The dawning of the age of mouthwash

The growth of the personal care category has slowed this year. Shoppers still want to scrub up nice – but are now more likely to shop around for a bargain. The category as a whole is just about growing in value but competition is harsh.

It was a mixed year. Mouthwash had by far the biggest rise in sales and volume, up 14.2% and 15.8% respectively, though sales growth was 20.4% last year. Shower products grew in sales by £8.6m, but soap bars fell by £6m. Big brands held their own, although often due to aggressive promotions. The cut-throat nature of the market was amply demonstrated by the shower and soap bar market.

Last year, Imperial Leather’s shower products range knocked Radox from the top spot. A multimillion pound ad campaign, new packaging and half-price promotions helped it pull further away from its rival. Sales grew 7.9% compared with Radox’s 4.2%. Both ranges had been on promotion, but Imperial Leather ran half-price offers, whereas Radox knocked a third off the price, explains Yvonne Reid, Nisa-Today’s trading controller for health and beauty.

Meanwhile, Lynx shower products’ sales grew 17.3%, partly thanks to its new Dark Temptation range, backed by a popular chocolate man TV ad. Palmolive, which was last year overtaken by Lynx, continued to slide – sales were down 13.5%. Dove is clinging on to its position as the number one bar soap, but the market continues to fall both in value and volume. In haircare, P&G strengthened its grip on the shampoo and conditioner markets. Not only does it own the market leaders with Head & Shoulders shampoo and Pantene conditioner, it also has the two brands showing the biggest sales increases.

The company’s Herbal Essences shampoos and conditioners increased by 13.1% and 13.0% respectively, while Aussie’s sales rose by 25.4% for shampoo and 28.4% for conditioner. 

Own-label sales in oral care fell as consumers continued to show brand loyalty. Toothbrush sales went up 4.0% by value, although volume was down by 2.2% – an indication of consumers trading up to new improved brushes. Toothpaste sales were up 1.3% in value but fell 2.6% by volume.

But it’s the continuing success of the mouthwash category where most of the action is occurring. The market is dominated by Listerine, sales of which were up 25.1% to £62.8m, helped by the launch of its new Total Care, which sold more than £9m of product this year. “Mouthwash has benefited as more people learn that having a good oral regime is not just about brushing your teeth,” says Reid.  But Colgate is also using its oral muscle. Talking of muscle, Gillette Fusion’s sales grew 23.3%, helped by an advertising campaign featuring Tiger Woods, Thierry Henry and Roger Federer, but Wilkinson Sword ruined Gillette’s monopoly of the top five razors with its Quattro razor.

Top Launch - Vaseline for men (Unilever) 
Burly sports stars Lawrence Dallaglio, James Cracknell and Mark Foster are lending Vaseline for Men their macho image. The range includes hand and body lotions and body and face wash, and an innovative shower gel that includes 'microbeads' to help scrub clean skin. It claims to be the first mass male cleansing and care range and was supported by a £5.4m media support campaign.

View The Grocer's definitive Top Products 2008 survey