Sales of oral care products in Western Europe rose by 2.8% in 2018 to reach $10.2 billion, according to market research provider Euromonitor International. The category is dominated by toothpaste (nearly $4.5 billion) and toothbrushes (almost $3.1 billion), which grew by 3.0% and 3.1%, respectively, year on year. In Eastern Europe, oral care sales topped $2.1 billion up by a healthy 3.8%, driven in part by strong growth within the denture care (+8.1%) and mouthwash (+6.5%) categories. However, most sales were generated from toothpaste, which accounts for more than 50% of the market in Eastern Europe and posted 3.5% growth in 2018.
Day & Night Routines
Consumer oral hygiene habits are changing as more Europeans adopt “two-step” products, according to research company GlobalData.
“Day-part targeting is one such strategy leveraged by brands communicating value by providing different products intended for use at specific occasions throughout the day,” said Lia Neophytou, analyst, Global Data, who notes that formulations intended for daytime use are often positioned as freshening and providing protection, while those for use at night have restorative and gradual whitening claims.
On-the-go products are also emerging, especially in markets such as Turkey, where 26% of consumers say they use oral hygiene products while commuting, compared to 12% and 10% of consumers in Romania and Hungary, respectively, who claim to do the same. Neophytou said that the potential exists for the trend to permeate throughout the entire Europe region where many people work long hours and lead busy lifestyles.
Listerine has both bases covered with its Nightly Reset Mouthwash, claiming to deep clean and remineralize the enamel, and Listerine Go! Tabs, said to leave the mouth feeling as clean as brushing and rinsing at home.
Targeting the Microbiome
The demand for natural formulations is a prominent and ongoing theme across the Europe region and part of an industry-wide trend in all beauty categories. Neophytou has noted an increase in products featuring ingredients perceived to be safe for the consumer, alongside “free-from” claims and positioning. The microbiome, however, is the newest development within the oral hygiene category.
“Consumer interest in the maintenance of their healthy bacteria has been evident for some time, but there is a growing desire to protect not only the good bacteria in the gut or on the skin, but also in the mouth,” she explained.
The result is toothpaste formulations featuring a balance of pre- and probiotics, which Neophytou explains is appealing to the 53% of European consumers who say probiotics have a positive impact on their health, according to GlobalData’s third quarter 2019 primary research.
Unilever’s Zendium is available in 18 European countries and the most recommended toothpaste by Scandanvian dentists; its SLS-free formulation contains natural enzymes and proteins that have undergone clinical trials to show how it boosts the natural salivary defenses and balances the oral microbiome.
Growth in Natural Claims
Mintel researchers have recorded a notable rise in natural/eco claims in European oral care launches. In 2015, 15% of oral care products had an ethical/environmental claim on pack; three years later, the percentage rose to 23%, according to Mintel GNPD.
“Some 62% of adult users of oral care products in the UK agree that oral care products should be more environmentally-friendly,” noted Andrew McDougall, associate director, beauty and personal care, Mintel. “Amid mass concern about our environment, including waste disposal, water pollution and varied climate change issues, taking steps towards the circular economy is inevitable and crucial for all brands seeking to capture consumer interest. With several industries taking steps to contribute towards sustainability at their core, oral care brands are looking to do their bit.”
McDougall cited Listerine’s Go! Tabs as an innovative product.
“This product has zero water consumption and marketing it as environmentally friendly may prove to be beneficial for the brand from a green perspective as well as a convenience one.”
Moreover, concern about the environment and pollution is impacting consumption behavior in all FMCG categories including oral hygiene. Neophytou observes that packaging and formulations are under scrutiny, with non-recyclable packaging materials and microbeads the biggest areas for concern. In response, “microbead-free” formulations being promoted from brands such as Green People and Aesop, both of which have a natural positioning.
Eco-friendly toothbrushes are growing in popularity with the use of sustainable bamboo, an alternative to non-recyclable plastics.
“Bamboo is an effective biodegradable alternative to the plastic used for manual toothbrushes,” stated Neophytou.
Examples include Boobalou and Save Some Green brushes made from moso bamboo that grows a meter a day without the need for fertilizer or pesticides.
“While bamboo is important, there is an opportunity for brands to use other materials,” observes McDougall, who has seen products that promote the use of wheat or recycled plastic and use waste-saving concepts. Two French manual toothbrush brands are tapping into waste concerns by developing products with interchangeable heads that allow the user to replace the head rather than the whole brush. They are Édith Toothbrush made with 100% recycled plastic and Lamazuna Ecological Soft Toothbrush which has an organic plant-based (vegan) handle and a recyclable and replaceable head. Lamazuna toothbrush heads can also be recycled via Terracycle to be incorporated into the next production. Mintel also notes a rise in oral hygiene launches packaged in environmentally-friendly, plastic-free packaging, such as mouthwash tablets.
Looking to the future, the trend for more sustainable formulations and packaging are likely to become even more important and brands are expected to leverage sustainability and environmentally-friendly credentials to communicate quality and efficacy rather than sustainability alone.
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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.