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Colgate-Palmolive Co (CL) Q4 2018 Earnings Conference Call Transcript

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CL earnings call for the period ending December 31, 2018.

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Colgate-Palmolive Co  (CL -1.25%)
Q4 2018 Earnings Conference Call
Jan. 25, 2019, 11:00 a.m. ET


  • Prepared Remarks
  • Questions and Answers
  • Call Participants

See all our earnings call transcripts.

Prepared Remarks:


Good day, and welcome to today's Colgate-Palmolive Company Fourth Quarter 2018 Earnings Conference Call. This call is being recorded, and is being simulcast live at

Now for opening remarks, I would like to turn the call over to Senior Vice President of Investor Relations, John Faucher. Please go ahead, John.

John Faucher -- Senior Vice President, Investor Relations

Thanks, Lauren. Good Morning and welcome to our fourth quarter earnings release conference call. This is John Faucher, Senior Vice President for Investor Relations.

Today's conference call will include forward-looking statements. Actual results could differ materially from these statements. Please refer to the earnings press release and our most recent filings with the SEC, including our 2017 Annual Report on Form 10-K and subsequent SEC filings, all available on Colgate's website, for a discussion of the factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from these statements.

This conference call will also include a discussion of non-GAAP financial measures, including those identified in Tables eight and nine of the earnings press release. A full reconciliation to the corresponding GAAP financial measures is included in the earnings press release and is available on Colgate's website.

Joining me this morning are Ian Cook, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer; Noel Wallace, President and Chief Operating Officer and Henning Jakobsen, Chief Financial Officer. Ian and Noel will start off with their thoughts, while I will cover our Q4 results and 2019 guidance.

Ian Cook -- Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Good morning, everyone. It's Ian. Let me first wish you all a belated happy and healthy 2019. And let me start my introductory comments where we started the press release.

We're pleased with the improvement in organic sales in the fourth quarter, plus 2%, on top of plus 2% in the fourth quarter of 2017. And you will recall that the 2% in the fourth quarter of '17 was the highest quarter that year. Said a different way, on a two-year stacked basis, we accelerated from 1% in the third quarter to 4% in the fourth quarter. So, we enter 2019 with momentum.

I think our intense focus on innovation, sustained advertising and product expansion to new channels and markets is beginning to pay off. You may recall that our biggest problem businesses 12 months ago are now the ones growing the fastest, Hill's.

Four quarters of accelerating growth, driven by prescription diet, which is the backbone of the business and the line that creates the recommendations from the vet, a strong US business and our continued high growth in e-commerce. And as you will hear later from Noel, there is big news coming on the other half of the Hill's business, Science Diet in 2019.

Africa/Eurasia, we cycled through our distributor issues. We're focused back on driving distribution and advertising support and we're back to growth. And India, now posting continued healthy organic sales growth, driven by innovation, Vedshakti, which is building distribution and continuing to build market share.

On a national basis, Vedshakti is now up to 1.7% share, seven months of continuous share growth. And in the modern trade, where distribution obviously builds quicker and trial and therefore, share growth is faster, Vedshakti is now up to 4.4% market share, five months of share increase. And several other markets, our own plan and expectation that we discussed in the third quarter are all generally doing better.

Mexico and Brazil, we saw a sequential improvement, which helped drive Latin America to positive growth. We are taking pricing, as we said, we would and we are sticking with that strategy. In the case of Mexico, we have seen that market become somewhat less promotional and the category growth is coming back.

In Brazil, the category growth is still modest and the heightened promotional activity we have mentioned before, continues. So, we balance our business in Brazil, responding where we need to, but sticking to our underlying strategy of taking the necessary pricing.

China, sequential improvement, as we said, but still negative. Consumption continues to look fine and the pricing is working its way slowly to consumers. We expect to see continued sequential improvement in the first half and return to growth in the second half of this year.

And finally, a market often -- discussed on these calls, the UK, where we are seeing strong growth driven by increasing market share, which in turn is being driven by our premium business in the UK. And that's before the impact of the Total relaunch in the UK and in the UK, the Total brand is a 16% share substantial business.

However, life is not perfect. And we have had two markets affected by specific issues. In Europe, we had the disturbances caused by the Gilets Jaunes or the Yellow Vest. And that in fact was a headwind to European organic growth of some 40 basis points. As you see yourself, in the news, while the disturbances are still there, they are more subdued than they were during the fourth quarter.

And here in the United States, we saw a little bit of slowing in terms of category growth. We were preparing to bring Total to the marketplace in the first quarter, and therefore, working shelf inventory down a little to make for an easy transition. But the biggest headwinds in North America was one-time very specific and entirely mechanical. And that was the shift of a major promotional activity from 2018 to 2019 from a shipment's point of view and that happened later in the quarter, and that was a 120 basis points shift from fourth quarter organic into the first quarter of 2019.

And the final comment I'll make on 2018 is that as we have been saying for a while, as planned, we lead on pricing and we believe it is paying off despite the expected volume impact. We are beginning to see some competitors follow. The Mexico, Brazil contrast is relevant in that case. But as one has to say on pricing, it is early days and we will see how the markets evolve and what the competitive reaction is.

So, let's turn to 2019. Our intense focus on innovation and bringing our products to new channels and markets supported by a meaningful increase in advertising continues. The innovation grid we have in 2019 is uniquely and is specially strong, particularly on some scale core businesses in addition to many of the adjacencies that we have in our portfolio. This is the opportunity to accelerate our growth, which is why we have guided to the 2% to 4% organic growth increase. And Noel will talk in some detail about the growth plans that we have in 2019.

The area I want to talk about for 2019 is our continued focus on pricing. And that is for two reasons. One is a continued focus on premiumizing our portfolio, and the second is offsetting underlying costs, including the transactional impact of foreign exchange.

