Sector Insight: Oral care - Dental diversification

With sales of toothpaste falling, manufacturers are targeting consumers' vanity. Jane Bainbridge reports.


Personal care is booming as British consumers spend more disposable income on their appearances, but we are becoming bored with simply brushing our teeth. Today's consumers demand tablets, washes, flosses and gum as they seek to emulate that Julia Roberts smile. Sales of these ancillary products nearly doubled between 1999 and 2003, driving growth in the market at a time when the sales of toothpaste declined. Brand owners are adjusting their strategies accordingly.

Keeping teeth clean and bright is a lucrative business - UK consumers spent £440m on oral hygiene last year. But with daily brushing now commonplace and price promotions widespread, the sector has grown only 1% in value since 1999, according to Mintel.

The oral hygiene market consists of toothpaste, mouthwashes, dental floss, dental gum and denture cleaners and fixatives. While toothpaste is by far the biggest category within this sector, it has been commoditised and its market value is falling. In 1999 toothpaste sales were valued at £309m, but by 2003 they had dropped to £294m.

This decline is due to price-cutting and buy-one-get-one-free promotions.

It also reflects the rise in popularity of electronic toothbrushes, which have a smaller head and so use less toothpaste.

With relatively little brand loyalty in the sector - Mintel found an average of 40% of consumers regularly purchased the same product, dropping to 27% among 15- to 19-year-olds - the key players have focused on added benefits to rejuvenate the market. Pastes designed for sensitive teeth and those that offer total protection or the cosmetic benefit of whitening have seen sales rise.

Among these, whitening variants have enjoyed the fastest growth, with sales increasing more than 70% between 1999 and 2003 to £57m. These are sold at higher prices than other toothpastes, helping to boost the market.

For this reason, it is an area manufacturers are keen to exploit.

Sensitive growth

Sales of complete protection pastes increased 28% between 1999 and 2003, while those for sensitive teeth rose 18%. Mintel believes the growth of products for sensitive teeth reflects the ageing population: older people tend to suffer more pain from hot and cold food and drink due to the wearing of their enamel and receding gums.

In contrast, toothpastes designed for children and smokers have seen sales fall, as have those offering gum protection and tartar control, which have been hit by the rise of total protection products offering all their benefits.

The key players in the market, GlaxoSmithKline and Colgate-Palmolive, account for more than 75% of toothpaste sales. Colgate-Palmolive counts Colgate Total and Colgate Whitening among its brands, while GSK owns Aquafresh, Sensodyne and Macleans.

Other brands have struggled. Lever Faberge's Signal saw its sales slump 30% between 1999 and 2003. Both Signal and Unilever's Mentadent have had no marketing support in recent years.

Procter & Gamble has been fighting its market decline with the relaunch of its Crest brand. It has invested heavily in promoting the product over the past few years, and this year launched what it claimed was the first mass-marketed toothpaste for women: Crest Revitalise. The sub-brand was supported by a £2m advertising campaign created by Saatchi & Saatchi and featuring Ulrika Jonsson. To reflect growing consumer interest in the cosmetic benefits of toothpaste, P&G moved the brand from its oral care to its beauty division.

Among the other oral healthcare categories, the most rapid expansion has taken place among ancillary products such as plaque-disclosing tablets, interdental sticks, floss, tongue scrapers and dental gum. UK sales of ancillary oral care products were valued at £25m in 2003, up from £13m in 1999, and are estimated to reach £27m this year.

While sales of sticks and scrapers have remained static, floss and dental gum have gained in popularity and are becoming more regular features of dental-care routines. Floss has profited from strong endorsement and promotion by dentists, as well as high levels of distribution and competition between products. Gillette's Oral B has introduced a floss range, and Boots and Superdrug produce own-label versions.

It is the relatively new area of dental gum that looks likely to experience the fastest growth, with both Aquafresh and Colgate launching sugarless gums containing anti-plaque agents. The rise of this category has led to several tie-ups between oral care firms and confectionery manufacturers.

Nestle and Colgate have joined forces, while Wrigley produces dental gum with P&G.

Mouthwash and breath fresheners are also a growing market, up 11% between 1999 and 2003, according to Mintel. As with the toothpaste market, Colgate and GSK are major players, along with Pfizer Consumer Healthcare.

Dentist dilemma

The future of the oral hygiene market may be influenced by wider issues, such as problems with NHS dental care in the UK. As increasing numbers of people struggle to gain access to NHS dentists, oral hygiene products could benefit from NHS-supported industry initiatives encouraging their use to help reduce the burden on dentists.

As a result, while whitening products will continue to grow, Mintel predicts that manufacturers will also promote complementary products, such as the use of mouthwash with toothpaste.

While the dental gum category will continue to expand, lifting the overall sector, work is still needed to encourage younger consumers to switch from cheaper non-dental gum brands to those offering oral care benefits.



