Oral care gives retailers something to smile about

The economic turmoil has left retailers skittish and manufacturers cautious, but it also has opened the door for manufacturers to appeal to cash-strapped consumers by offering more affordable toothbrushes and convenient solutions. Such offerings will continue to appeal to consumers as the economic recovery continues and consumers remain watchful of their dollars.

According to data provided by Information Resources Inc., sales of mouthwash slipped 2.9% to $169.9 million for the 13 weeks ended Dec. 27 at food, drug and mass (excluding Walmart), while sales of manual toothbrushes rose 6.7% to $118.9 million, sales of power toothbrushes declined 6.1% to $67.3 million and sales of toothpaste dropped 1.3% to $313.5 million.

While total sales of the power toothbrushes category slipped, according to IRI, Church & Dwight had “a huge success” in 2009 with its Sonic battery-powered Spinbrush.

“Highly successful, the fastest-growing brush in the category,” Church & Dwight chairman and CEO James Craigie told analysts about the Spinbrush during the company’s fourth-quarter earnings call on Feb. 9.

“Great technology at a low cost had a great success in driving our Spinbrush business again. We were one of the only guys in the whole toothbrush category who were up last year in a down overall category,” Craigie added.

During the fourth quarter, Colgate saw its share of the manual toothbrush market reach a record 32.2% year to date, the company announced in late January. That’s up 5.2 share points versus a year ago, including the new Colgate Wisp mini-brush, whose market share reached 5% year to date and 6.3% for the fourth quarter. Its Colgate 360, ActiFlex, Colgate Max Fresh and Colgate Max White manual toothbrushes also contributed to the share gains.

For early 2010, Colgate developed the new Wisp Plus Whitening mini-brush.

Meanwhile, Procter & Gamble is launching in March its new Crest and Oral-B 3D White collection. In addition to whitestrips, toothpastes and rinse, the collection includes the new Pulsar Advanced Vivid Toothbrush with MicroPulse bristles that pivot and pulse, and the manual Advantage Vivid Toothbrush.