The oral care category historically has been comprised of large incumbent brands, with marketing focused on fear and shame, being distributed through FDM channels. The result was messaging wars and a product arms race in the dental aisles. The category has slowly been undergoing disruption for decades since Go Smile and Supersmile broke into the beauty landscape with a focus on technology and whitening in the 1990s.
Craig Dubitsky kicked off a new wave of category evolution with the launch of Hello in 2012, “tackling an old market with a new brand that turned a commodity into something desirable.” Dubitsky’s skill for identifying and defining white space has changed the face of the category at mass with clever branding, marketing, packaging, and clean formulations. Hello raised the bar, and the result has been a premiumization of the category at mass.
As oral care continues alignment with the beauty and wellness categories, a new crop of brands is collectively disrupting the oral care category from DTC to zero waste to how dentistry is being practiced. Fueling market growth is rising consumer demand, due to a growing focus on oral health and cosmetic dental treatments. These brands are tapping into the consumer desire for aesthetic packaging, clean formulations, creative flavors, sustainable packaging and an Insta-worthy smile. This innovation has pushed price points to the luxury stratosphere with toothpaste that tops $100.
The global oral care / oral hygiene market is projected to reach $53.3 billion by 2025 from $44.5 billion in 2019, at a CAGR of 3.0%. The category is ripe for revolution, from the products we use to the experience at dental offices.
Trends that will drive the future of the category:
1. Oral Microbiome: The oral cavity has the second largest and diverse microbiota after the gut. The oral microbiome will become part of the oral health conversation and product development. With the rise of the wellness category, consumers are beginning to understand everything is connected—the mouth is a reflection of what’s happening in the body.
2. Plastic and Packaging Impact: Approximately 1 billion toothpaste tubes are sent to landfills every year because of their small size, blended material, and the leftover residue in toothpaste tubes that makes them unable to be recycled. The slender shape and blend of plastic and nylon bristles of the standard toothbrush makes them tough to disassemble and recycle.
This has made the product ground zero in the category for packaging innovation. Colgate has spent five years developing a recyclable toothpaste tube, and Loop is experimenting with reusable packaging. On the toothbrush front, bamboo options and brushes with a replaceable brush have reduced the amount of waste, but the design of the humble toothbrush has remained the same for decades.
3. Product Forms and Formulation: The same trends that have swept the beauty category are hitting oral care. Formulas are being cleaned up with natural ingredients like charcoal, coconut oil, and baking powder trending. Driven by sustainability, product forms are being reinvented to reduce plastic packaging and remove water.
4. Devices and Apps: Oral care devices and apps have been mainstreaming for a few years, but the capabilities will extend further as health and well-being are influencing oral health. Out of a desire to care for overall well-being, consumers will pay closer attention to oral health and embrace ways to monitor and combat oral health concerns.
5. Reinventing the Dentist Office: Until very recently, the entire dental health experience felt antiquated. From Apa Aesthetics on the luxury cosmetic dentistry end of the spectrum with cutting-edge offices in New York City, Los Angeles, and Dubai, to the affordable maintenance and millennial sensibility of Tend, the experience is being reinvented. The patient is at the center of tech-heavy design softened in residential finishes.
Brands disrupting and reinventing the category:
Cult Classics: There are a handful of cult products and brands that are riding the new wave of oral care and gracing the “shelves” from retailers like Net-a-Porter, Cult Beauty, Violet Grey, and Sephora.
Direct-to-Consumer Disruptors: Like many CPG categories oral care was ripe for disruption and perfectly suited for subscription-based models.
Indie Oral Care: The merging of wellness and beauty have opened distribution channels for indie oral care brands from specialty beauty to lifestyle retail concepts.
Expert Backed: Dentist-backed brands are on the rise, leveraging profile and expertise as the differentiating factor in these brands.
The category is ripe for innovation, but on the product side of the equation, the landscape is getting crowded with new brands being launched every day. While Quip and Cocofloss have emerged as category leaders in the DTC/indie ecosystem, Hello has carved out their piece of the FDM channel and Smile Direct Club is leveraging its medtech platform with a product launch in 3800+ Walmart stores, there’s still plenty of market share to capture.
Photo: via Tend