Sensitive tooth fairies
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Sensitive tooth fairies

The battle for your favourite toothpaste has moved beyond the regular white, sparkling or the anti-cavity variants to sensitive toothpastes, as big brands fight it out. Rachit Vats writes.

business Updated: Apr 22, 2013 02:18 IST
Rachit Vats
Rachit Vats
Hindustan Times

Lately you’d have seen the numerous testimonial toothpaste ads recommending a shift to an option that will address tooth and gum sensitivity. The battle for your favorite toothpaste is suddenly hotter than ever and is no longer confined to the plain white, sparkling or the anti-cavity variety. Existing major players in the category, including the likes of Colgate-Palmolive, GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare and Hindustan Unilever have, over the last year, kicked off and opened a marketing war creating a brand new ‘sensitive toothpaste’ segment.

Consumers are not complaining even as the sensitivity segment has grown four times in the past two years, owing largely to the aggressive marketing and other consumer education from GSK and Colgate.

Manufacturers’ new found love for the sensitive toothpaste is backed by research and data. According to medical research reports, at least 32% Indians suffer from some form of gum sensitivity and oral care problems and the availability of ‘sensitive’ toothpastes comes as a handy relief for them.

While the segment is huge, with appropriate marketing push laced with testimonial advertisements, the segment has been able to make for itself good room in the overall toothpaste category. According to industry estimates, the total toothpaste market size in value terms is Rs 5,784 crore and growing at about 17%. Of this, the relatively newer sensitive toothpaste category accounts about 9% at Rs 517 crore, and is growing at 32%. This is possibly the fastest a segment has opened up in this category. In this case, advertising has definitely created an impact with consumers.

Dentists too are not averse to these products, which enhances the buying tendencies of consumers. What started as an aggressive product and advertising war between Sensodyne (GSK) and Colgate Sensitive toothpastes, has now quickly expanded to Pepsodent’s gum healing toothpaste, Pepsodent ProSensitive, currently being advertised aggressively. Traditional Ayurvedic player Himalaya too has entered the category even as Dabur, which has been watching the space keenly, is considering a launch soon.

GSK Consumer Healthcare entered the space two years ago with its Sensodyne brand and is waging a marketing war with Colgate’s Pro-Relief. Upping its ante in the segment, GSK has recently introduced a newer variant –Sensodyne Repair & Protect – to counter HUL’s similar product –ProSensitive – in the space.

“Sensitivity and other oral problems are quite common in India and at least two in five Indian suffer from it. The awareness is not very high. We have undertaken a number of education initiatives to build awareness. This is done through marketing push and institutional initiatives wherein dentists too recommend the brand,” said Jayant Singh, executive vice president, marketing, GSK Consumer Healthcare, India.

GSK’s sensitive brand currently has a slightly higher market share compared to its rival Colgate Sensitive, which has captured a 26% share as compared to the latter's 25%. The numbers are for the month of March, according to industry numbers.

“Manufacturers have decided to address the sensitivity problem. Overall, the market is evolving and the newer players are doing well for themselves. While the segment is being seen as a premium offering at the moment, massive democratisation can be expected given our lifestyle that makes us prone to sensitivity or other oral issues,” said Rajesh K, business head, consumer products division, The Himalaya Drug Company.

Himalaya is the latest entrant in the space. The company is looking at replacing its Dental Cream (launched 15 years ago) in the oral care space, to a host of newer brands to address a targeted oral care. This includes four new toothpastes such as Complete Care, Sparkling White, Active FreshGel and Sensitive.

Dabur too is looking at a foray, which sources inform is in the developing stages.

“Sensitive teeth is a wide-ranging ailment and the current products are available at very high prices, so we’re seeing whether we can deliver something which is of good value,” said Sunil Duggal, CEO, Dabur India. Currently, oral care accounts to about 17% of Dabur’s consumer care business.

First Published: Apr 21, 2013 23:20 IST