Fixating on oral care

Consumers are incorporating more oral care products into their daily regiments, and savvy grocers are adjusting their product offerings.

By now most, if not all, consumers have gotten the message that rinsing and flossing keep their teeth and gums healthy. Many are taking the next step and recognizing that proper oral care is important to their overall health and well-being.

As consumers start making the connection that good oral health contributes to good overall health, oral care has risen in importance as part of consumers’ daily routine. Industry observers say, when once a consumer would only brush once a day and rarely floss or use mouth rinse, that same consumer may now brush up to three times a day, use mouth rinse twice a day, floss regularly after meals and incorporate other oral care products that previously went unnoticed.

Observers add that despite the ongoing economic struggle, it seems as if consumers are willing to spend more on higher-end oral care products that often provide added value.
“Ultimately, the consumer defines value,” says Kris Parlett, North America oral care external relations for Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble. “In our category, we know that value is linked to efficacy. When a product works well to deliver on a consumer’s unmet need, she’s willing to pay for it.”

According to Kenn Vest, president of Innovasource, the Huntersville, N.C.-based maker of the Proxi brand of toothpaste and mouth rinse, sales of mid-and premium-priced oral care products are up. “Whether that is because consumers are dissatisfied with private label or lower priced versions or there is just this sense of ‘I can’t save that much money in this category and the products in it affect my appearance and hygiene,’ in oral care people are willing to pay for products,” he says.

Many of those consumers are doing so at supermarkets. According to a recent report on oral care published by the Chicago-based research firm Mintel, supermarkets account for more than 40% of oral care sales. However that number is down about 2% from 2008 as drug, mass retailers and particularly dollar stores continue to make inroads in the category.

Observers say carrying new products is always a good way to generate new sales. In March, P&G is launching a new bundle to the Crest and Oral-B Pro-Health clinical family.

Parlett says that offering products in bundles and as a full regimen can go a long way in helping retailers improve oral care sales and that P&G is well positioned to do so.

“P&G is unique in that it is the only oral care company that competes in all the major forums,” Parlett says. “To help drive sales in the smaller household penetration categories like rinse and floss, P&G creates regimens that offer enhanced consumer benefits when used together that retailers can feature with strong merchandising support. Crest is bringing great claims and holistic marketing plans to drive demand across many consumer touch points.  Additionally, we conduct joint business planning sessions to create strong partnerships with our retail customers by understanding their individual needs.”

Clear message

Some observers say that to recapture lost market share supermarkets need to reduce the confusion that greets consumers in the oral care aisle. While new products do generate consumer interest, offering new products just for the sake of offering new products can actually be detrimental. Observers say that in this category new products need to be innovative and offer a legitimate difference.

Vest says that Innovasource’s Proxi brand offers that difference. “Our line—and not only in oral care, but the product line in general—is based on a proprietary ingredient formulation not so novel in oral care—hydrogen peroxide. People have been whitening teeth with hydrogen peroxide for a long time, but a hydrogen peroxide-based toothpaste has some novelty.”

Innovasource offers Proxi mouth rinse to complement its Proxi toothpaste. Both are designed to work together as a system, similar to Procter & Gamble’s Crest and Oral-B ProHealth. Vest expects that as consumers better understand how the two work together, sales will continue to increase. Currently both are sold separately, although there are plans to promote a combo-pack as an in-and-out option. “From an everyday standpoint the configuration [of a combo-pack] on the shelf doesn’t work really well, but as an in-and-out it can be fun,” says Vest. “It is a great display tool, we will see how it goes. We may have to run it a couple of times to truly test it.”

While the Proxi products may offer consumers a difference, Innovasource’s marketing strategy certainly offers retailers something unique—availability in the grocery channel only. Vest says the channel specific plan allows Innovasource to build retailer-specific programs because “we can mange and know, on a personal level, 85 retailers. That’s not so many category managers that it is hard to reach them.”

Observers say that some grocers have begun to understand that oral care has become a destination shop for consumers at grocery instead of just an after thought. However Phil Rubin, vice president of marketing for the Los Angeles-based Dr. Harold Katz, maker of the TheraBreath brand, says more can still be done to promote the category such as the narrowing of selection and a more diverse representation of available treatments to consumers.

“There also needs to be excitement builders,” he says. “When retailers conduct health events, such as offering flu shots, they should make sure to include oral care. Oral care is central to so many other health concerns—diabetes, pre-natal, issues for the elderly. A lot of people tend to overlook how important oral care is to overall health and sometimes grocery overlooks parts of the oral care set.”

Beyond toothpaste

While most supermarkets do have great success in the toothpaste, mouth rinse and manual toothbrush segments, many observers say that opportunity exists to improve sales in other segments such as tooth whitening, power toothbrushes and dental accessories.

Not only are these products continuing to gain consumer favor, they also provide retailers with higher margins and basket rings.

“Supermarkets should broaden their offering in these categories to capture a larger share of these high dollar ring segments,” says Duff Lewis, senior director of marketing for Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Ranir, maker of private label oral care products.

Lewis adds that as the Baby Boomer generation continues to age these consumers are looking for products with specific benefits or features to treat specific needs such as gum recession and gingivitis. “Also as health care costs continue to spiral upwards many consumers are losing their dental care coverage through their employer,” he says. “As a result consumers are looking for products to help them take care of their teeth and gums as well as seeking over-the-counter solutions for issues such as bruxism and tooth whitening.”

One such OTC solution is Dr. Harold Katz’s TheraBreath Probiotics line. Rubin says that in addition to its primary use of remedying bad breath, studies have shown that Dr. Katz probiotic products enhance oral cavity immunities from issues such as bad breath to more problematic ones such as strep throat and inner ear infections.

“Our probiotic products are slowly building a new extension in the oral care category,” he says. “Pharmacists are over the moon about the benefits and the medical community has noticed this product—an OTC product—and are saying this is a breakthrough.”

The probiotic line follows the recent retail acceptance of TheraBreath mouth wetting lozenges. Originally tested in CVS, after performing well, other retailers picked up the product. In 2012 TheraBreath mouth wetting lozenges will be available in a convenient carryout size for checkout.

Later this year Dr. Fresh, based in Buena Park, Calif., plans to launch a diabetes-
specific oral health line of products under its Orazyme-D brand. Barry Goodridge, vice president of sales for Dr. Fresh, says the initial products to be offered will be an oral rinse and dry mouth spray. “Both are formulated specifically for the needs of people with diabetes,” he says. “The product line will be supported with both consumer and professional advertising and educational programs for diabetes health care providers.”

Dr. Fresh also offers retailers an array of private label toothpastes, brushes and mouth rinses. Goodridge says as private label continues to thrive more retailers are taking the philosophy that these brands shouldn’t be the opening price-point, but instead the line that conveys quality at a reasonable price.

“Some companies that we are showing new concepts to want to run them right into private label rather than wait for it to be developed as a branded product,” says Goodridge. “From that perspective most retailers recognize that their private label is really the future and the way to differentiate themselves.”

This entry was posted in 2012 02 Article Archives, Nonfoods for Profit and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.