Category Insights: Oral and Vision Care

Private Label Looking To Clean Up In Oral Care

A recent report from Mintel Group Ltd. shows that the aging baby boomers will drive oral care sales in the near future.

The world of oral care might be running in place for the next few years, but innovation and value appear to leave the private label industry in the right place to make

Oral care Category Insights

A recent report from Mintel Group Ltd. shows that the aging baby boomers will drive oral care sales in the near future.


A Mintel Group Ltd. report, “Oral Care – U.S.” from June shows that the oral care category showed about $8.2 billion in sales in 2011, but that growth was expected to decline in the category slightly to $8.07 billion in sales by 2016.

Still, the slow recovery from the Great Recession has helped private label make some gains in the categories. Mintel’s report shows the “allure of affordable oral care products,” by gaining an 8.1 percent share of the market as of March 18, 2012. That’s a greater share than both GlaxoSmithKline and Church & Dwight, the report showed.

And the latest data from Chicago-based SymphonyIRI shows that it is the outside categories in oral care where private label is charging forward rather than traditional stalwarts such as toothbrushes.

Private label sales in dental accessories and tools rose 10.7 percent in 2012, according to SymphonyIRI, now claiming a 3.8 percent share of the overall category.

“Specialty and interdental items are picking up steam,” said Tony Clark, vice president of sales for Morristown, Tenn.-based manufacturer DentaCare. “Picks, mirrors, scalers, cap and crown repair or orthodontic kits, they’re all things that aren’t really brand dominated. So we see a real opportunity. We’ve been preaching it for a couple of years now.”

Clark said retailers have begun to explore the private label opportunities in the segment more recently.

“In many cases there’s no need to have a compare-to because it’s a function, not something you’re going after because of the brand,” he said. “If you’ve got a broken cap or crown, it doesn’t matter if it’s a Rite-Aid brand or CVS brand or a national brand. You’ve got to get it fixed.”

The next largest segment in private label behind dental accessories is manual toothbrushes, and although sales declined last year it still makes up 3.6 percent of the dollar share of the category. Power toothbrushes account for another 0.6 percent share, with whitening products gaining 13 percent in dollar sales last year, claiming a 1.6 percent share of the market.

“Domestically, whitening, power toothbrushes and replacement brush heads are big opportunity for our retail customers, and are key areas of focus for private label,” said Christine Henisee, CEO for Ranir, a Michigan-based manufacturer of oral and personal healthcare products. “However, because these categories are driven by high technology requirements, barriers to success are high. Recent Ranir product advancements include our dry touch technology in our new whitening products. Easy to use with no messy gels.”

Dental floss also made gains, up 1.9 percent in sales in 2012 to claim a 1.5 percent share.

Mintel’s report took a keen eye to private label in dental floss.

“More than two in 10 respondents use either Crest Glide or Johnson & Johnson Reach,” it said. “Other floss brands rank far lower. However, it is important to note that 20 percent of respondents use store brands, and 18 percent of respondents are using brands from the ‘other’ category, indicating that brand is not as important for consumers in this segment.”

Clark said that sensitivity products were another area that DentaCare saw growth opportunities in going forward. SymphonyIRI data showed oral pain relief growing 13.8 percent last year with more than 1 percent share of the market.

“Sensitivity products that help seal out any issues will be a growing trend,” he said. “We have a sealant that deadens the pain for an extended period of time instead of a shorter one.”

Products such as dental accessories and sensitivity are perfectly suited toward an aging population that Mintel’s report said will drive future business.

“In particular, the large, aging baby boomer population will be impactful for this market, as their need for better oral care will increase as they move into older age brackets,” it said.

Ranir’s Henisee said her company believed that the opportunities in the senior market were not simply a function of baby boomers but a trend expected to show gains through 2020.

“Ranir is exploring how best to meet the future needs of the aging demographic, including product enhancements that make our products easier to use, with solutions that address the tactile challenges that come with age,” she said. “Some current examples of how Ranir is accommodating this audience is in our power brush products, which provide a helpful solution to those with less dexterity. Easy to push ‘buttons’ and large grip handles with elastomers make holding and operating effortless.

“Interdental brushes is another category that meets the need of the older population. As you age, gums recede, and interdental brushes are an easy-to-use product to clean spaces between teeth. Similarly, dental flossers provide a convenient way to floss for the aging population.”

The value proposition holds that continued private label growth is expected, Mintel said.

“Many consumers are keeping a tight rein on spending, even for everyday and household items such as oral care, and are more likely to trade down to private label and store brands,” the report said.

Henisee said her company ensured that it was able to bring quality and value to retailers in its program.

“The value proposition for private label has been trending up for some time, and started long before the recession,” she said. “At Ranir, we consumer-test all of our products that have national brand compare-tos. We do this to ensure our products have been validated by consumers long before they reach the store shelves. It’s also a critical step in our commitment to delivering high service levels to our customers.”

 On the vision side, private label made strong gains in 2012. The overall eye and contact lens care category rose 5 percent in 2012, according to SymphonyIRI, but private label sales in lens care solutions climbed 6.8 percent, up to a 12.8 percent share in the category. Tables and accessories rose 6.9 percent and now have a 1.4 percent share in the category.  

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