So if I take a step back and just give you a view on the underlying commodity costs trends on our business. For 2018, the overall increase in underlying commodity costs was 7%. In the third quarter, as we told you, it was 8%. In the fourth quarter, it was 9%. And for 2019, our plan calls for a 6% increase in underlying commodity costs.

Now, obviously, given the shape of 2018, and as John will reaffirm in his prepared remarks, the cost headwinds will be higher in the first half of 2019. Foreign exchange for 2019, which brings the transactional costs on top of the underlying commodity costs for the year, we expect to be in the 2% to 2.5% range.

Now, importantly, and pleasingly, over two-thirds of our 2019 pricing is either rollover pricing from 2018 or pricing already accepted as part of the significant relaunches of the Total business and the Hill's Science Diet business, in other words, already accepted and in place. And the net result of that scenario for 2019 is that we expect our gross profit to increase by between 30 basis points and 50 basis points. So, those are the framing remarks I would like to put on 2019 and simply, we are pleased it is a unique opportunity to accelerate the growth of our organic top line.

And as some of you may recall in the second and third quarter calls, in response to questions, we emphasize the fact that we were building a plan in 2019 that would reflect the quality and depth of activity we have. That's what we've done and we have confidence in that plan.

So, here's Noel to give you a little bit more on growth.

Noel Wallace -- President and Chief Operating Officer

Thanks, Ian, and good morning, everyone. As Ian mentioned in his opening remarks, our number one priority is to accelerate organic sales growth. So this morning, I'm going to discuss three key areas of focus to improve organic sales performance for 2019 and beyond. You'll hear more from me at this at CAGNY, but I wanted to provide some initial thoughts to you today.

First, we're driving the core of our business through innovation and improved brand building. Second, we're using innovation to grow in adjacent categories and product segments. And third, we're expanding the availability of our products through distribution to new markets and new channels.

Let me start with growing the core. As you know, we have big core businesses that represent the majority of our sales and are the key driver of Colgate's status as one of the most penetrated consumer brands in the world. It is important to keep these core businesses vital and growing through innovation, strong marketing support and the right consumer messaging.

You will see significant innovation against our core in 2019, including the Colgate Total relaunch, which is the biggest news we've had on this brand in its more than 20-year history. With this introduction, we are reinventing the multi-benefit category that Colgate created. We invigorated an anchor brand and driving consumer engagement, trial and market share. It's not easy taking a great formula and making it even better. So, we're very excited to bring this breakthrough technology to market this year.

The new Colgate Total improves upon the previous version by adding several new benefits, including a sensitivity benefit across all variants, instant neutralization of odors associated with bad breath, the ability to seek and fight bacteria for enamel protection and new cooling agents for lasting freshness.

Importantly, the added benefits allow us to take pricing, which should help us drive our global value shares higher, particularly in key markets like the US and Brazil. And as you would expect, we will support this launch with a meaningful increase in brand-building activity. In the US, we expect to generate significant consumer awareness with a record number of in-store displays and advertising that we've developed specifically for this year's Super Bowl. The rest of the world will also see a significant increase in advertising and trade activity.

And Colgate Total is not the only core innovation you'll see from us this year. 2019 also marks the relaunch of our Hill's Science Diet business, with new SKUs hitting the stores in the US in the first quarter and rolling out globally over the next 12 months.

While Science Diet sales and market share performance has accelerated over the past several quarters, behind improve advertising and higher spending levels, distribution gains and continued strength in e-commerce, the relaunch should allow us to build on recent success.

The Science Diet relaunch includes upgrading recipes, and improving (inaudible) shapes. And for pet parents, we've completely redesigned our packaging graphics in a way that will enhance their shopping experience and give them a greater understanding of Hill's brand purpose.

We believe this relaunch also provides us with the opportunity to increase pricing. We're very excited to build on Science Diet's strong momentum for 2018. So, it's vital to have a healthy core, which includes some of our most important brands. Still we know we need to continue to innovate into faster-growing adjacent categories and segments. You have heard us talk a lot about Naturals. And by the end of 2018, we had Natural offerings in toothpaste in 79 countries.

We continue to expand our Natural offerings in toothpaste based on local insights, with the launch of charcoal variants across many countries with encouraging early results. As Ian mentioned, our Colgate Vedshakti line in India continues to see solid share performance, with seven straight quarters of sequential share improvement. In the modern trade, which is Vedshakti's strongest channel, the franchise achieved the 4.4% share in the fourth quarter.

In Germany, we're excited about the launch of Meridol Pure for this quarter. We've developed a formula that allows us to combine Meridol's strong therapeutic heritage with natural ingredients to improve gum health. Naturals is also a key area of focus in personal and home care. We continue to be pleased with the performance of the Sanex brand, where the Zero% line is a key factor in driving growth and we've expanded this line into the UK.

We're also expanding our Palmolive Natureza Secreta personal care line across Latin America and are launching new body wash and hand soap lines, including Palmolive Clay in Europe. In home care, we're launching under the Ajax brand, a number of household cleaner variants using natural ingredients like essential oils, baking soda and citronella.

So, we've covered how we're driving the core and expanding into adjacent growing segments. Now, I want to focus on how we are pushing even more aggressively into faster growth channels and expanding geographic footprints of our brands. We're launching elmex and Meridol in the pharmacy channel in new markets this year. We're also expanding the distribution of our professional skincare businesses, PCA Skin and EltaMD in spas and dermatologists who are seeing strong growth.

One of the most exciting programs we have in place for this year is the launch of Hill's to Home, a new e-commerce platform that allows pet parents to purchase prescription diet products directly from their veterinarian through our app for home delivery. The pet parent initially signs up for the program through their vet, who enters the appropriate prescription diet food recommendation.