2003 2001 1999 2003

pounds m % pounds m % pounds m % % chng

1 Colgate-Palmolive 121 41 112 38 112 36 8.0

2 GlaxoSmithKline 107 36 106 36 104 34 2.9

3 Lever Faberge 16 5 21 7 23 7 -30.4

4 Procter & Gamble 14 5 13 4 15 5 -6.7

5 Other brands 14 5 18 6 21 7 -33.3

6 Own-label 22 7 28 9 34 11 -35.3

Total 294 100 298 100 309 100 -4.9

Source: Mintel estimates/trade sources Data may not equal totals due to




2003 2001 1999 2003

pounds m % pounds m % pounds m % % chng

1 Complete protection 88 30 77 26 69 22 27.5

2 Family 75 26 92 31 111 36 -32.4

3 Whitening 57 19 49 16 33 11 72.7

4 Sensitive teeth 45 15 41 14 38 12 18.4

5 Children's 12 4 13 5 15 5 -20.0

6 Baking soda/ 5 2 8 3 13 4 -61.5

bicarbonate of soda

7 Smokers' 7 2 5 2 8 3 -12.5

8 Tartar control 3 1 5 1 5 2 -40.0

9 Gum protection 2 1 8 2 17 6 -88.2

Total 294 100 298 100 309 100 -4.9

Source: Mintel



2003 2001 1999 2003

pounds m % pounds m % pounds m % % chng

1 Toothpaste 294 67 298 69 309 71 -4.9

2 Mouthwashes/ 79 18 74 17 71 16 11.3


3 Denture cleaners/ 43 10 43 10 43 10 0.0


4 Ancillary products* 25 6 17 4 13 3 92.3

Total 440 100 432 100 436 100 0.9

Source: Mintel *includes floss, dental gum, etc. Data may not equal

totals due to rounding


Maria Elustando, Consumer goods analyst, Mintel

The dental health of the nation is better now than it was a generation ago. Almost everyone in the UK brushes their teeth on a regular basis, and other factors, such as greater awareness of the importance of a balanced diet and the inclusion of fluorine in water supplies and toothpaste, have helped.

With dental hygiene less of a problem, the cosmetic value of white teeth and fresh breath is increasing, a trend that is already well established in the US. In the UK, young consumers are now looking to enhance the appearance of their teeth, using whitening toothpaste to mimic the pearly whites associated with Hollywood actors and pop singers.

A quarter of adults still say that they would use the toothpaste recommended by their hygienist or dentist, but nearly as many now tend to use whitening products.

There has been a trend in other sectors for the launch of products that offer an alternative to expensive and often painful cosmetic surgery.

For example, there is an abundance of facial skincare products that claim to reduce the signs of ageing - much cheaper and less painful than botox or a facelift. There are also 'lip-plumping' lipsticks and glosses that are promoted as alternatives to collagen implants. Similarly, whitening toothpastes allow everyday people to strive for a Hollywood smile, thus avoiding expensive work on their enamel.

As a result of these trends, more consumers will look for products that will enhance the look of their teeth and refresh their breath. This will probably lead to a mild resurgence of interest in toothpaste in general, especially as more advertising spend is put behind whitening products.


Before commenting please read our rules for commenting on articles.

If you see a comment you find offensive, you can flag it as inappropriate. In the top right-hand corner of an individual comment, you will see 'flag as inappropriate'. Clicking this prompts us to review the comment. For further information see our rules for commenting on articles.

comments powered by Disqus
Brand Republic Jobs

subscribe now


Lynx tells men not to leave love to fate
HBO captures awkwardness of watching sex scenes with parents
Primark to open first US stores with Boston chosen as flagship location
Marketing spend on the up but a reality check is needed before celebrating
Top 10 ads of the week: Jackpotjoy and BT Broadband fend off Kevin Bacon
Lidl beats Tesco to 10m Facebook fans
Center Parcs ad banned for encouraging parents to take kids out of school
Coca-Cola, Cadbury and Amazon named top brands for targeting youth market
Leaked document shows Nokia to be rebranded as Microsoft Mobile
Nike lays-off hardware staff in move that casts doubt on future of FuelBand
Greenpeace says save the bees or humans will die
What brands need to know about changes to VAT and online downloads in 2015
Jimmy Savile victims urged to claim compensation in new ad campaign
UKIP launches biggest  ad campaign and stirs up 'racist' accusations
Apple boss Tim Cook provides voiceover on ad touting firm's renewed green commitments
John Lewis walks consumers through its history to celebrate 150 years of business
Waitrose boosts content strategy with 'Weekend Kitchen with Waitrose' C4 tie-up
Hottest virals: Cute puppies star in Pedigree ad, plus Idris Elba and Fruyo
Amnesty International burns candles to illuminate new hope
Toyota achieves the impossible by calming angry Roman drivers
Tom of Finland's 'homoerotic' drawings made into stamps
YouTube reveals user habits to appeal to 'older' marketers
Ex-M&S marketing chief Steven Sharp consulting at WPP
Wolff Olins reveals new CEO after Apple poaches Karl Heiselman
Glasgow offers £30,000 prize to best digital idea for 2014 Commonwealth Games
Google's revenues surge but shares drop as it grapples with transition to mobile
Facebook beats Twitter to most 'marketing friendly' social media site crown, says DMA
Fableists believe children like Finn should be outdoors enjoying life
Homebase, Baileys and Camelot join the line-up at Media360
MasterCard renews Rugby World Cup sponsorship to push cashless message