The world’s largest consumer products company, Procter & Gamble (P&G), will make its much-awaited entry into oral care in India with the launch of Oral-B toothpaste in the next one month. At a recent investor meet in the US, P&G’s global chief financial officer Jon Moeller disclosed plans of the impending launch, saying the move was aimed at expanding the company’s oral care portfolio across the globe. “We are committed to maintaining developing-market momentum, strengthening our core business in developed markets, having a robust innovation pipeline and looking at cost improvements,” Moeller said. “We will look at expanding into new spaces and stepping up investment behind our brands,” he said. Oral-B as a brand name is not unfamiliar to Indians, with it ranked second in the Rs 1,000-crore brushing segment after Colgate. According to industry estimates, P&G’s share in toothbrushes is 27-28 per cent, while Colgate’s is 39-40 per cent in India. In the last two years, P&G increased the noise levels behind Oral-B by roping in Bollywood actress Madhuri Dixit and launching the Smile India campaign. Analysts said the move was aimed at keeping Oral-B top-of-mind in view of the impending launch in toothpaste. Globally, Oral-B is the leader in the brushing segment and is also one of P&G’s billion-dollar brands. The company also has a toothpaste portfolio under Oral-B which sells in countries such as Greece, Portugal, Israel and Venezuela. A recent report from brokerage house Edelweiss had said that the company intended to take Oral-B toothpastes to many more countries and that the impending launch in India would be a step in that direction. The toothpaste market in India, pegged at Rs 6,000 crore, has been growing at a clip of about 19 per cent per annum. In the past two years, companies such as GSK and Colgate have demonstrated that consumers in oral care can be uptraded provided the products are right.
GSK’s Sensodyne that targets sensitivity, an oral health problem where the sufferer experiences a sharp, shooting pain on consumption of anything hot or cold, is already clocking sales in excess of Rs 100 crore. Pegged at Rs 950 crore, sensitivity, the largest of the emerging toothpaste categories, is growing at around 30 to 40 per cent per annum. Both, GSK and Colgate have taken the battle for niche oral care to the next level with launches in areas such as gum care and teeth whitening in the last few months. While Oral-B is expected to play in the mass toothpaste market to begin with, analysts say there is no preventing it from stepping into niche oral care once it is launched in India. Colgate, which fights P&G in most markets across the world, is likely to further step up its investment behind its brands in view of the impending launch. Colgate’s advertising & sales promotion expenditure is about 13 to 14 per cent of sales at the moment. Analysts estimate it could go up to 15 to 16 per cent of sales as Colgate attempts to ringfence against P&G’s launch in India.