Jane Jang
Jane is Mintel’s Global Beauty Analyst based in Seoul. She provides insightful in-depth analysis of beauty, retail, and consumer trends in South Korea and wider Asia.

The South Korean oral care market has been diversified in the last couple of years, focusing on natural ingredients for gum health, whitening beauty claims, cute packaging, and niche toothpaste brands from Europe and the US.

However, the market experienced some hardship in 2017 due to a huge recall scandal that involved major toothpaste brands incorporating banned chemicals into their products.This has spurred a consumer movement that demands thorough transparency from toothpaste manufacturers, and demands that the government amend the law to make companies disclose a full ingredients list on packaging.

This is a challenge for brands, but also an opportunity to reshape the market and proactively adopt a clean label with a full ingredients list in a consumer-friendly language, while also innovating with natural ingredients.

Natural innovators

There have been a couple of game changers in South Korea’s oral care market, with Pleasia—a relatively new natural oral care brand launched by AmorePacific—as a standout example to watch.

Pleasia’s range of toothpastes is said to be made with more than 97% naturally-derived ingredients, free-from harmful ingredients (eg sulfates, parabens, tar and colour) and provides a full ingredients list on pack with its source and purpose. This principle applies to the entire 12 variants in the range, which target different teeth problems (eg bad breath, periodontitis, gingivitis, and plaque) and have a variety of natural active ingredients and flavours, such as green tea extract from Jeju island, pure salt from France and colourful fruits.

Reach Bubble is a water-free, foam-textured hybrid toothpaste launched by LG Household and Healthcare. Playing with new textures, one pump of the foam-textured toothpaste creates 150,000 micro-bubbles that reach and clean every corner of teeth without any physical irritation on the gum. Further, there is no need for toothbrushes or water. This product claims to be free-from seven harmful ingredients and incorporates a variety of natural ingredients such as propolis, aloe vera and green tea extracts.

Foam-textured toothpaste and toothpaste-and-mouthwash hybrid products have the potential to appeal to consumers who have dental treatments (eg braces, implant), and those who seek time-saving solutions.

While adding safety claims to the mainstream areas (eg gum health, whitening and plaque care) has become essential, brands also need to add differentiation to the mix to attract sophisticated consumers. Breath-freshening benefits with new flavours and scents, convenient textures, hybrid formats are key areas for innovation.