Breath strips may be down, but gum is up, and mints are
up even more — thanks to some “fresh” takes on this
staple confectionery category.
The industry will get no oral argument from consumers
— abundant innovation from the breath freshening category is keeping
mouths clean and happy, and perhaps — even healthy.
Overall, the category has made a comeback, with sales
for this year expected to hit $4.3 billion, according to Packaged Facts.
Breath Strips, a $40 million sub-segment, are down
nearly 19 percent in dollar sales from a year ago, according to the latest
figures from IRI. But gum, the leader of the pack with nearly $2 billion in
dollar sales, is up about 4 percent, and mints, nearly $400 million in
dollar sales, is up almost 10 percent from last year, according to IRI.
The category is getting a lot of corporate attention
lately, and that’s a good thing for sales overall. Not to be outdone
by smaller players, the larger manufacturers have generated lots of
consumer interest this past year by adding line extensions such as sours
and dark chocolate to their big-name mints.
Sugar-free gum has also experienced a “breath of
fresh air”— innovative flavor combinations that put particular
emphasis on unique fruit flavors as the undertone to a cool mint sensation,
and not the other way around, so that they are considered breath freshening
mechanisms and not kids’ candy.
Breath fresheners are certainly not wasted on the
young; in fact, the 18-34-year-old set is typically the prime target of
most manufacturers in the category, thanks to this age group’s
typical vibrancy/willingness to try new items frequently. Brands with
larger packaging/bolder flavors, especially fruits and sours, typically
attract the youngest age groups, including teens, within that segment.
Meanwhile, smaller, compact and portable packaging, as well as the
strongest mint flavors, appeals more to the older segment of that target
crowd. The one thing they both like is sugar-free gum, which has become
almost universally appealing now.
The underdeveloped teen and tween audience is an
up-and-coming target for this category; one manufacturer is attracting them
with packaging that allows its mints to be attached to a key ring,
backpack, purse and so on.
Another target that is recently in focus —
health-conscious consumers, who are being enticed with functional and
fortified options that are expected to take the breath-freshening category
to a multi-dimensional level that it has not yet seen. At least one new
player is moving into the category from the dental industry, touting gum
and mints formulated to attack the root causes of bad breath — and
not merely act as a cover-up! The breath freshening industry has apparently
only touched the tip of the iceberg with the functional aspect, according
to the experts.
In addition to the aforementioned mint packaging that
allows the product to be clipped and carried, other innovative category
packaging boasts a larger size (holding 60 mints) that can easily slide
into a car cup holder. “Indulgent” looking tins are also still
popular with more sophisticated consumers who are inclined to make a
statement when purchasing other affordable luxuries, such as high-end
chocolate, wine and premium cigars.
Two- and three-packs of gum and mints are getting more
regular candy planogram (typically pegged) space at mass retailers looking
to show value, a la warehouse clubs. And consumers are seeking out this
multi-pack option, even on new-flavor items, which are wisely being
merchandised this way from the get-go.
As well as breath fresheners have recently rebounded,
the biggest news of the category is yet to come, say industry analysts, and
perhaps then, “breath freshening” will become too limited a
term. Those entrenched in the category expect to see a surge of new
products that will have functional benefits like energy, promoted around
beverages; teeth whitening benefits, promoted around dental care;
appetite-suppressant benefits, promoted around diet aids; and antioxidant
benefits, promoted around vitamins.
But we have already had hints and smatterings of all
this. Soon, experts say, gums may offer even more: the ability to fight off
cavities, cure headaches, increase brain function, and perhaps even fight
cancer (if you can believe that!). The research is still in the early
stages, but companies are starting to experiment with added health-boosting
ingredients. It is the obvious next step for the category, say trend
watchers and scientists, who for years have touted gum as a good delivery
system that has not been fully explored. They are now looking at gum as a
good alternative to pills, patches and syrups for getting prescription
medicine into our bodies.
Currently, gums containing green tea, phytoestrogens
and calcium are already available in Europe and Asia.
A Global Freshening
There is global confirmation that the American breath
freshening market is on the right track for future advancement. It has been
reported that sales of sugar-free and functional products, including those
in the breath-freshening arena, have increased in popularity overseas,
leading to a decline in traditional sugary options and a greater consumer
interest in “little confectionery items” that are more in
keeping with the trend for “well-being.”
The European confectionery market is also looking to
more deeply penetrate its consumers with more sophisticated breath
freshening products that target emerging consumer groups, such as working
females and those over 60.
Estimated U.S. Retail
Source: Packaged Facts
• Offer fresh breath to
everyone, everywhere. The category is a
natural for cross- merchandising techniques in high traffic locations,
typically around the perimeter of the store, near the dairy case, in the
produce section, and don’t forget all the spots where customers might
stand around — in floral, near coffee and sandwich services, at the
pharmacy counter. There is really no group that doesn’t want fresh
breath at all times of the day. And oral fixators such as dieters and
smokers are all easily enticed by impulse displays.
• Don’t let gum
squash mints. Planograms are very
gum-heavy these days, after many mints died off and disappeared in recent
years. But buyers should take note: dollar sales are growing faster
currently for the mint category, and big-name companies are now investing
heavily in new mint options with strong brand recognition behind them. New
planogram configurations should reflect more might with mints.
• Allow for self
“breath-out.” The breath freshening
category is not being fully utilized if retailers with self check-out
aisles (growing in popularity, especially with younger, more
technologically-savvy and more affluent crowds) do not allow for products
to be merchandised there, as they do in the “regular” check
lanes. There are best-practice studies that detail this, but basically, a
merchandising display in the middle of several check-out lanes can work
nicely, especially as many retailers now have a single-feed line for two to
six self-checkout lanes that consumers stand in and wait their turn during
busy times. Often, a human station is centrally located and would be an
ideal spot for this type of display to sit in front of. It would be in the
direct line of vision of these customers.
Research is underway in many countries for more gum
greats — being marketed to both consumers and the medical profession:
• The gum category leader is marketing a
breath-freshening gum with zinc and copper salts, which they say bonds with
sulphur compounds that contribute to bad breath.
• Army scientists are working on an antimicrobial gum
containing protein fragments that would fight cavities, gum disease and
plaque just like toothpaste does.
• There are gums with green tea extracts in Asia and
potentially bone-strengthening calcium gums in Europe.
• Bust-Up gum, produced by the Japanese company B2Up,
claims to boost breast size with phytoestrogens extracted from the Pueraria
• A company in Mexico sells Sex Gum, Love Gum and
Extasy Gum — all laced with a purported herbal aphrodisiac that is
• The German company BASF, meanwhile, is producing gum
with Lactobacillus — the same bacteria found in yogurt — for
fighting tooth decay.
• University of Helsinki researchers have created a
gum containing an amino acid called cysteine that may help prevent cancers
of the mouth, esophagus and stomach, especially in smokers. When they
indulge in their habits, smokers, as well as drinkers, produce
acetaldehyde, a chemical that's believed to be linked to digestive tract
cancers. The Finnish group's studies show that chewing a cysteine-enriched
gum while smoking removes most of the acetaldehyde in saliva.
SOURCE: The Los Angeles Times, February, 2007