RINSE AND REPEAT

Oral care continues to move up in the increasingly polished world of consumers' health and beauty regimens with new products that go far beyond the basics.Formulations aimed at more and better benefits promise increased dollar sales as consumers abandon simple brushing habits and adopt a more sophisticated approach, retailers told SN."The expansion of premium products and the continued demand for

Oral care continues to move up in the increasingly polished world of consumers' health and beauty regimens with new products that go far beyond the basics.

Formulations aimed at more and better benefits promise increased dollar sales as consumers abandon simple brushing habits and adopt a more sophisticated approach, retailers told SN.

"The expansion of premium products and the continued demand for beauty and health integration is making oral care part of consumers' cosmetic and therapeutic routines," said Robert Keane, spokesman for Stop & Shop Supermarket Co., Quincy, Mass.

Consumers have traded up for these premium product offerings, bringing more dollars to the category, he said.

Mouthwash and toothpaste with added cosmetic benefits, such as whitening and breath freshening, as well as products with health benefits like combating dry mouth and convenience elements like out-of-home care and sonic-powered cleaning, are drawing consumers into the oral care aisle, retailers said.

"Consumers will continue to look for innovative items that complement not only their oral care needs, but their overall health and beauty care regimen," said Jeff Lowrance, spokesman, Food Lion, Salisbury, N.C. The introduction of new items keeps the category fresh and exciting, specifically multifunctional products such as mouthwash and whitening toothpaste, he said.

Sales of mouthwash/dental rinse were up 1.6% in supermarkets to $279 million for the 52 weeks ending April 16, according to Information Research Inc., Chicago. The rise in mouthwash sales is a reflection of consumers' awareness of their well-being and the knowledge that, "the mouth is the gateway to good overall health," said Maria

Brous, spokeswoman, Publix Super Markets, Lakeland, Fla.

Listerine Advanced Antiseptic with Tartar Control was part of the 2005 New Product Pacesetters Top 10 nonfood products list from IRI. "The Listerine brand is in a growth position because as boomers age, gum disease and potential tooth loss become rising concerns," said Valerie Skala Walker, vice president of analytic product management for IRI.

Pfizer, New York, with Listerine Advanced, and Procter & Gamble, Cincinnati, with Crest Pro-Health anti-gingivitis mouthwash are "getting good acceptance," said a West Coast retailer who asked to not be identified.

"There is an increasing awareness that the health of the mouth can affect the health of the body such as the upper digestive tract," Keane said. However, there will also always be a close correlation between dental health and appearance, he added.

For example, Brous noted that Pfizer's Listerine Whitening Pre-Brush Rinse offers an easy way for consumers to maintain brighter teeth.

While toothpaste sales are down 4% in supermarkets to $643.5 million (according to IRI for the 52 weeks ending April 16), Colgate Max Fresh Toothpaste, owned by Colgate-Palmolive, New York, which incorporates whitening with mini breath freshening strips, is up 65.8% to $8.3 million. Meanwhile Procter & Gamble is expected to release Crest Pro-Health Toothpaste, a total care version of its Pro-Heath anti-gingivitis mouthwash formula, this summer.

"In toothpaste, we have seen dollar growth with more expensive formulations," said the West Coast retailer.

"With Crest and Colgate dominating toothpaste sales, retailers will have to look to other areas of the planogram to drive profitability," Keane said.

Sue Vodika, HBC buyer/category manager for Bashas,' Chandler, Ariz., said that since the past two years have seen so much innovation in the category, she has lower expectations for this year. "We can't expect to do quite as well this year."

One category that seems to have reached maturity is tooth whitening systems, retailers said. "These whitening products were Stop & Shop's second largest dollar growth [category] in the five-year time frame between 1998 and 2003 [following power toothbrushes], but household penetration has fallen significantly in the past two years, minimizing future growth potential for the category," Keane said.

SYSTEMS DECLINE

Sales of tooth bleaching/whitening systems were down 16.8% in supermarkets to $61.3 million in the 52 weeks ending April 16, IRI reported.

"Whitening systems are in significant decline, leading to the lowest sales in three years while whitening toothpaste has offset these declines," Keane said.