This new system allows us to maintain the key relationship between Hill's, our vet partners and pet parents, are still providing convenience of at-home delivery that is crucial in this category. By enrolling the pet parents in a subscription-based program, we also increase compliance with prescriptions, which leads to better health outcomes for their pets and importantly, a higher ROI for Hill's.

In other areas of our business, we're working on our e-commerce and direct-to-consumer partners with Hubble and Bombay Shave Club to further build our capabilities in digital, e-commerce and direct-to-consumer, which will allow us to expand our offerings and strengthen our consumer relationships. For example, in the fourth quarter, we launched at-home whitening kits through our e-commerce platform in China.

So, this is our focus. Drive the core, growing adjacencies in new product segments and expand into new channels and markets. I hope this gives you a better understanding of our plans and priorities to invest, to accelerate organic sales growth in 2019 and beyond.

Now, I'll turn it over to John.

John Faucher -- Senior Vice President, Investor Relations

Thanks, Noel. In order to leave time for Q&A, I will forego the normal divisional review and simply discuss the Q4 financials and then our 2019 guidance.

Our net sales declined 2% in Q4, a 0.5% unit volume growth and 2.5% favorable pricing, were offset by a negative 5% impact from foreign exchange. Our recently acquired professional skincare businesses, Elta MD and PCA Skin, contributed 1% to net sales and unit volume growth in the quarter.

On a GAAP basis, our gross profit margin was down 70 basis points year-over-year. Excluding the impact of our Global Growth and Efficiency Program, it was down 100 basis points year-over-year. For the quarter, our 250 basis points of pricing provided a 110 basis points benefit to gross margin.

Raw material costs, including foreign exchange transaction costs were a 490 basis point drag on gross margin year-over-year. Our productivity program led by our funding-the-growth initiatives, provided a 280 basis point benefit to gross margin.

On an absolute basis, advertising investment was up 2% year-over-year in Q4, with increases across every division except Latin America, which was impacted by foreign exchange and reductions in spending in Argentina related to the recent devaluation.

On a percent to sales basis, advertising was up year-over-year in Q4. Excluding charges resulting from our global growth and efficiency program and advertising spending, our SG&A expenses were down year-over-year in Q4 on an absolute basis, but up as a percent to sales, driven by the continued increases in logistics costs. The remainder of our overhead costs were down on an absolute basis and flat as a percentage to sales, benefiting from our productivity programs.

On a GAAP basis, diluted earnings per share of $0.70 were up 89% year-over-year in Q4. Excluding charges resulting from our Global Growth and Efficiency Program and the charge related to US tax reform in 2017, diluted earnings per share were down 1% at $0.74.

Looking to 2019. As stated in our press release, based on current spot rates, we expect net sales to be flat to up low single digits, with organic sales growth of 2% to 4% and a negative impact from foreign exchange. Based on current spot rates, for the full year, we expect gross margin to be up year-over-year on both a GAAP basis and excluding charges related to our Global Growth and Efficiency Program. We expect the benefits of pricing and our productivity programs to offset an overall increase in raw material costs, which includes the impact of transactional foreign exchange. We are assuming that raw material prices increased from current levels.

In order to support the innovation that Noel discuss, we plan that advertising will be up meaningfully in 2019. So, it's on an absolute basis and as a percent of sales versus 2018. We will continue our efforts to drive greater effectiveness and efficiency in our advertising spending by improving the impact of our advertising, shifting advertising dollars into higher ROI media and reducing non-working media expenditures.

We expect our full-year 2019 tax rate to be between 25.5% and 26.5%. So, it's on a GAAP basis and excluding charges related to our Global Growth and Efficiency Program in 2019 and 2018 and charges related to US tax reform and the benefit from a foreign tax matter in 2018.

On a non GAAP basis, this is an increase versus our 2018 tax rate. Based on current spot rates, we expect GAAP earnings per share to be down low single digits for the year. Excluding charges related to the Global Growth and Efficiency Program in 2019 and 2018 and charges related to US tax reform and the benefit from a foreign tax matter in 2018, we expect earnings per share to decline mid single digits for the year, which includes the negative impact of translational foreign exchange.

While we feel good about the programs we have in place for 2019, as Noel discussed, we feel it is prudent to factor in uncertainty in global economy's exchange rate and the competitive environment. I would also highlight that we expect foreign exchange in raw materials headwinds to be higher in the first half of the year.

And with that, I will turn it over to Ian for Q&A.

Ian Cook -- Chairman and Chief Executive Officer


Questions and Answers:


Yes. Today's question-and-answer session will be conducted electronically for the telephone audience. (Operator Instructions) We'll take our first question from Dara Mohsenian with Morgan Stanley.

Dara Mohsenian -- Morgan Stanley -- Analyst

Hi. Good morning, guys.

Ian Cook -- Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Good morning, Dara.

Dara Mohsenian -- Morgan Stanley -- Analyst

So, Ian, you and Noel, obviously highlighted the strong innovation pipeline on the call numerous times with Total and Science Diet, as well as all the other products. Can you help quantify that for us? How much of the top line growth this year are you expecting to come from innovation? How different is that than a typical year?

And obviously, you're assuming a large increase in A&P spending in 2019 in your guidance? Can you give us a bit more detail on where exactly that's going to be focused? Is it mainly just the innovations? Or given there is such a large magnitude, are there other base geographies or product categories you're focused on?

And then last, what gives you the confidence behind the payback from that? I think we did see a big ad increase in the back half of 2017 and organic sales growth didn't accelerate in 2018. I'd imagine innovations a big part of the answer. But what's giving you confidence in the payback from the higher spend in terms of top line growth? Thanks.

