Legacy oral care brands hold their own amid market disruptors

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Legacy oral care brands hold their own amid market disruptors


Oral care is just the latest of many categories where disruptor brands have taken a bite out of consumer packaged goods leaders’ market share.

But unlike others, such as cosmetics or skin care, the behemoths have done an admirable job of brushing up on innovations of their own. Or have purchased the brands that are shaking up categories, as in the case of Colgate’s ownership of Tom’s of Maine.

The prognosis? A win for customers, booming sales for fledgling and heritage brands and a constant planogram shuffle.

Niche brands are most prevalent in toothpastes, the largest of the oral care categories. For the 52-week period ended July 9, toothpaste sales across multi-outlets rose 2.3% to $3.1 billion, according to IRI. What’s telling is the expansion of private labels, natural brands, multi-tasking formulas and those products addressing particular issues, such as relief for sensitive teeth.

In a sea of sameness on the shelf, products offering something additional are vying for consumers’ purse strings. There’s even toothpaste that encourages sleep, called Supersmile Professional Teeth Whitening. It features such calming ingredients as jasmine and green tea.

Naturally clean

Ingredient stories are key in pastes, and “natural” is at the top of the list. According to data from Mintel, the importance of natural ingredients to oral care customers has more than doubled since 2014, and the natural segment is moving at a faster rate across oral care categories.

The desire for natural pastes continues to grow, and Tom’s of Maine now produces sales of almost $40 million in the chain stores tracked by IRI. The brand, which was an early pioneer in natural, posted almost 15% gains for the 52 weeks ended July 9 — larger than power brands from Procter & Gamble and Colgate.

The “better-for-you” oral care path also has driven many consumers, especially millennials, to hello products. Citing Mintel research, hello noted that millennials are two times more likely than other age cohorts to look for oral care products with natural ingredients. But the quest for natural stretches beyond that, with 87% of parents somewhat or very interested in natural products for their children, and 66% of parents rating organic ingredients as extremely or very important when considered toothpastes for their kids.

“Hello has had its most successful year to date, and brand awareness continues to grow across food, drug and mass channels in the United States,” said Craig Dubitsky, founder of hello products. “Several factors contributed to hello’s growth, including our ‘An Inconvenient Tooth,’ awareness and trial campaign, which focused on asking consumers if they know what’s in their toothpaste, and [urging] them to try an alternative.”

The campaign helped increase awareness, included a sampling component with a sharing feature and drove significant sales and velocity increases, the company said. The company added that this year’s launch of its sodium lauryl sulfate-free hello Sensitivity Relief toothpaste, with such “in-demand” ingredients as coconut oil, aloe vera and effective potassium nitrate, delivered the benefits today’s modern consumer is seeking.

“With distinctive, millennial pink rose gold packaging, our new paste is meeting the needs of shoppers,” Dubitsky said, noting many consumers have damaged teeth due to whitening practices that have proven unfriendly to enamel. “Hello has also focused on growing our incredible fluoride free and SLS-free pastes, including our hello fluoride-free whitening natural sweet mint toothpaste, and hello kids’ fluoride-free natural watermelon toothpastes, both of which are delighting millennials and millennial families,” he said.

Tot-friendly toothpaste

To offer a way for new parents to introduce healthy oral care, hello recently launched its Organic Apple Flouride Free Toddler Training Toothpaste. The clear gel is formulated with xylitol, erythritol, soothing aloe vera and other “friendly” ingredients to keep little teeth and delicate gums clean and strong. Created for children ages three months to 2 years, the formula is safe if swallowed, fluoride-free, vegan and free of sugar, SLS/sulfates, artificial sweeteners/flavors, preservatives, microbeads, triclosan and gluten.

“Healthy brushing habits start early, so we set out with a mission to create a delicious-tasting, safe and naturally friendly flavor we knew kids would enjoy so much they would rush to brush,” Dubitsky said.

Retailers acknowledge kids oral health as an important sub-segment. In fact, Bartell Drugs partnered with the University of Washington’s Center for Pediatric Dentistry to provide dental care checkups to 115 children in need.

ACT Kids Toothpaste now has children’s pastes in its portfolio, with a goal of motivating kids to brush, according to the company. ACT shared research from a recent Toluna survey in which 56% of moms said they have a hard time getting kids to brush.

A niche brand zeroing in on the younger set is Vitaminpaste Kids Toothpaste. Vitaminpaste already earned presentation in major food and drug chains. Developed by Dr. Bruce Golden, a dentist with more than 30 years of experience, the product was clinically proven at the University of Buffalo School of Dental Medicine to deliver at least 50% of daily vitamins D, E, B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid) and B6 by brushing teeth as directed. It is fluoride-free and safe to swallow. The formula whitens, freshens breath and contains xylitol and calcium — but not SLS.

Golden’s goal was to provide an answer to patients’ perennial question of “what the best toothpaste for their kids? According to Golden, the kids toothpaste category has focused on artificial coloring, flavors, sparkles and cartoon-character packaging, which has nothing to do with oral hygiene or any other added benefits, except to condition kids and parents to use these factors as the basis for deciding which toothpaste to purchase.

Such adult concerns as whitening, sensitivity, peroxide, baking soda and periodontal disease are not major concerns for kids. But with Vitaminpaste Kids, he said children ages 4 years and older can now multi-task.

“By brushing as directed, kids can keep their teeth clean and get at least 50% of listed daily vitamins,” he said.

Oral first aid

Shopper demand for fluoride-free products is giving CloSYS a shot in the arm and shelf space in major retailers. According to James Ratcliff, president and CEO of CloSYS’ parent company, Rowpar Pharmaceuticals, dentists and hygienists are giving CloSYS a nod, sending shoppers down drug store aisles. He added that CloSYS does not contain the foaming agent SLS, which is known to irritate oral tissues and is a common cause of oral canker sores. Also, CloSYS is naturally activated by saliva and is able to penetrate mature oral biofilms and kill oral pathogens. As an added boost, CloSYS breeds multiple sales as a large percentage of its Oral Rinse consumers also buy the paste.

The brand is gaining exposure beyond oral care professionals in in-flight magazines, Sirius XM advertising (driving customers to participating stores), digital marketing and its current campaign, featuring the tag line “First Aid for Your Mouth,” focused on oral sores.


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