UK set to be first to catch on to convenience whitening products

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The UK is likely to be the first market in Europe to be hit by the
US fad for oral convenience whitening products. Researchers say
that as British consumers consistently follow American consumer
patterns, the big cosmetic companies are once again likely to make
their first strike in a market where oral hygiene products are
booming. Simon Pitman reports

Over the last few years, convenience-whitening products have taken the US cosmetics and toiletries market by storm. In 2001, Procter & Gamble invested $45 million (€33.7m) in educating​ US consumers about at-home whitening, sparking the creation of a market sector that is expected to experience a ten-fold increase in value by the end of 2004. Crest Whitestrips by Procter & Gamble ignited the trend and prompted rivals like Colgate-Palmolive and Unilever to launch competing products. Private label brands are now also following suit.

The latest report on this category from Euromonitor International​, entitled Cosmetics and Toiletries in the UK​ states that sales of convenience whiteners in the US approached an estimated $164 million in 2001, and grew by a whopping 98.9 per cent in 2002. Although year-on-year value sales growth for 2003 slipped to around half the rate of the previous year, volume sales doubled. This was a result of stiffer competition as new entrants vied for a piece of the action.

Blurring between health and beauty

"A key trend driving the success of convenience whiteners is the increasingly blurred distinction between health and beauty products,"​ said report author Leonie Tait. "Growing health awareness is creating a buzz around cosmetics that contain vitamins and other health associated properties. Similarly, oral hygiene products, which have traditionally been positioned as health products, are now being touted for their cosmetic appeal."

An example of this can be found by looking at the trend towards cosmetic positioning that also extends to other oral hygiene products. Euromonitor's research on the UK market, showed that whitening toothpaste also performed well in 2003 taking a 21 per cent share of value sales, compared to 10 per cent in 1998. Breath freshening has also become a trend-setting feature in 2003, with many toothpastes adding this element to their core formulations.

Same results at a fraction of the cost

Another reason for the success of convenience whiteners is that consumers are drawn to products that maximise convenience and minimise cost. The average price of convenience whiteners is $20 - a fraction of the cost of dentist-assisted teeth whitening, which typically ranges from $500-1,000. Further to this, the convenience of such whitening products means that in just a few minutes each day, consumers can fulfil their desire to look and feel better in the comfort of their own home.

The popularity of at-home whitening products in North America has yet to take off in Europe. However, Euromonitor predicts that between 2004 and 2008 similar products are poised for success in the UK market. However, there is one stumbling block that could prevent its launch on the European markets: EU regulators.

EU legislation may prove a stumbling block

What might prove a sticking point for the cosmetics companies obtaining EU regulations is the fact that many of the whitening agents contain hydrogen peroxide, which serves to bleach the teeth. Currently, the EU is still to pass legislation allowing levels of 6 per cent hydrogen peroxide to be used in whitening brands such as White Strips found in the US.

However, Euromonitor International predicts that there is a high probability that new formulations containing at least 6 per cent hydrogen peroxide will be launched in the UK, as Procter & Gamble is reported to have already invested heavily in the formulation of its own European whitening brand to be called Simply White.

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