Ian Cook -- Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. Thanks for the one question, Dara. So, let me take them in turn. What is not typical about 2019 is the scale innovation on what Noel is calling the core businesses. Now, we had mentioned Science Diet before. This is the first time we have mentioned Science side. We mentioned Total before, which is a seven share global brand and Science Diet, as I say is nearly half of the Hill's business. And these will not be the only scale businesses you will be hearing about in 2019. That is different from traditional innovation cycles.

On top of that, as Noel said, we have the adjacent work that is under way on Naturals across the portfolio and quite a broad array of what I would call normal innovation on the business. So the big difference, I'm not going to break out in a quantification sense, but the big difference is scale business, scale core business, relaunches, which by the way terrific technology, terrific consumer acceptance. And we know now with Total, terrific advertising vehicles that have tested extraordinarily well.

To your second point, and again, I think this is an important point to make. One of the reasons we talked over the last couple of years about sustaining advertising investment is you need to do two things. You need to maintain the relevance of the equity of a brand, which means maintaining continuous advertising support behind the brand in a world with lots of distractions and change. In 2019, the advertising that we are putting behind these scale innovations is incremental advertising. So, we're maintaining advertising support on the equity, and we're adding advertising to drive awareness and trial, which gets repeat and then builds into a virtuous cycle of continuous growth. But we need to get trial of products that are new but scale products. So, that is the focus of the advertising.

And within that, you obviously had the continued shift, too difficult (ph) in the case of Hill's, it's all digital. So, you have those execution or intricacies. But from a big picture point of view, that is the approach and we're confident in the payback in the sense of the expectation we have for growth and market share on those innovations, which is, we have said, have taken a long time to bring together and we think we'll step change the business going forward. In other words, create an inflection point for the growth of the company that based on the quality of products will continue beyond 2019. So, that's the confidence.


We'll take our next question from Jason English with Goldman Sachs.

Jason English -- Goldman Sachs -- Analyst

Hey. Good morning, folks, and belated Happy New Year to you as well. Jeez, It's early, lots of ground, I guess, we could cover. But I'm just going to focus on Total because clearly, it's a big focal point for you right now. As we step back and as we talk to our investors, there's some degree of skepticism on whether or not this can really move the needle. New and improved propositions don't usually move the needle in a big way. And it seems like many of the market share gainers in your key categories are winning on distinct benefit platforms rather than universal benefit bundles such as Total.

So, can you give us a sense of -- or can you give us a little more specificity on what drives your enthusiasm and what maybe the investor community may not be appreciating? And then related to this, you haven't really mentioned the removal of triclosan from the formula as part of the upgrade platform benefit. Is that because it doesn't really matter, or is there a benefit that comes with that too, whether it be broadening aperture to, call it, consumers or markets, et cetera. Thank you.

Ian Cook -- Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. Jason, there is innovation every year and we see a barrage of labels that say new and improved. But frankly, like most things in life, there's new and improved and new and improved. And this, we view as the biggest breakthrough since we came with the original Total product. It has been many years in the making, in terms of delivering the claims that Noel has mentioned in delivering the flavors that have as much indeed better appeal than the existing flavor, which in a taste business is something you have to be very focused on.

And most importantly, the consumer has reacted in all of our testing, interestingly, not just consumer testing, but in market testing that we did, if you will, under the radar with no advertising, but at significantly higher pricing because of the quality of the product. And the consumer response was very good. So -- and that was why I made the point about the quality of the advertising as well.

So, we know we have a quality product. We do see it as breakthrough. We have been working with dental professionals since the fourth quarter of last year to convey the richness of studies we have behind the product, and we now have advertising that we know is persuasive and motivating and cut through with consumers. And on top of that, we are getting extraordinary support from our retail partners in terms of shelving and in terms of off-shelf display to generate the trial of the product. And that's why I'm sort of distinguishing the scale of these core relaunches. This is not, throw a couple of blue dots in and call it new and improved. So, it's a big difference. And it's why we are investing to all of the stakeholders involved in the brand that it is a breakthrough, which is the incremental investment because trial builds over a two-year period for a new product. So the time is now.

Now, triclosan, we are indifferent. We were quite clear when we spoke about this relaunch at Barclays last September that the new formula would replace the existing formula that contains triclosan. That happens to be because we have a better product today than we had with the old product. And that was a great product and we stood behind that product all the time from a scientific point of view. This just happens to be a better product and that's where we are moving to.


We'll take our next question from Lauren Lieberman with Barclays.

Lauren Lieberman -- Barclays -- Analyst

Great. Thanks. Good morning.

Ian Cook -- Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Good morning, Lauren.

Lauren Lieberman -- Barclays -- Analyst

Ian, good morning. I was hoping you could talk a little bit about drivers of toothpaste global category growth, sort of comparing maybe the last five years versus what you see coming maybe over the next five, sort of thinking about units, market penetration usage versus premiumization because it sounds like you've been talking specifically about premiumization.

That's been a big trend in some of your major markets. But I also feel like it's not that long ago that you were still highlighting sort of the actual market penetration usage opportunity. So if you could talk a little bit about the balancing of those, sort of last five years looking forward and how you are thinking about that as part of your strategy, would be great?

Ian Cook -- Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. Yeah. Lauren, good question. Its not an exclusive thing. One trend in the marketplace is that the value growth of the marketplace is accelerating because of premiumization. Premiumization happens in two ways. One is great businesses gets better, create more value for the consumer and receive more value as a brand, which is the Total story.

The second is, we see many smaller brands at premium pricing in niche segments in the category and I talked a little bit earlier about Vedshakti. We could talk about Tom's of Maine, which continues to grow quite nicely, which is a unique brand. We could talk about -- again about the Charcoal variant, would have been mentioned.

