You only have to look at Tom Cruise or Julia Roberts to see that a great smile can take you a long way in life. But despite the fact that a person’s teeth are central to both their appearance and their self-esteem, oral care awareness is not as high as you might think.

“In general, people will spend more looking after their hair than their teeth,” claims Gareth Rudduck, group brand director sensitivity and acid wear at GlaxoSmithKline (GSK). “Yet any kind of study shows the first thing people notice about someone is their smile. Whether someone is laughing, talking, smiling - knowing that they have good teeth gives people confidence. If we were as rational as we were emotional about oral care, sales would triple.”

Wrigley concurs that oral care awareness is not a priority for the bulk of consumers. “A recent survey by the British Dental Health Foundation (BDHF) revealed that more than one in three people (39%) owned up to giving little thought to their oral health,” says Wrigley sales director Duncan McCulloch.

But oral care manufacturers are working hard to change this. “Consumers know they need to brush their teeth once in the morning and once in the evening, but many are not aware that they need to continue looking after their teeth throughout the day,” adds McCulloch. Wrigley continues to communicate its Eat, Drink, Chew oral care message, which is designed to promote the oral care benefits of chewing Extra sugar-free gum during the day and after eating and drinking to help neutralise plaque acid. The campaign is visible across all media platforms, most recently on TV, and as a result the brand is driving category growth, with annual sales up 13.5% to £162m.

retailer’s view

Rishi Madhani

“Oral care products are steady sellers. People have always wanted to look after their teeth, and they want to avoid any uncomfortable dentist procedures.

“There are a lot of products on the market and it can be confusing, but I’ve noticed that whitening is a key driver. Colgate Total Advanced Whitening does well. We see a lot of people in their 20s and 30s buying into these products - appearance is a high priority at that age.

“We also sell Sensodyne Repair and Protect for people with sensitive teeth Aquafresh Triple Action Pump, which people like because it’s easy to use and Oral-B’s ProExpert, which did well when it launched as it had a price flash.

“The trend for chewing gum that helps with oral care might seem gimmicky, but when it’s promoted with endorsements from professionals, it works well. If there was an attachment to display gum alongside other oral care products, I would consider using it.”

Rishi Madhani, Today’s Stokenchurch, Buckinghamshire

Extra is also strongly supported by dental professionals. Products have been accredited by the BDHF and Irish Dental Association and the Eat, Drink, Chew message is communicated on screens across UK dental practices, reaching more than 19 million dental patients and professionals.

GSK’s £10.3m Sensodyne Repair and Protect brand is also flagged up in dental practices across the UK, and dentist recommendations are central to the brand’s campaign. “We always use dentists in our advertising. Nine out of 10 dentists recommend Sensodyne - they know there is a big issue of people suffering without treatment,” says Rudduck. In fact, the firm claims that one in three people suffer from dentine hypersensitivity and that 52% of those patients fail to seek dental advice.

The company is pumping £7m into a new Sensodyne Repair & Protect campaign, featuring TV, outdoor, press and digital activity, designed to emphasise the ‘repair’ message. “This year’s advertising campaign continues to educate consumers about the symptoms of sensitivity and encourages them to take action,” says Rudduck.


That’s how much the total toothpaste category is worth, according to Nielsen Total Coverage MAT value sales June 8, 2012

TV ads, featuring a dentist testimonial, will be seen by 7.5m viewers across a six-week period. “If a dentist recommends something, people tend to buy it with a prescription mentality,” says Rudduck.

He claims that specialist products such as Sensodyne are a major impulse purchase, meaning that charging a premium price is acceptable to consumers. “People are buying these products on an emergency impulse - triggered by an event, for example a dentist visit, so value isn’t as important to them.”

A bit of all-white

Sensitivity isn’t the only oral care driver that people will pay a premium for: whitening is also an area that consumers are willing to fork out on. Procter & Gamble’s (P&G’s) Oral-B division has analysed consumer buying habits and claims that while as many as 44% of consumers will opt for all-round pastes that offer a complete solution for all the family, such as Oral B Complete and Colgate Total Advance, 11% of consumers fall under a ‘Passionate and Experiential’ umbrella. Read past the marketing blurb, and the bottom line is that these consumers want beauty-focused products and are happy to pay for something a bit special. Oral-B’s solution is Oral-B 3D White, a paste that can remove up to 80% of surface stains in a matter of weeks in order to restore natural whiteness.

Pearls of wisdom

● Stocking sugar-free gum in the oral care aisle, as well as at the till point, will draw new chewers into the category and increase incremental sales

● Sugar-free gum can also be merchandised next to products that consumers associate with bad breath, such as coffee

● Consider stocking a premium paste to encourage consumers to trade up

● If you have an affluent customer base, then think about stocking electric toothbrushes.

