Brits go mad for gleaming smiles

By Simon Pitman

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Oral hygiene

The UK has experienced a significant growth in the oral care
sector, driven mainly by teeth whitening products as consumers
adopt the sparkling smiles supported by many leading stars.

Although sales of toothpastes continue to dominate the sector, growth of niche products is the real driving force behind the category's market growth.

According to the latest report from Mintel sales of floss, dental gum and whitening product have grown by 118 per cent in 4 years, up from £17m (€24.45m) in 2001, to £37m in 2005.

But the research company says that the real growth amongst these niches is coming from whitening products as the British tap into what it terms the concept of 'smile beauty'.

"The UK oral hygiene market has evolved into a whole new beauty sector,"​ said David Bird, senior market analyst at Mintel.

"One of the biggest influences on the market has been the rising cult of celebrity, many of whom sport clinically enhanced pure white teeth."

Bird says that the super-white smiles of leading stars such as Tom Cruise, Victoria Beckham and Ronan Keating is encouraging the British consumer to aspire to the same sort of look.

And with the rapid evolution of simple-to-use and inexpensive home-whitening kits, this means that many people are now choosing to whiten their teeth in the comfort of their own homes, rather than go to the dentists and pay for more expensive procedures.

"These products appeal to a growing number of image-conscious consumers, who want to regain the white and unstained look they may have lost through a lifetime of drinking wine, coffee and tea or from smoking cigarettes,"​ added Bird.

In Europe analysts and industry experts often look to the UK market as a kind of barometer to future trends that are likely to spread to the rest of Europe.

This is because UK consumers are considered to be more open to new products and are also quicker to adopt new products and trends from the US, where such products are often first marketed.

But the research also shows a big gap in the market, where this perceived openness doe not seem to have penetrated. According to the company, men have failed to catch on to the trend for a whiter smile in any big way.

The metrosexual male might be well and truly established by now, but it still seems that when it comes to oral hygeiene a quick toothbrush morning and night is as far as most men are prepared to go in their oral hygiene habits.

This means that women have been the key factor behind driving the growing sales of niche oral hygiene products, but also points to the fact that there seems to be plenty of potential for marketing these products towards men.

"Men emerge as being more blasé about their oral hygiene than women and it would seem likely that oral hygiene, beyond straightforward brushing, is considered an exercise too far for Britain's men,"​ added Bird.

Looking at the sector as a whole, the main core of the market's sales, toothpaste and toothbrushes has proved to be relatively stagnant, with sales growing 5.5 per cent between 2001 and 2005 to reach £616m.

But whereas sales of toothbrushes actually fell 4 per cent during this period, the mouthwash sector has shown plenty of promise, growing 16 per cent to reach a market value of £86m.

Likewise the market for denture cleaners and fixatives has also grown 7 per cent to reach a value of £42m, reflecting the change in the UK's demographics towards an ageing population.

Looking to the future Mintel believes that market innovation, particularly in the niche categories, will be key to future growth, which is expected to bring the market value up to £681m by 2010, an increase of 11 per cent.

Driving this figure will be sales of 'dental added extras', such as floss, dental gum and whitening products, which are expected to grow by 86 per cent to reach £69m by 2010.

"Sales will be driven by mainstream products thatdeliver an enhanced consumer benefit, such as whitening and antibacterial toothpaste, or manual toothbrushes with bonus features, suchas tongue scrapers. Consumers will also continue to trade up to moreexpensive powered toothbrushes,"​ said Bird.

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