Right in the Kisser: Today’s Oral Care Packs a One-Two Punch

by Meisel, Melissa
Household & Personal Products Industry
Feb, 2008


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.”

Some say that the naturals boom is broadening the horizon in oral care formulas, as certain ingredients feature health benefits. Dr. Harold Katz of Beverly Hills, CA, founder of the California Breath Clinics and inventor of the TheraBreath Oral Care System, tells HAPPI that while mint has always been popular, marketers are seeing an increasing demand for natural essential oils of mint like peppermint and spearmint.

“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.”

According to Dr. Apa, fluoride also is an important component in the daily oral care routine: “Consumers have suddenly realized that flouride is not meant to be used twice a year in large doses. Most of the bestselling mouth rinses are leaning away from alcohol base, which is bad for gum tissue, and into the flouride base, which protects teeth against cavities. Researchers have now discovered fluoride can actually stop small cavities from getting bigger.”

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.

Fresh Breath

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.”

Another mouth-freshening brand to be found on the mass-market shelves is Dr. Katz’s TheraBreath. According to the company, the exclusive, original formula debuted in 1994 and has been used by millions worldwide to solve the problems of bad breath and unpleasant mouth taste. Due to its success, Dr. Katz expanded on his original TheraBreath Toothpaste and Oral Rinse products to address other problem areas in personal care such as teeth whitening, the clearing of tonsil stones, premium periodontal therapy products and even bad breath treatment systems for pets!


“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.”


And the way to achieve a first-class grin is a daily regimen, says Ms. Elrod of P&G: “We saw the first examples of this trend in Fall 2007, when we launched two new combinations of products: Scope White mouthwash, Crest Extra White plus Scope toothpaste and Glide Extra White plus Scope flavor floss for consumers who want the confidence of white teeth and fresh breath; and Crest Pro-Health Night toothpaste and Crest Pro-Health Night rinse for consumers who want to wake up with a healthier-feeling mouth.”

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.”

Marketers Bank on High-Tech Features for Toothbrushes


THE MOST FUNDAMENTAL product positioning for marketers of oral care implements/appliances is high performance based on advanced technology or design, notes Packaged Facts. This applies to both manual and electric products, as a marketer may tout a brush head’s bristle contour or an electric toothbrush’s number of strokes per minute. “The mechanical toothbrush manufacturers have introduced a number of innovations,” agrees Dr. Simon Rosenberg of the Center of High Tech Dentistry. “The Ultreo, which uses an Ultrasonic wave guide to direct bacteria-bursting pulses to the teeth, seems to accelerate the whitening effects of bleaching toothpastes, as reported by my wife and several patients.”

Dr. Rosenberg points to Philips Sonicare’s latest release as a noteworthy innovation. Philips Sonicare’s new UV Sanitizer is said to kill up to 99% of certain bacteria on toothbrush heads. It uses ultraviolet (UV) clean light technology in a 10-minute cycle to safeguard against certain bacteria.

“Consumers want to do everything they can to establish and maintain a healthy lifestyle.” said Eric Grosgogeat, vice president of marketing, Philips Sonicare. “Not only are they taking meticulous care of their teeth and gums, but they want to ensure that their toothbrushes are clean.”

Melissa Meisel

Associate Editor

Crest Still Leads in Toothpaste Sales

Procter & Gamble’s Crest products continue to be at the forefront of the toothpaste category, according to a report from Information Resources, Inc. (IRI). Here are the sales for the top 10 toothpaste brands in food, drug and mass merchandisers for the year ended Nov. 4, 2007, excluding Wal-mart stores. All dollar figures are in millions.

Vendor $ Sales % Change
Crest 128.6 (5.37)
Crest Whitening Plus Scope 103.9 7.09
Colgate Total 98.0 (4.26)
Colgate 89.9 (1.43)
Crest Pro-Health 67.8 376.17
Sensodyne 63.3 0.02
Crest Whitening Expressions 53.1 (18.96)
Colgate Max Fresh 48.5 10.48
Aquafresh Extreme Clean 33.2 (11.70)
Colgate 2 In 1 27.6 0.68

Reference: https://www.entrepreneur.com/tradejournals/article/175443093_1.html