Suppliers are trying to inject excitment into the toothpaste sector as oral care items trade up

Toothpaste may be the largest sector of the oral care category but it is a difficult one to extend, says Jon Sandy, GlaxoSmithKline’s oral care category planning manager.
With 88.5% of UK households already buying toothpaste, and a high degree of consumer ambivalence towards what is seen as a wholly unexciting and commonly price-promoted essential, suppliers believe the task in front of them is to extend the market through value gains - and they have younger consumers firmly in their sights as the way to get them.
So far, companies seem to be doing a god job at extending the category. TNS figures show the category is worth £639m and is experiencing the second-fastest growth rate in healthcare and toiletries at 5.3% year-on-year.
With oral health generally on the up in the UK, over the past few years suppliers have been attempting to reposition toothpaste as less of a health product and more of a beauty item that is exciting, can be premium-priced and may be used as part of a repertoire of products.
A key launch in this market last year, was GSK’s Aquafresh Zones toothpaste, a flavour-infused range that aimed to appeal to consumers’ moods and which was positioned firmly as a health and beauty item. Just more than a year on, GSK says the range has achieved a 1.2% share.
Sandy says Wakey Wakey, the lemon-infused variant, remains the most popular of the three, highlighting “how conservative the market really is”. Morrisons is considering stocking the range, following a “great deal of initial interest”, according to trading manager Una Kelly.
GSK is also relaunching its Aquafresh Extreme Clean toothpaste to align the brand more closely with the range’s new Tooth & Tongue toothbrush, and has allocated £4.5m to promote its Sensodyne sensitive toothpaste range.
Colgate-Palmolive, meanwhile, has launched Colgate Oxygen, which it claims is the first paste on the market to release bubbles of pure oxygen while brushing to help remove debris caught between the teeth. John Revess, senior marketing manager for oralcare at Colgate, says the toothpaste taps into the growing trend for products with the word oxygen in the title. “Oxygen is being used to make toothpaste more trendy,” he says.