Following in the footsteps of companies like L’Oréal and Shiseido, who were heavily invested in technologies to create customized products, Colgate-Palmolive was currently assessing the potential of customization in oral care with a test and learn exercise. Colgate + YOU was a concept customizable toothpaste displayed on Colgate’s direct-to-consumer website in the US, priced at $12 per tube and marketed with the tagline ‘uniquely yours’.
“Beyond packaging innovations, consumers have not seen any significant changes in the toothpaste market in quite a while,” said Jennifer White Boehm, director for Mintel's US Personal Care, Household and Health and Wellness Reports. “Our data shows that 63% of US adults who use oral care products are interested in products designed for personal needs or interests, so a product like this could help Colgate differentiate its legacy brand and make it more appealing to consumers who are looking for personalization in their oral care,” White told CosmeticsDesign-USA.
Although a handful of indie brands had previously offered tailor-made toothpaste, these had tended to be in the natural and organic realm and on a much smaller scale.
Custom-making for the masses
So, how exactly could a company like Colgate-Palmolive translate the customization trend into the oral hygiene sector for the mass market?
For this test and learn exercise, consumers started by taking a quiz on Colgate’s website, which asked for their age group, end goals (fresh breath; white teeth, reduce sensitivity to name a few options), teeth sensitivity level, consumption of potential tooth-staining culprits, flavor options, and finally, the gel and tube color they wanted.
The potential product would be delivered straight to their door within five business days and customers would also be gifted with a discount for their next Colgate online purchase. The concept product also encompassed a variety of other beauty and personal care trends as it was sugar-free, gluten-free, and packed in a recyclable tube.
Just as brands like Function of Beauty had done in hair care, the concept toothpaste offered elements of customization without the need to create something entirely bespoke. “While it's not feasible to make a unique product for every individual, brands have found clever ways to meet this desire for personalized products, including products designed for specific need states, tech-enabled tools, and online quizzes,” said Anna Mayo, thought leadership VP of beauty and personal care at NielsenIQ. “Consumers are looking for elevation and premiumization across their beauty and personal care purchases, and a custom-made toothpaste could fit right into this unique need state."
Customization was increasingly big business in beauty. According to a report by Insight Ace Analytic, the global personalized skin care market size was valued at $17.2 Billion in 2021 and estimated to reach $38.9 Billion in 2030 – with a CAGR of 9.7% between 2022 and 2030.
The skin care, hair care and color cosmetics markets were currently the most active for customized product launches, with “made-for-me” offerings from smaller brands such as Skinsei and Apostrophe Beauty, big brands like Clinique and retailers like CVS, which had recently launched customized skin care brand Pure Culture Beauty in its stores.
Premiumization and the prioritization of self-care
Post-pandemic, Colgate-Palmolive had been pioneering more innovative products and as the oral care category continued to merge with beauty and wellbeing-based attributes, the company had also been vocal on its premiumization stance. “Colgate is focused on offering innovative products that target consumer trends,” said Sofie Willmott, sector head for health & beauty at GlobalData Retail. “For example, launching its CO. by Colgate range aimed at younger consumers. The premium packaging makes these more appealing and the quirky product types, such as the teeth whitening pen, will attract interest from curious shoppers.”
And despite the current inflationary economy, the higher price point of this launch was in line with Colgate’s continual premiumization strategy, as reaffirmed in May 2022 by John Faucher, investor relations officer at Colgate-Palmolive, who stated: “If consumers do trade down then we have the products they are most likely going to look to trade to. And then also, we have very good businesses within the dollar channel which we also think could be beneficiaries.”
In the US, total sales of oral health products had grown over the past five years. Mintel data showed sales rose by 21% between 2017- 22, amounting to a market value estimated at $9.7 billion in 2022. Toothpaste remained a personal care necessity even when times were tough, but whether consumers would pay a premium for a more customized approach was up for debate says Willmott: “With prices rising across the globe, the proportion of consumers willing to try innovative oral care products may be more limited this year and into 2023. Yet, shoppers seeking value for money may try the customized toothpaste given the ongoing interest in health and wellbeing and the prioritization of self-care.”