Last year's launch of the Colgate 360 deg, a toothbrush that features a textured tongue cleaner to remove odour-causing bacteria, is typical of the kind of NPD taking place in the oral-hygiene sector.
Although the market is mature, comprising products that most consumers already use, such innovation has fuelled growth. Consumers are no longer motivated solely by the health benefits of oral care; cosmetic products, such as those offering whiter teeth, are exploiting their desire for Hollywood smiles and attracting a younger audience in a market that is expected to grow 12% by 2010.
The oral-hygiene sector is being driven by consumers' desire for sparkling white teeth, with the consequence that they are spending more money on products promising them a gleaming smile.
As a result, manufacturers have been investing in NPD across all categories in the sector, including toothbrushes, mouthwashes, toothpastes and ancillary products such as floss.
In 2005, the market was worth £616m, having grown by 5% over the previous two years, according to Mintel. Given the maturity of the market and the high levels of penetration - nine out of 10 consumers use toothpaste - this is an impressive performance.
While the toothpaste category is the biggest within the sector, accounting for 49.5% of the market, the value of standard products has decreased; those offering added benefits, such as whitening qualities, have performed better.
As the emphasis of added benefits has shifted from oral-hygiene properties, such as tartar control, to beauty, the products have begun to appeal to younger consumers. This shift has also added value to the market, as such items sell at higher prices.
In line with trends across other personal-hygiene sectors, women are more likely than men to use oral-hygiene products such as powered brushes and mouthwashes.
Improved oral health
Ancillary products such as dental floss and mouthwash have experienced the biggest growth, as choice has widened and dentists have encouraged their uptake. However, denture-care products, which include fixatives and cleaners, have declined. The improvement in dental health, through initiatives such as the addition of fluoride to drinking water, not only means that people are less likely to lose their teeth, but also that if they do, it happens much later in life.
Sales of manual toothbrushes have continued to fall despite innovation such as angled or flexible heads and additional bristles. However, there is room for growth in this category if manufacturers can encourage consumers to replace their brushes more often.
Where the manual market has lost out, the powered-brush category has gained, thanks to research suggesting that the products offer improved cleaning and a perception that they are more hygienic.
Powered brushes are particularly popular among AB consumers, attracted by a growing variety of inexpensive battery-powered options.
However, the majority of this sub-sector is accounted for by rechargeable models. Although prices have been falling, the average cost is still high at about £23, with top-end models priced at more than £100. But consumers are realising that one of their benefits is that it removes the additional cost and effort of regularly replacing batteries.
Effective marketing and advertising, as well as a change in consumer's oral-hygiene rituals have led to mouthwashes gaining in popularity. They are split into medicated and non-medicated products, with the latter sold over the counter and making up the majority of the market - about four-fifths by value.
As cosmetic dentistry has reached the mainstream, the use of at-home whitening products has grown. Many of the products, such as Boots' Advanced+ Tooth Whitening Stick (a brush-on gel) are more effective than standard whitening toothpastes,enabling consumers to achieve a look previously only possible through costly dental treatments. Mintel expects this area of the oral-hygiene market to grow significantly as the products become more widely available and consumer awareness rises.
The sector is dominated by a few key players and, globally, it shows little variation across countries.
Colgate has the biggest share of both the toothpaste and manual toothbrush sectors in the UK and has cultivated a very active NPD programme, investing £6.5m in launches last year. It has successfully built share in the mouthwash market by extending its Colgate brand with Total Plax. It is also working on developing products to help fight oral cancer, a disease on the increase, especially among young men that binge drink and smoke.
GlaxoSmithKline has also seen its share grow through its Sensodyne and Aquafresh brands.
Procter & Gamble's market share, meanwhile, will have been boosted since last year's purchase of Gillette, whose portfolio includes the Braun Oral-B range. These brands will sit alongside P&G's Crest line.
Pfizer's Listerine mouthwash brand is the bestselling in its category.
