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India’s top fast moving consumer goods companies are expanding their oral care portfolio, entering new and niche categories such as mouth sprays, ayurvedic mouth cleansers and mouthwashes as consumer concerns around general hygiene continue to sustain.

In the year marked by significant innovations and new launches, especially in the health and hygiene categories, companies are ensuring brand presence into products that could in the future see a spike in demand.

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Colgate Palmolive (India) Ltd., and Dabur India have both launched pulling oil, an ayurvedic concoction used as a morning oral cleansing ritual based on centuries-old Ayurvedic regimen. The concoction contains a combination of sesame oil, lemon, cloves and other ingredients. The product is directed at improving oral health.

“Together with the Vedshakti Toothpaste and Vedshakti Mouth Protect Spray, we are now providing a range of oral care solutions that help keep your mouth clean and detoxified to help you stay healthy," Arvind Chintamani, Vice President, Marketing, Colgate-Palmolive (India) Limited, said.

The company already has a Colgate Vedshakti toothpaste and Colgate Vedshakti Mouth Protect Spray—to control germ-build up in the mouth, that it announced in October last year.

Last week, Dabur, that sells Vatika hair oil and Real juices too announced entry into the mouthwash category with the launch of Dabur Red Pulling Oil which it said will create a whole new category in the oral care market.

Colgate-Palmolive, Hindustan Unilever, Dabur and GSK compete in India’s oral care market with brands such as Colgate, Pepsodent, Meswak and Sensodyne, respectively.

India’s oral care category is largely built on toothpaste and sales of toothbrushes—something companies are now trying to expand. The category of mouthwashes, big in the western markets, still remains small and urban in India.

Now with the pandemic fuelling consumer interest in everything health, immunity and natural, companies are capitalizing on the trend.

The launch of Colgate’s Vedshakti Mouth Protect Spray, the first mouth spray appears interesting in the context of strong focus on hygiene as well as Ayurveda, analysts at Jefferies said in a September note.

The move comes as Hindustan Unilever Ltd too announced plans to launch a mouthwash in India under its Pepsodent oral-care brand after preliminary lab test results show that mouthwash formulation containing CPC technology—cetylpyridinium chloride, a widely used cosmetic ingredient, also used by the dental industry, known for its antibacterial and anti-virus benefits, reduces 99.9% of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes covid-19, after 30 seconds of rinsing.

Unilever’s research is based on test conducted by an independent and internationally accredited testing facility, Microbac Laboratories, on behalf of Unilever Research Laboratories.

This technology will be brought to India by Hindustan Unilever Limited (HUL) in Pepsodent Germicheck Mouth Rinse Liquid, HUL said in November.

However, the company maintained that while such a product could be used as a preventative measure to reduce viral transmission of covid-19; it maintained that the tests do not suggest that the formulation is a treatment for covid-19, nor a guarantee that it will prevent transmission on its own.

However, others brands are promoting their products largely aimed at improving oral health and hygiene.

Analysts tracking the sector maintained that the categories will continue to be niche and small in India.

Covid-19 has turned the spotlight again on products that build immunity and are perceived to be better for one's health and protection. In a December note, market researcher Nielsen said that the Indian consumers’ focus on health over the last few years is fuelling growing interest in natural and plant-based products.

In a study conducted in November, Nielsen said that 60% respondents indicated that natural products were more important to them today than a year ago.

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