So, when we talk about premiumization, it's both of those things. We're not just talking about Total. And we also are not forgetting the penetration opportunity in the world. I have said before on these calls that still our volume share is higher than our value share. One out of two physical tubes of toothpaste on the planet are Colgate tubes of toothpaste and yes, we want the premiumization. But we also want the users of our product.

And one of the reasons, our volume share is higher is because when we entered the markets, we made sure that we had a portfolio that had an entry price point that was available to the most rural market entry consumer we could find. And then behind that, we have put the Bright Smiles, Bright Futures programs in those emerging markets.

We have talked recently about the work we are doing across Africa, which has been stepped up substantially and I would repeat, when we talk about investment, yes, we're putting investment behind the innovation, but we are also increasing the investment behind market penetration because we think that, that is an important aspect of our sustainable growth over time, just based on the average use of toothpaste and the users around the world. So, they're not mutually exclusive, I guess, is the point. We have focused on the innovation because that is a big driver for 2019.

But by no means does that mean we are reducing our effort on building market penetration.


We'll take our next question from Nik Modi with RBC Capital Markets.

Nik Modi -- RBC Capital Markets -- Analyst

Yeah. Thanks. Good morning, everyone.

Ian Cook -- Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Good morning, Nik.

Nik Modi -- RBC Capital Markets -- Analyst

Good morning. I was just -- thanks, Noel, for those comments about kind of where you're focused. Maybe both Noel, any one of you can answer. When you think about the 2% to 4% for 2019, is there any way you can give us a perspective on the weightings like how important would the relaunches be relative to perhaps some of the white space opportunities and some of the distribution opportunities? Just providing a little bit more clarity around the drivers of that 2% to 4% would be helpful? And then maybe kind of what your expectation is for just general category growth for 2019? Thanks.

Ian Cook -- Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. I think, if we take the categories and you look around the world, we're in a place where you see, Europe still flat to 1%. You see North America north of 2%. And you see the emerging markets in that 4% to 6% range. When you take it all together, you're talking about 2%, 2.5% underlying category growth rates.

Now if I come back to what's going to drive the shape of that 2% to 4%, I'm not going to break down the scale versus the underlying businesses because we're doing a lot of smart things on all of the other businesses that we have. But it is the combination of both that give us the confidence in that 2% to 4% spread, particularly entering the year of the encouraging 2% in the fourth quarter.


We'll take our next question from Steve Powers with Deutsche Bank.

Steve Powers -- Deutsche Bank -- Analyst

Great. Thank you very much. A question on the implied reinvestment this year. I guess, I'm just looking for a little bit more clear specificity if I could. How much of that is envision to go into A&P versus into new capabilities that may not be considered advertising, but might instead show up in base level SG&A, things like, as it relates to digital or in e-commerce or the Naturals push? Because there's a fair amount of reinvestment implied in the guidance. And I'm just trying to figure out if that is truly 100% A&P or if they're -- if it's spread across broader SG&A? Thank you.

Ian Cook -- Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. Good question, Steve. A large part of it is A&P, a large part of it A&P. When you start breaking down SG&A, you are also going to see that we have logistics in our SG&A and that has topped out reasonably high at the end of this year. And if it continues at the same level it was at the fourth quarter, that will be a component of the increase and increase in SG&A.

And yes, you're right to the extent that digital is requiring personnel and location and capability that might get picked up elsewhere in SG&A, we have also been putting that in place and that underlies no comment about extending into those areas. So, you're going to see a bit of logistics, predominantly A&P and then also a little bit in the overhead area, supporting our continued push into the digital space.


We'll take our next question from Bonnie Herzog with Wells Fargo.

Bonnie Herzog -- Wells Fargo Securities -- Analyst

Thank you. Good morning.

Ian Cook -- Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Good morning, Bonnie.

Bonnie Herzog -- Wells Fargo Securities -- Analyst

Hi. I had a few questions on your guidance. I was hoping you guys could help bridge the gap between your long-term EPS growth target and then your EPS guidance this year between, I guess, stepped up spending, the higher tax rate and the FX headwinds. And also is this higher level of spending a new norm for you and really what's necessary for you guys to drive faster growth in this environment? And finally, you are forecasting operating margin contraction this year, but do you anticipate the contraction to be less than it was last year?

Ian Cook -- Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. The -- again, thank you for the single question. I think the most important focus in 2019 is to continue progress on accelerating growth of an encouraging fourth quarter. And I think two things to say. You kind of really asked two questions. One is, what happens longer term from a return point of view and the other was, if it's a cost of doing a business.

So let me kind of break the two. And we're not going to get into discussions about 2020 because there's too much uncertainty between now and then in terms of what could happen with foreign exchange, raw materials and other factors.

Our spending this year is dictated by the amount of activity that we have on our core businesses, as well as the other opportunities that Noel talked about. And we believe that this level of support and the quality of the innovation should drive an improvement in our organic sales growth in that 2% to 4% range. That will, of course, lead us in a better position as we enter 2020 and beyond.

And if our plan evolves the way we are expecting, raw material pressures will lessen in the second half, as will foreign exchange, which should lead to a sequential improvement in our earnings growth rate and bring us into 2020 with good momentum. And that will set us up for 2020 and beyond.

Now, if you flip it the other way and say, is this investment behind growth or is this simply the cost of doing the business? You can kind of step back from that question as well. And I think it's been clear that for the past several years, one could say, since the financial crisis, growth has been more challenging. And what can happen and we have observed, does happen is that when growth is challenging, people are willing to pay more for it. And you see that in our categories and you sometimes see and we have seen, and we have commented about competitive activity that is more in the trade spending area to drive volume rather than build brands.

