Mouth guards

Savvy grocers are making inroads against drugstores when it comes to oral care sales.

Children at a very young age learn the importance of proper oral care. It seems as if many grocery retailers are now beginning to learn that lesson as well.

Brush-Buddies-Lady-Gaga-Singing-Toothbrush~20J338FRSPAll grocers offer the standard set of toothpastes, mouthwashes and rinses and an array of toothbrushes. However, the opportunity exists to expand the oral care set and include products that shoppers traditionally purchase in other classes of trade.

“Grocery retailers are starting to embrace the notion of having a more diverse set,” says Phil Rubin, vice president of marketing for Los Angeles-based TheraBreath. “That is starting to drive consumers, that usually make oral care purchases at the drug channel, to spend more money at grocery.”

For example, supermarket sales in the portable oral care segment, in which TheraBreath as well as products such as GlaxoSmithKline’s Biotene and Dr. Fresh’s Orazyme D are categorized, are up 37.7% in dollars and 36.2% in units for the latest 52 weeks ended February 24, according to the Chicago-based SymphonyIRI Group. Those figures significantly outpace multi-outlet (food, drug, mass and select dollar and club stores) sales, which were up 12.3% in dollars and 11.1% in units.

While it is true the segment is still a small portion of oral care, accounting for a little more than $20 million in a $1.3 billion category, the growth at grocery is significant, because the sales are incremental.

“Traditionally consumers bought brands like TheraBreath at drugstores, but some of the larger grocery formats—Publix, Kroger now has 20 foot oral care sets, Meijer—they are starting to provide a selection that allows shoppers to meet all their oral care needs in a one-stop shopping experience,” says Rubin.

Of course the majority of consumers are still visiting the oral care aisle in search of the staples—toothpaste and to a lesser extent mouthwashes and rinses. Industry observers say that because of the nearly 100% household penetration rate of toothpaste it can be difficult for retailers to grow the category. To help, many manufacturers are offering regimen products to stimulate sales.

“Regimen products offer retailers an opportunity to merchandise multiple products at similar price-points to stimulate trial of other forms as well as increase trips to the category,” says an official for Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble. ‘We continue to believe that regimen is important to growing the category and to improving shopabillty for the consumer, as the oral care shelf is often hard to navigate.”

P&G officials add that in all of the company’s upcoming product launches, regimens were developed to work together and deliver an overall oral care benefit to the consumer.

The introduction of new oral care products has always been tricky, say observers. On one hand new products drive trial, on the other, some ask, how many flavors of the same product do retailers need on shelf? As a rule, retailers should look for products that provide value and are linked to efficacy for the oral care shopper, say observers, adding that shoppers are always willing to pay for a product that works well to deliver an unmet need.

P&G says it is meeting those unmet needs with its new additions to the Crest Pro-Health, Crest and Oral-B Pro-Health For Life lines. Crest Pro-Health For Life Toothpaste defends against tooth sensitivity, tender inflamed gums, weak enamel and surface stains. The Oral-B Pro-Health For Life Toothbrush combines CrissCross and Power Tip bristles to help lift and sweep away plaque from hard to reach places. The Crest Pro-Health For Life Rinse defends against tender, inflamed gums from gingivitis, bad breath and plaque that brushing may miss.

“One-third of adults 65 years of age and older have untreated dental cavities and slightly more than 40% have periodontal disease, a form of advanced gum disease,” says the P&G official. “The features and formulations of this product line defend against dental conditions people over 50 experience.”

Seniors know that taking care of their teeth is a must. At the other end of the spectrum, getting kids to brush can often be a chore for parents. For the past few years Brush Buddies, based in Fontana, Calif., have been positioning the oral care category as “fun” through strategic licensing partnerships.

Brush Buddies recently completed a worldwide music search that allowed fans to vote for the next artist to be featured on the next Brush Buddies Singing Toothbrush. Fans selected Keana and the Keana Singing Toothbrush featuring her name, likeness and two of her hit songs are available this spring. This summer Brush Buddies is expanding its’ Poppin’ and Talking toothbrush lines to include products that reflect the image, style and voices from The Smurfs 2 movie.

For third quarter, Brush Buddies will launch Brush Buddies Bling Toothbrushes. Jeff Mellin, director of marketing, says they will be available in six “dazzling” colors and each brush will feature hundreds of jewels bonded to the brush handle. Brite Beatz, a synchronized music and light show inside a toothbrush will be introduced in the fourth quarter.

“The Brush Buddies brand provides a range of products that make brushing fun for all ages, characterized by innovative products, healthy margins and retail pricing seen as good value by consumers,” says Mellin. “Brush Buddies also has internal systems and staff that manage our retailer-partner assortments to best capitalize on the latest trends in oral care, pop culture, music and fashion.”

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