Analysis by Sarah Hardcastle In search of a sparkling white smile, consumers are spending more time and money than ever before keeping their teeth and gums in pristine condition. They are increasingly happy to trade up to premium products that deliver additional or improved performance benefits. Bestsellers are teeth whitening pastes and the new generation of low cost power toothbrushes. Standard products which don't offer anything new or special are losing ground and are the reason why the £557m oral care market has grown by only a meagre 1% in value [Information Resources March 2000]. SmithKline Beecham dental care category manager Nick Winter claims this lacklustre performance is due to the multiples' aggressive pricing strategy in toothpastes, the largest sector at £298m which fell 1.8% in value. Winter says: "Asda and Tesco with their everyday low pricing have driven down value growth in ordinary toothpaste, the largest slice of the paste market. In the last year they cut Colgate Regular and Aquafresh Mild'n'Minty from £1.45 to 99p for the 100ml tube." Despite this strategy, Winter says ordinary pastes are still in decline as consumers become attracted to more specialised offerings. Fashion plays a part in what consumers look for in added value. Tartar control, the rising star of the '90s, is now out of favour. Its position has been usurped by complete protection products which now hold 22% of the toothpaste market, lead by Colgate Total and Macleans Total Clean. Pastes for sensitive teeth, used predominantly by older people, is growing at 3% year on year [Information Resources]. This market is led by Stafford-Miller's Sensodyne, relaunched as a total care product last year. But the hot favourite is whitening toothpaste, which appeals to a core market of 16-44 year old women. Sales have soared 230% in the last five years [Mintel Oral Hygiene, April 2000] and since the relaunch of brand leader Macleans Whitening and the debut of Colgate Whitening, they've climbed by as much as 50% during promotional periods. This has almost doubled whitening pastes' share of the total toothpaste market to 16% in the last year. Colgate-Palmolive claims its product's low price of rsp £1.49 for 50ml is a major factor in this growth. "By making Colgate Whitening accessible to everyday consumers we've been able to drive considerable consumer penetration." Whitening products command a much higher price than ordinary toothpaste ­ a positive reason for stocking them ­ typically £2.19 for a 50ml paste such as Macleans Whitening and £9.95 for a system such as Natural White's 30 day kit. All the main players have launched into the whitening market. Sensodyne is the latest with Gentle Whitening at rsp £2.09 for 45ml/£3.25 for 75ml. Another growing area is children's paste, which is outperforming the total market ­ especially gels. Similarly, children's toothbrushes are growing, stimulated by the arrival of themed handles. Innovation has reinvigorated the toothbrush market in the last five years. The development of premium brushes with flexible necks, angled heads and special bristle features has encouraged consumers to trade up, resulting in a 21% rise in brush prices and a 22% increase in market value since 1995 [Mintel, Toothbrushes, May 2000]. The pace of development continues with recent launches which include Colgate Replace, Johnson & Johnson's Reach Ultra, Gillette's Oral B Cross Action, SB's Aquafresh Flex X-Active and Wisdom's Bioguard. Last year manual brush sales peaked at £117.7m value/68.4m volume [Information Resources 52 w/e Jan 3 2000], but have since plummeted 5.8% value/3.4% volume [Information Resources 52 w/e May 21 2000]. This demise has been caused by a consumer switch to a new generation of inexpensive battery brushes, such as Johnson & Johnson's Reach (£9.99) and CP's Actibrush (rsp £14.99/£12.99 on promotion). Driven by hefty campaigns ­ CP spent £5m on Actibrush's launch ­ sales have rocketed 270% to £12.6m over the last year, volume increasing from 0.5 million units to an astonishing 1.2 million [Information Resources]. CP says the significant factor in this growth is the low price which has made battery products more accessible to manual users. This has also opened up the market in the multiples, with Sainsbury and Asda being the first to seize the opportunity. Gillette senior brand manager for oral care Julian Williams says the new pricing strategy has also forced down the entry price of rechargeable models to around £20. "Consumers are trading up to them as well as battery models," says Williams. After spectacular 46% growth in 1999, this year rechargeable volume sales are up 26%, with Braun Oral B sales rising 15% [GFK, May 2000]. Williams anticipates further decline in manual toothbrush sales this year, as consumers continue their move into power. By the end of the year, he projects the power category to have grown to £110m, from £79m in May. "We expect another million rechargeable sales this year," says Williams, "with only 17% household penetration there are still huge opportunities out there." He also sees grocery retail as the main route to achieve these sales. "It offers the biggest opportunity for rechargeables," he says. The new entry model Braun Oral B Solo power toothbrush (rsp £19.99) has transparent clamshell' packaging designed for supermarket display, and is now going into distribution in Sainsbury and Asda. An additional benefit to retailers, says Williams, is the replacement brush head market. "Refill heads for rechargeables alone will soon be worth £28m. But display and visibility are critical to achieve impulse sales. Simple clip-strip display solutions are proving to show incredible returns," says Williams. Less exciting, but nonetheless significant, the £70m mouthwash market has 3.6% year on year growth [Information Resources], Warner-Lambert's Listerine being the main brand. Own label has made great inroads, with nearly 30% share (Mintel). SB's Winter says the mouthwash market has enormous growth potential because penetration is only 22% compared to 70% in the US. Flossing and dental tape, in which all the main players have a presence, also has considerable room for growth, with only 20% penetration. {{FOCUS SPECIALS }}