So that said, we're not spending more because we have to, but because we have innovation and marketing programs that are worth spending on now. Now one thing I would say and I should have said in response to an earlier question. One encouraging aspect at this time is that pricing appears to get better. I had talked about, you have seen the pricing we got in the fourth quarter. I talked about the rollover pricing and the Total and Hill's pricing that is already set at over two-thirds of our pricing in 2019.

So if we move into an environment where pricing is positive and you're hearing similar commentary from many in our space and competition happens in the advertising line, not above the net revenue line, then marketing and innovation will win out, not price promotion. And I think we view that as a good thing for the future.


Our next question comes from Ali Dibadj with Bernstein.

Ian Cook -- Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Good morning, Ali.

Ali Dibadj -- Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. -- Analyst

Hi. Good morning. And Noel, nice to hear from you on the call. So, I'm glad you're filing increasing investments in 2019, but I do want to push you a little bit more on whether it's enough. Second ago you said, you're not doing it because you need to because you have stuff behind you, innovation, et cetera behind you.

So, I want to push on whether you think it's enough because you're still losing global market share, emerging markets in particular. You just mentioned a few questions ago, 4% to 6%, EM category growth, you are at 1.5%. If you look at your press release and the kind of tradition of when those were on a mission and market share gains means you're not gaining or you're in fact losing and that's Mexico, Brazil, Russia, India, China, maybe South Africa. And we like the strategy. We like that you're launching elmex and meridol in new channels and new geographies to help the Colgate brand out.

We like the innovation, but usually that's kind of a long road. It's not a one-year type thing. And so with all that, and to answer again to previous question, tying it back together, feels like there's maybe 100 basis points or so increase in ad spend in 2019. Do you expect that to just be a one-time increase in A&P? Do you think you'll have to continue raising your spend to maybe something north of 11% or 12% or 13%?

We certainly believe that might be a possibility over the next few years and that'll continue to weigh on growth because usually these may even have been in industry for a long time. We've observed this for a while. It's not a won and done typically, right. It's usually a multi-year turnaround, multi-year investments. So, just push you on that, is this enough? Is this all we're going to hear in terms of a reinvestment here?

Ian Cook -- Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. As usual, a very well framed question. I think the answer has to be that we believe it is, because that is the plan we have put together. And the way I think I would frame it, I tried to capture it a little bit in the answer to the previous question. There is a difference between to your point, innovation in niches, that do take time to grow.

We're very pleased with Vedshakti, but it's taking time to build. We know we have a winning product. We will be patient and we will be successful. So again, I come back to -- with the difference here is you are taking scale businesses, you are making significant relaunches with better quality products perceivable to the consumer and you are focusing your investment on generating trial.

When you generate the trial, our data says, we will get elevated levels of repeat and that becomes a virtual cycle. If these businesses, as we plan and expect them to do, drive growth and market share, then as you progress through a year, you come out of 2019 in a very good place, grocery established, scale businesses, to your point about market share with growing market shares. And then you enter 2020 in a very different place with an activity array that will be different, strong.

Clearly, 2020 has been worked upon for a while and we'll decide based on that activity played, what is the necessary level of investment. But it will be driven by the activity that we have. And based on our planning, it will be driven by activity on a 2019, would sees us get back to a stronger rate of growth.


We'll take our next question from Kevin Grundy with Jefferies.

Kevin Grundy -- Jefferies -- Analyst

Thanks. Good morning, everyone.

Ian Cook -- Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Hi, Kevin.

Kevin Grundy -- Jefferies -- Analyst

Hey. Good morning, Ian. Ian, a question on cost structure. As we know, it's not uncommon to see companies lean in a bit harder on cost savings in an effort to fund some of the stepped-up reinvestment when we see the EPS reset kind of years. But that was an outline this morning. We didn't see an expansion of the Global Growth and Efficiency Program or step up in savings expected from funding-the-growth.

So, while I don't want to put words in your mouth, presumably there's a certain level of comfort with what the company has already outlined. So, I can appreciate sensitivity on the topic. But one, was that a consideration as you were building the plan, which what looks like it's going to be about 100 basis points of hurt to the P&L in the year? And then two, on that topic, maybe perhaps just provide an update on how you see the opportunity on this front with respect to cost savings. So, thank you for that.

Ian Cook -- Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. No, thank you and fair question. You can rest assured, actually, if I take funding-the-growth first, when you go through our gross margin roll forward, I know John did it in general. But our funding-the-growth savings in the fourth quarter were 280 basis points compared to 250 basis points in the fourth quarter of 2017. So, you can rest assured that internally, we have as challenging a goal in place for 2019. And suffice to say, we tend to push a little beyond the goals we have established. So, there is no lack of focus on trying to generate more from our funding-the-growth program.

On the Global Growth and Efficiency Program, you'll remember, we extended it one year. We have a variety of new initiatives already baked in, that take advantage of the steps we've been making in the three major areas, which is to having the shared service centers and a rationalization continuing on facilities. And of course, we are working very diligently to see if we can frame new, not yet in the plan, opportunities that we can add to those initiatives. And if we find them, we will certainly pursue them and we are certainly looking for them. So, it was not absent. We have set a plan where we are, but we have not -- we are not stopping looking aggressively.


Our next question comes from Olivia Tong with Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

Olivia Tong -- Bank of America Merrill Lynch -- Analyst

Thank you. My question is around your investments in e-commerce and direct-to-consumer because while it doesn't sound like there's a ton of incremental spend on the development here, I was curious, how your thought process is changing to capture a greater share of our consumer. So like on regular online, how much is focused on changing formulations, packaging, et cetera, versus the change in potentially the messaging around

your post sidebars, things like that?

And then can you elaborate a little bit more on direct-to-consumer initiatives? You mentioned Hill's to Home. But you're already big and healthier. So, is that -- where is sort of the incremental in that and what are you taking from Hill's learning capabilities into the other parts of your business? Thank you.

