Estimated U.S. Retail
Source: Mintel, a market research firm
Marketers can smile over the breath freshener
category, but not too widely. The $5.3 billion gum, mints and breath
freshener market grew 19 percent between 2001 and 2006, but in constant
dollars, this represents only 4 percent, according to Mintel. The latest
category report from the company reveals that the slow market movement may
stem from the fact that new concepts, which major manufacturers continue to
develop at high-speed rates, tend to cannibalize share, rather than expand
Mints aren’t in the “mint condition”
they were a few years ago. Sales, by themselves, showed some strength, but
breath fresheners of all forms declined. Apparently, there is a blurring of
the lines between plain mints and breath mints, which will inevitably merge
the two and reduce shelf space, especially since many products do
double-duty as breath fresheners and candy. Mints are still seen as an
“old-fashioned” sub-segment; the chewing gum sector is viewed
as more dynamic, appealing to a younger audience.
Historically, the category has certainly favored
youth. Typically, the 18-34-year-old-set is the prime target of most
manufacturers in the category, thank to this age group’s willingness
to try new items frequently. But the market may have to rethink that as
Boomers move into their senior years and “functional” and
reduced-sugar products become part of the equation. This doesn’t mean
the younger set should be ignored, by any means—just greatly
New product and packaging ideas are rampant in the
category. Clearly, this can be a strength and a weakness. Functional and
fortified option are still expected to take the segment to levels it has
not yet seen, with at least one new player from the dental industry
claiming its product will attack the root causes of bad breath.
“Power” mints and gum containing
value-added ingredients such as caffeine, guarana and ginseng, are still
expected to help grow sales, as are “energy” products that
build on the excitement of the energy drink category. Low-sugar options
across the category will continue to attract an older crowd and women
In packaging for mints, on-the-go clips and
dual-openings (utilizing a traditional flip-top, as well as a sliding door
for easier access) are expected to keep younger consumers interested.
Fresh breath is socially desirable for any age
group/any demographic. Yet retailers are not taking full advantage of the
many cross-merchandising opportunities that the category is perfect for,
especially given the small space ancillary displays take up. High-traffic
locations, typically around the perimeter of the store—near the dairy
case, in the produce section, at the pharmacy counter, adjacent to the
bakery—are obvious choices to capture consumers. The category has to
move beyond the checkout aisles now that self-checkouts (typically without
candy and gum selections) are gaining popularity.
The oral fixators such as dieters and smokers could be
targeted more intentionally, resulting in more incremental sales. Experts
say the mint and chewing gum market could receive a definite boost as
smoking bans come into effect across the country. It makes sense to offer
an extra-heavy selection of mints and gum alongside tobacco displays and
diet foods. The chewing gum and mint market witness a sales spike each year
during the first four weeks of Lent as people give up smoking and
chocolate. Additional sales peaks are also seen around the New Year when
folks are dieting. These two “holidays” are the perfect time
for special promotions and outposts. Smokers and dieters are increasingly
looking for alternatives to cigarettes and snacks, especially at work or in
From now until 2011, Mintel expects total U.S. retail
sales of gum, mints, and breath fresheners to grow at an annual average
rate of 3.6% in current terms and increase 0.3% in constant terms. However,
the potential for increasing health issues suffered by an aging population
could bode well for functional gum or mint products. There may also be
opportunities for non-medical interventions such as OTC gum or mints that
hydrate the mouth or provide antioxidants, minerals or vitamins.
• There is growth in
the overall market, but it has slowed.
• Breath fresheners
favor the young with constant innovation.
• Functional and
fortified options are starting to attract a more senior consumer.
• Smokers and
dieters should be singled-out and cross-merchandised to.
• Stay tuned for
more non-medical “health” interventions.