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What’s Next for Oral Care?

By: Karen A. Newman
Posted: February 3, 2009, from the February 2009 issue of GCI Magazine.

It seems the oral care industry has been reduced to little more than a tooth-and-nail fight for market share. Growth is in line with the broader cosmetics and toiletries market, and Euromonitor calls the category “a solid and dependable sales engine,” but all is not what it once was in the toothpaste aisle. Oral care is a mature, commodity market that is “proving difficult to add meaningful value to,” according to Euromonitor.

Remember the days before plaque fighting claims—a time when toothpaste only came in a tube? The oral care market was as wide open as a mouth prepped for root canal. These days, changes in the category are more often evolutionary than revolutionary. Exploiting trends offers some new points of differentiation—however briefly. Following the lead from skin care, oral care has gone “clinical” and “natural,” but what’s the next niche? Teeth whitening advances offer opportunities for brand expansion in the segment, and these opportunities have moved, in turn, to spas and salons that now offer chairside whitening services, as Leslie Benson tells us in “Up From the Dentist’s Chair.”

Oral care brands that tire of duking it out for ever thinner profits will have to get creative to pull ahead. When investing in innovation becomes cost prohibitive, what’s a marketer to do? Some good ideas may be found beyond the oral care aisle completely.

Changes at The Council

Fast on the heels of an award for its consumer Web site (www.cosmeticinfo.com) that launched a year ago and is reportedly garnering visitors from around the world, The Personal Care Products Council announced the resignation of Pam Bailey, president and CEO since 2005. Back in December 2008, at a luncheon for trade and consumer press editors, it was Bailey herself who enumerated the key successes in her four year stint at the helm. The consumer information Web site was part of the council’s commitment to consumer product safety, and was a companion to the Consumer Commitment Code—onto which, Bailey reported, fully 100% of the council’s members had signed. In addition, the list had grown with an additional 22 companies. The code forces product registration with the FDA, and a re-examination of the Cosmetic Ingredient Review resulted in changes that have allowed a 100% increase in the number of ingredients reviewed.

As this issue goes to press, Mark Pollak, The Personal Care Products Council’s executive vice president of strategic initiatives, is serving as interim president and CEO until Bailey’s replacement is named.