Ian Cook -- Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Okay. Well, let me -- from an e-commerce point of view, one of the reasons and indeed, it was Noel that bought the partnerships in. One of the reasons we're partnering with Hubble and with Bombay Shave is to give us some external insight into these areas, techniques that we can experiment with.

And so, yeah, we're exploring all of the different ways you can go to market from an e-commerce point of view. And we will continue to broaden what we experiment with going forward. And the Hill's direct-to-consumer, the importance of that is that there are certain group of consumers that prefer the convenience of shopping online.

And yet for a prescription product, you need a vet recommendation and indeed, they often seek a vet's recommendation. So if you're a dyed-in-the-wool online shopper, right now you can't get that from your local vet online. You have to get it physically from that local vet.

So, this provides the capability to maintain the engagement of the vet and yet give the recipient of the product, the product delivered in the way they want. And we have found with our subscription modeling, but of course, that gives the pets actually better quality health in the sense that they will stay on the diet and get the full benefit of the product.

Noel Wallace -- President and Chief Operating Officer

Olivia, maybe I'll jump in and just add a couple, a little bit of flavor to that. Obviously, we're increasing our spending in digital. We see a pretty substantive acceleration in digital moving into 2019 as we saw in 2018, which we think is certainly having an impact on our e-commerce shares. As you may have seen, our e-commerce shares in the US are up 60 basis points.

In toothpaste, we are clearly the number one player in that category with a delta of about 5 share points to our nearest competitor. Our shares in a highly competitive China market are flat this year. And we, in our view, generated significant amount of learning and we'll be looking to bring new innovations, specifically to that channel in China in 2019 to accelerate that growth.

And then our biggest e-commerce business, as you're well aware of is our Hill's business, which had a terrific year in e-commerce, up 50 basis points. And we are very, very happy with what the progress that team is making in terms of how they are using digital, which as you may recall is their only medium of advertising. They spend 100% in that area behind the business. And we certainly see that paying off both in our e-commerce shares as well as our brick-and-mortar shares.

The success of the Hill's business throughout the year was sequential and the shares are supporting that. Coming back to that question, our vet channel shares, which are Prescription Diet were up 60 basis points. And our pet superstore business, which is Science Diet were up 60 basis points. So, again, we think the focus and the learning that we're getting behind digital spending and how that interacts and plays into our e-commerce business is well constructed.


We'll take our next question from Robert Ottenstein with Evercore ISI.

Robert Ottenstein -- Evercore ISI -- Analyst

Great. Thank you very much. Wondering if you could give us some more insights into your business and commercial momentum in China. I think in the opening comments, you said you expect to see improvement in the second half. So, maybe some -- what are the drivers for that?

And then perhaps touch on how the Dare or I mean, Dare To Love program is going with Alibaba? What are you seeing from that? Anymore progress or initiatives with Alibaba? And also touch on premiumization in China and elmex? Thank you.

Ian Cook -- Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. Well, thanks Robert. China, as we said, made sequential improvement, but continued to be down as we work through the very complicated destocking areas to get the pricing -- substantial pricing that has been taken to the shelf. And yes, you're right, as we said earlier, we expect that to be a journey and while we expect to see sequential improvement in the first half of the year, we don't expect to return to positive growth until the second half. Share is a holding in, OK. Consumption is holding in, OK.

Dare to Love was repeated with Alibaba this year. But the important new news was elmex. And that product started on Tmall with Alibaba and it's up to over 1 share point. So, a reasonably good start for a slow-build therapeutic product. And we're quite pleased with that.

And as Noel mentioned, we'll be going with an at-home whitening offering in China online, the same way that happens to be a high-growth area as well in China. So, a lot of plans in place. And we are just going to have the have the patience to work through it.


We'll take our next question from Bill Chappell with SunTrust.

Grant -- SunTrust Robinson Humphrey -- Analyst

Hi. This is actually Grant (ph) on for Bill. Thanks for taking the question. Our question was just on the balance between volume and pricing, particularly in emerging markets this coming year. I think we kind of understand that the volume drag was due to that pricing in the back half of this past year.

But kind of working forward, any thoughts on the timing based on competitive pricing actions that maybe we'll start to see volume growth in the emerging markets coming middle of this year, back half of this year, any color around that would be great? Thank you.

Ian Cook -- Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. As you said, we were pleased with the pricing that we have taken and as you rightly say, there is always an impact on volume. So, as we think about it for next year, the plan we have is balanced between pricing and volume. And it would be fair to say that the recovery of volume at least in the emerging markets as you say is spread across the year. Said from a big picture point of view, it is pricing-lead growth for the year but there is a volume component.


The next question comes from Mark Astrachan with Stifel.

Mark Astrachan -- Stifel, Nicolaus & Company -- Analyst

Yeah. Thanks, and good afternoon, everybody. One quick follow-up and then just another question. On the China piece, I was surprised pricing wasn't higher in Asia PAC given the degree of pricing that you're taking in China.

So it sounds like maybe there's some timing, some inventory work through still to come. So that may explain it. But if you could you just help on that, that would be great. And then secondly, just I wanted to explore learnings from the professional skincare acquisitions from beginning of last year. And if you look at the numbers, it seems like they've actually been pretty successful obviously on a small base.

So, curious what learnings you've had from that? And whether you could take the professional skincare into -- or would take the professional skincare into retail skincare or other channels. Is that something that potentially you'd look to focus on? And kind of related to that, given all that we've heard today, a lot going on, so is that even something with a priority at this point?

