary to floss daily either.
“Information around dental care can be confusing with conflicting messages over what is necessary and what can be harmful to oral health,” McDougall points out. “A standardized message across brands and highlighted in marketing material could help adults to follow a more accurate routine.”
A recent UK study by sonic electric toothbrush Foreo delves further into the reasons why consumers are not adopting more vigorous routines. Nearly a quarter of respondents said they have skipped brushing their teeth because they are simply too tired, while almost a quarter (23%) of Brits have gone two days or more without brushing their teeth. However, it is men who are more likely to neglect their teeth with nearly a third (29%) having forgone brushing, compared to 17% of women. In the UK, electric toothbrush usage is increasing, which McDougall suspects is due to frequent promotions. As a result, manual toothbrush usage continues to decline. Mintel notes that some consumers use more than one type of toothbrush and manual versions are suited for on-the-go use.
A Plastic Alternative
Increasing demand for bamboo toothbrushes may help reverse the fortunes of the manual toothbrush category. In France, Ma Box à Dents, and in the UK, The Humble Co., offer a subscription service for biodegradable bamboo toothbrushes aimed at consumers who are reviewing their usage behavior to prevent plastic pollution.
“Rising concerns over the amount of plastic being detrimental to marine wildlife are likely to influence the materials used,” comments McDougall. “Plastic is not inherently bad, but our throwaway use of it is.”
Furthermore, GlobalData believes that plastic-free products are well positioned to appeal to consumers in Europe, as 42% of Europeans say that if a product was packaged without any plastic, they would buy more of the product or buy it more often.
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Imogen Matthews is a respected consultant, journalist and researcher focusing on trends in the beauty industry. She regularly contributes to many of the world’s foremost beauty trade titles. Every year in April, she publishes The Premium Market Report, focusing on trends in the UK premium beauty markets.