Available in Enamel Protect and Brilliance variants, the product steps away from more clinical brands. 3D White boasts sexy, sparkling on-pack imagery and the emphasis is most definitely on appearance, rather than wider oral issues. The brand hopes that glossy brand ambassador Holly Willoughby, who will be fronting the products’ ad campaign, will strike a chord with beauty-conscious consumers.

Oral-B isn’t the only brand to be tapping into the whitening trend, which is hardly surprising when you consider that a third of all cosmetic dental treatments carried out involve tooth whitening, according to BDHF.

A whitening variant was added to Wrigley’s Extra Ice range last year and it has already seen sales top £11.9m. Extra Ice White has opened up the sugar-free gum market to younger consumers, claims the firm. “Consumers, particularly younger chewers, are becoming more aware of the dental benefits sugar-free gum brings. For example, past week usage of Extra among teens has risen by eight percentage points in the past 12 months, largely due to the launch of Extra Ice White in 2011,” says McCulloch. The company has just added Extra Ice White in a fresh mint flavour to offer consumers more variety.

GSK’s Sensodyne has also latched on to demand for whitening products, with its new Sensodyne Repair & Protect Whitening. However, it isn’t attempting to go down the glitzy path of 3D White and is instead attempting to re-establish Sensodyne as a mainstream, rather than niche, brand. “People are often under the misconception that sensitive toothpaste compromises on other areas,” says Rudduck. “We want to dispel people of the myth that Sensodyne is a medical product. We want to make the messaging more relevant to everyday consumers.”

Sensitive subject

GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare hopes to drive awareness of new Sensodyne Repair & Protect Whitening (rrp: £4.29) and Extra Fresh (rrp: £3.99) with a £7m campaign targetting 25- to 44-year-olds. It aims to explain how the advanced technology in Sensodyne Repair & Protect works.
Tel: 0800 783 8881

Worth a mint
More of us are after that film-star smile and so whitening has become a big driver in the oral care market. Wrigley is catering for increasing consumer demand with new Extra Ice White Fresh Mint. The new variant contains 10 pellets per pack and is available in outers of 30.
rrp: 46p
tel: 01752 752 095

The perfect fix
Procter & Gamble has introduced Fixodent Dual Protection, supported by a multi-million pound campaign including TV and print advertising. The new denture adhesive features a thin ‘pen’ nozzle that provides a complete food seal barrier effect.
rrp £3.69
tel: 0800 7311 792

Brush up
Sensodyne has developed three new brushes suitable for all needs. Sensodyne Precision Medium, Sensodyne Precision Soft, and Sensodyne Daily Care are all specially designed for consumers with sensitive teeth and are gentle on teeth and gums.
rrp: £2.99
tel: 0800 783 8881

3D cleaning
New 3D White toothpaste from Procter & Gamble is capable of achieving visibly whiter teeth in just two weeks. The toothpaste is available in Brilliance and Enamel Protect variants. TV presenter Holly Willoughby will act as brand ambassador for the paste.
rrp: £3.49
tel: 0800 7311 792

Another misconception within the oral care market surrounds toothbrushes. “There is a behavioural barrier in that people think soft brushes don’t clean teeth,” says Rudduck. “In fact, a hard brush can actually damage teeth.”

GSK is launching three premium-priced Sensodyne branded toothbrushes in soft and medium variants, which it hopes will appeal to existing Sensodyne users. “The toothbrush market suffers from being heavily traded, which means it loses value,” says Ruddock. “We want people to buy on a need basis, rather than a value basis.”

Oral-B has also been busy developing new brushes. “We want to transform the UK’s oral health by trading people up to power,” says Adam Viner, research and development scientist at P&G. “We have an 80% share of the power market, and we are looking at how to drive penetration.” According to the company’s research, 26% of consumers are power users, 24% of consumers will never buy into power products, and 50% are manual users, but willing to be persuaded into power.

Oral-B states that the key barrier to consumers trialling power brushes is their rotating motion. So the firm has come up with a range of brushes that clean as well as an oscillating brush, but with the sweeping motion of a manual brush. Prices start from £49.95, which may not be suitable for all c-stores, but is worth considering if you have an affluent customer base.

As with all categories, what you choose to stock must be based on your expert knowledge of your store and its customers. But the profits are clearly at the premium end of the market, so think about whether you can convince your customers to trade up by stocking some added-value options.

Get your range right and you’ll be able to get a bigger bite of the oral care market.•