Ian Cook -- Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. Well, thanks for the questions. Frankly, Mark, you answered your own first question. And that was what I was trying to imply by destocks (ph) still working through. So, we are working the pricing to the consumer, but it is delayed as we work through the complicated inventory destocking. I didn't know where you were going to go with the professional skincare business in terms of our learning. I think one thing we would say is that we obviously, as Noel said, expanding the portfolio in the geographies that we have, which we think will continue to drive the strong growth of that business.

The other thing I would comment at this stage in terms of the top line for North America, you will remember that effective 2019, that PCA and Elta will now be incremental to the organic growth of North America, which is a nice uptick for that business.

As to the idea of retail, I think our thinking is we are likely to take the model and expand more products in the portfolio to other locations as a first step, but I wouldn't rule out retail at a point in time. But I don't think given all of the other things as you suggested we are focus on this year that 2029 (sic) (2019) would be the year that we would consider that.


Our next question comes from Jonathan Feeney with Consumer Edge.

Jonathan Feeney -- Consumer Edge Research -- Analyst

Good morning. Thanks very much. So, how much --

Ian Cook -- Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Hi, Jonathan.

Jonathan Feeney -- Consumer Edge Research -- Analyst

Hi. So, how much do you think a below average microenvironment if roughly the way to think about restrained emerging market growth in 2018 because in light of what, at least look like similar ForEx and macro trends in 2009 or even 2015 when your own numbers were a little bit better, there's anyway you can share it or maybe parse what's secular from what's cyclical in emerging markets would be helpful? Thank you.

Ian Cook -- Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Well, I'm not a macroeconomist. So, what we tend to focus on is consumer behavior. Obviously, we -- the one where the lines crossed, if you will, was what we saw in Latin America with the lack of customary inflation, which we think given the underlying commodity price pressures is beginning to come back. I guess the other conclusion we have grown is that Mexico seems to be six months ahead of Brazil. And while we stay very vigilant on Brazil, an optimistic view would see that perhaps follow the same curve.

Beyond that, I wouldn't make any significant predictions. These are products that tend to be more fundamental usage products and we have enough bandwidth in our portfolio to scale down and scale up depending the way the market grows. And even in Brazil where the category has suffered, our market share has held up surprisingly well. Those are the only comments I think I'm informed enough to make.


We'll take our next question from Andrea Teixeira with J.P. Morgan.

Andrea Teixeira -- J.P. Morgan -- Analyst

Hi. Thank you. Ian, my question is a follow-up on China. So, you sounded optimistic that the high-teens price increase in China is working its way there. But can you break down the performance between direct and indirect channels? Are the volumes still declining in both direct and indirect and if inventory has normalized in the indirect channel?

And also more like fundamental question about that, could you also just explain a little bit more what's driving the indirect channel to be actively seeking out the lower price Colgate products considering the commentary about China generally premiumizing? So, any color on that would be helpful. Thank you.

Ian Cook -- Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah, interesting question, Andrea. I think pricing generally moves to the direct trade more quickly than it does the indirect trade and we had made that point on the last call. And then when we talked about the destocking, I think, we laid out quite clearly the fact that the distribution go-to-market now has become enormously complicated in terms of the multiple ways people can buy a product whether it's a direct, whether it's indirect, whether it's online, whether it's offline.

And that is what created the complication, compounded by the fact you have less visibility with the indirect channel than you do with the direct channel. So, it is the indirect channel, but remember the indirect channel in China still goes to modern trade outlets, supermarkets. So, it's that that's going to have to work its way through.


And we'll take our final question from Steve Strycula with UBS.

Steve Strycula -- UBS -- Analyst

Hi. Good afternoon. Ian, you referenced a few times in the call so far that two-thirds of the price increases have already been secured. So my question is, if you by chance do not secure the other third of the intended price increases, where would that place you within the spectrum of your 30 basis points to 50 basis points of gross margin expansion this year? And then, John, for guardrail purposes, how do we think about operating profit dollar trends for the full year since EPS will be down mid-single digits? Thanks.

Ian Cook -- Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. I'll speak for John. The -- in terms of -- actually the point of making the comment on the pricing was to suggest confidence that we will indeed realize all of the pricing, given that more than two-thirds of it is already in place now. And given what we know is the first-half headwind in terms of raw materials and foreign exchange and given what we see and hear from competitors operating in similar spaces. So unless you hear otherwise, our intention was to convey confidence in our ability to deliver the pricing.

And in terms of operating profit, as you know, we don't guide operating profit. We guide to the gross margin and the EPS. And to your point on gross margin, if we realize the pricing and our funding-the-growth ambitions of the year, we are comfortable with our 30 basis points to 50 basis points guide on gross margin.

So, I believe those are all of the questions. I thank you for joining the call and we look forward to talking with you in April.


And that does conclude today's conference. We thank you for your participation. You may not disconnect.

Duration: 75 minutes

Call participants:

John Faucher -- Senior Vice President, Investor Relations

Ian Cook -- Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Noel Wallace -- President and Chief Operating Officer

Dara Mohsenian -- Morgan Stanley -- Analyst

Jason English -- Goldman Sachs -- Analyst

Lauren Lieberman -- Barclays -- Analyst

Nik Modi -- RBC Capital Markets -- Analyst

Steve Powers -- Deutsche Bank -- Analyst

Bonnie Herzog -- Wells Fargo Securities -- Analyst

Ali Dibadj -- Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. -- Analyst

Kevin Grundy -- Jefferies -- Analyst

Olivia Tong -- Bank of America Merrill Lynch -- Analyst

Robert Ottenstein -- Evercore ISI -- Analyst

Grant -- SunTrust Robinson Humphrey -- Analyst

Mark Astrachan -- Stifel, Nicolaus & Company -- Analyst

Jonathan Feeney -- Consumer Edge Research -- Analyst

Andrea Teixeira -- J.P. Morgan -- Analyst

Steve Strycula -- UBS -- Analyst

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