Combined offerings, such as the convenience of toothpaste and the aesthetic benefit of whitening, have become a must for consumers, said Robert Passikoff, president, Brand Keys, New York. "Years ago people weren't as aware of or concerned with all of the segments of oral care, such as cavity protection, tartar control and whitening; now they are all seen as a commodity."

Meanwhile, power toothbrushes, mouthwash and out-of-home offerings, like Oral B Brush Ups and Listerine Pocket Mist, are expected to drive sales growth in the next five years, retailers said.

"The power toothbrush segment is anticipated to grow, but at a slower rate then it did the past," Keane said.

Power toothbrush sales in supermarkets for the past year are down 7.9% to $48.5 million, and unit sales are down 11.3%, according to IRI. However, the rising number of baby boomers entering their 60s is expected to bring more growth. Power toothbrushes have recently gained momentum at Food Lion, Lowrance said.

"Manufacturers have developed a product with more features and more durability and people are spending more money for them, but not buying them with the frequency of manuals," the West Coast retailer said.

Manual toothbrush sales in supermarkets have risen 2.7% to $216.4 million, with unit sales up 1.2%, according to IRI.

"Power toothbrushes should find positive growth with expansions in the rechargeable power toothbrushes such as Sonicare and Oral B," Brous of Publix said. Older consumers, she added, "will benefit from new technologies."

By 2020, Keane noted, over 35% of the total United States population will be over 50 years old. "The drop off of income for baby boomers as they enter into retirement means there is a limited window for getting these shoppers to trade up with our products."

In addition to sonic toothbrushes, mouthwash that combats dry mouth appeals to the aging consumer, Brous said. However, manufacturers should be careful not to stigmatize the mature buyer, added Tom Vierhile, director, Productscan Online, Naples, N.Y., a database of new products owned by Datamonitor, New York.

Brous and Vierhile named GlaxoSmithKline's Oasis moisturizing mouthwash as an example of an appealing subset in the mouthwash category. The packaging features soothing designs that "would prevent buyers from saying, 'I'm in the geriatric set!'" Vierhile said.

In line with convenient care, "out-of-home oral care is expected to grow significantly," Keane said. "The entrance of new breath freshening items, such as Listerine PocketPaks, along with growth in mouthwash and fresh breath toothpaste segments indicates the growing importance of fresh breath."

The good thing about all of this added function, retailers said, is that merchandising has actually become simpler.

"New product introductions have created more defined category sub-segments that allow for better merchandising groupings," Brous said.

With consumers spending less time in the aisles - grabbing merchandise and leaving the category - Stop & Shop "needs to make 'low-penetration conversion subcategories,'" which Keane defined as "visually intrusive and potentially having aisle signage to slow consumers and increase the opportunity for conversion."

Keane and Vodika suggest developing traffic drivers with heavy promotion and aggressive pricing on leading product brands like Crest and Colgate toothpaste, and then driving profits with other segments.

Natural Good Looks

Natural health and beauty care products, including oral care, are on the rise with no signs of slowing.

"The U.S. market for natural oral and personal care products is valued at $3 billion and is growing at 15% per year," said Robert Keane, spokesman for the Stop & Shop Supermarket Co., Quincy, Mass.

"Natural toothpaste and mouthwash are penetrating the traditional channels and the growing presence of natural foods grocery outlets make these brands critical to preventing share erosion. Currently, natural toothpaste accounts for 1% of toothpaste sales nationally, but this percentage is higher for Stop & Shop."

The recent acquisition of natural personal care products company, Tom's of Maine, by Colgate, has retailers anticipating growth in this segment in the near future, Keane added.

At Wild Oats Markets, the natural food chain based in Boulder, Colo., "there have been more manufacturers and more new products coming into the all-natural care category," said Sonja Tuitele, spokeswoman for the company.

Part of the reason behind this growth is that natural care is big across all consumer groups, Tuitele said.

"We find all ages of consumers in our Wild Oats demographics. Lots of new moms are starting their children off with natural personal care, college-age students are going away to school and having to do their own shopping, and of course the baby boomers are looking for a healthier lifestyle."