The sales decline of certain oral care categories is wiping the smile off many a retailer's face. After several years of strong growth, the number of new whitening product introductions has fallen out faster than a 7-year-old's baby tooth.
"You can see a clear pattern here that looks like 2004 was kind of the peak for toothpaste products that really tout whitening," noted Tom Vierhile, executive director of Datamonitor's Productscan Online database of new products. There were 76 whitening toothpaste products introduced in 2004. By comparison, 49 products came to market in all of 2005, and only 26 new products have been introduced to date this year.
In an age when baby boomer-driven, health and wellness sales revolve around youthful, vibrant appearances, it's something of a mystery as to why sales of these products - promising whiter, stain-free teeth - have slowed. Vierhile feels that the exclusivity of whiteners is no longer enough, in and of itself, to move product.
"I think it's become kind of an expectation that if you get a tooth care product it's going to be a whitening product anyway," he said.
Retailers might see some sales bumps in the natural HBC lines as more shoppers move away from conventional whiteners and seek out more holistic oral care options. Tom's of Maine last year introduced natural care products including whitening fluoride gel; and Nature's Gate Advanced Care Whitening toothpaste from Levlad broke through into mainstream channels.