Toothpaste wars: It's smoking gums

Last Updated: Fri, Feb 08, 2013 21:03 hrs

Phase-II of the battle for niche oral care has begun, with British pharma and consumer goods major GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) announcing the launch of a new toothpaste, called Parodontax, in India. This product targets those suffering from gum bleeding.

Anticipating GSK's launch, rival Colgate-Palmolive has already pushed a new variant in the market, called Colgate Total Pro Gum Health, competitively priced at Rs 93 for a 150g pack. Parodontax is available at Rs 100 for a 80g pack.

While Colgate has got a leg-up with an early entry into the category (its gum health variant was launched last month), two years ago the situation was just the opposite. The Mumbai-based oral care major had to hastily launch an upgrade to its Colgate Sensitive toothpaste after the rollout of Sensodyne by GSK in India. Sensodyne is the global leader in the sensitivity toothpaste market. Sensitivity is an oral health problem, where sufferers are unable to have anything hot or cold, due to a sharp and shooting pain in their teeth.

In India, Sensodyne is marginally below Colgate's sensitivity toothpaste, with a share of 24 per cent. Colgate's share, according to industry sources, is almost 25 per cent in the Rs 570-crore sensitivity market. The latter constitutes 9.5 per cent of the Rs 6,000-crore overall toothpaste market in India.

Jayant Singh, marketing director, GSK Consumer Healthcare, says he sees no problem with Colgate having timed its launch a little earlier to theirs’. "The gum care market is still evolving and by bringing in a sharply focused product, we hope to change the landscape here," he says.

GSK adopted a similar strategy in sensitivity. Prior to the launch of Sensodyne in January 2011, it was just about Rs 150-crore in overall market size. With sustained brand-building by both GSK and Colgate, the market has quadrupled in two years. Estimates are that sensitivity will grow to about Rs 1,000 crore in size in the next two years, given its 45 per cent yearly pace of growth. The overall toothpaste market is growing at 19 per cent annually.

Gum care is also expected to take off with the big players getting into the space. One in three Indians suffer from gum-related problems but products specifically targeting the condition were non-existent. That is a thing of the past now.

The emergence of niche categories is also partly linked to the effort by companies to uptrade consumers, especially those in urban areas. "The penetration of the basic white toothpaste in urban areas is fairly high. Where do you go from here?" asks Anand Shah, fast moving consumer goods analyst at Mumbai-based Elara Capital.

"By building awareness of specific oral health problems, the effort is to migrate some of those, especially those suffering from those conditions, on to the new products."

These products are also priced higher to the regular oral health products. A 40g pack of Sensodyne, for instance, is available for Rs 45, while an 80g pack comes for Rs 90. Colgate's sensitivity toothpaste is also priced in this range. On the other hand, a regular Colgate toothpaste would cost Rs 40-45 for a 100g pack.

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