Following its own research suggesting consumers would spend longer on personal hygiene if they had time, it has promoted the benefits of a 30-second 'sloosh' to improve dental health.
This sector looks set for future success as consumers become better educated about oral health and expand their routine to include products above a brush and paste. With a shortage of NHS dentists, people may invest more in products to keep their teeth and gums healthy to avoid having to pay for private care.
There is further room for growth if manufacturers can find a way to appeal to older consumers who are least likely to use ancillary oral-care products.
Mintel predicts the market will grow 12% by 2010, up 5% after inflation.
Ancillaries will be the fastest-growing sector up 86%, with whitening products expected to continue to drive the market. Sales of electric brushes will also grow, while those of manual varieties will remain stagnant.
ORAL-HYGIENE CATEGORIES BY VALUE AND MARKET SHARE
2005 2001 01-05
pounds m % pounds m % % chng
1 Toothpaste 305 49.5 298 51.0 2.3
2 Toothbrushes 146 23.7 152 26.0 -3.9
3 Mouthwash* 86 14.0 74 12.7 16.2
4 Denture cleaners/fixatives 42 6.8 43 7.4 -2.3
5 Ancillaries** 37 6.0 17 2.9 117.6
*includes breath fresheners
** includes floss, dental gum, whitening products, etc
TOOTHPASTE CATEGORIES BY VALUE AND MARKET SHARE
2005 2001 01-05
pounds m % pounds m % % chng
1 Complete protection 100 33 77 26 29.9
2 Family 66 22 92 31 -28.3
3 Whitening 59 19 49 16 20.4
4 Sensitive teeth 54 18 41 14 31.7
5 Children's 12 4 13 5 -7.7
6 Smokers 9 3 5 2 80.0
7 Baking soda/bicarbonate 3 1 8 3 -62.5
8= Tartar control 1 n/a 5 1 -80.0
8= Gum protection 1 n/a 8 2 -87.5
Total 305 100 298 100 2.3
ORAL-HYGIENE CATEGORIES BY ADSPEND (pounds m)
2005 2004 2003 2002 2001
1 Toothpaste and polishes 25.7 21.0 20.7 22.0 22.8
2 Toothbrushes 9.4 8.6 7.8 8.5 7.7
3 Mouthwash/rinse 7.4 3.8 3.8 2.8 2.5
4 Denture products 3.6 3.7 5.4 6.8 5.3
5 Other oral-hygiene products 2.0 0.9 1.4 1.4 1.1
Total 48.1 38.0 39.0 41.5 39.4
Source: Nielsen Media Research/Mintel
ANALYST COMMENT - MATTHEW JONES, CONSUMER MARKETS ANALYST, DATAMONITOR
Due to the maturity of the oral-hygiene market, manufacturers have been forced to innovate and take advantage of the growth in demand for whitening products.
This will continue to be the case. Within the overall toothpaste market, cosmetic products are forecast to show 2% compound annual growth (CAGR) between 2004 and 2009, in comparison with a slight drop of 0.4% for standard toothpaste.
Although both bicarbonate-of-soda and cosmetic toothpastes carry a premium price, they are growing at a faster rate than traditional, standard toothpastes whose benefits are restricted to clean teeth and prevention of cavities.
Recent product launches have been indicative of the trend toward innovation and the need for product differentiation in an increasingly congested market.
In 2005, GlaxoSmithKline launched Aquafresh Extreme Clean Toothpaste Intense Rush, which was claimed to have 'micro-active foam to give your teeth and tongue a deep clean'.
Colgate-Palmolive, meanwhile, launched Colgate Oxygen toothpaste, which releases fine bubbles of oxygen intended to remove plaque and lift impurities away from teeth.
The UK is one of the most mature markets in the world for oral-hygiene products and is suffering diminishing growth.
However, innovation and diversification in the sector, such as the introduction of tooth-whitening products, and the creation of multi-functional items, including combined toothpaste and mouthwash, has seen the oral-hygiene market reinvent itself, remaining dynamic in niche areas.
This article was first published on Marketing