“Does your chewing gum lose its flavor?” singer Lonnie Donegan once asked. Answer: Not anymore. Today’s chewers may not leave their gum “on the bedpost overnight,” but thanks to innovations in the category, it wouldn’t matter if they did. Longer-lasting profiles in an evolving variety of flavors and flavor combinations are taking gum - sugar-free, specifically - to the next level of taste, both literally and figuratively.
Just a few years back, gum was either sugar-free - available mostly in mint varieties meant to mask bad breath - or sugar-laden - aimed at kids who love to blow bubbles. Today, sugar-free offerings dominate the chewing gum category as a whole, targeting consumers of all ages. In addition, profiles have expanded and grown more complex, blending classic mint with favorite fruits such as strawberry, super-fruits such as pomegranate and fun new flavors such as key lime.
“Consumers have shown the ability and willingness to quickly adopt new flavor profiles, as they are snapping up new fruit flavors and experimenting with interesting combinations in the gum and mint world,” a 2010 report from Mintel states.
Functional packaging is important, too, Mintel notes. In fact, the packaging of some gum products has risen almost to a level of art, visually. Familiar blister packs and stick packets still lead the way, but the former are even easier to use than before, and the latter now contain individual pieces wrapped in paper instead of foil inside re-closeable packs, for example.
“Because gum and confections purchases are often driven by impulse, consumers are always looking for something new and exciting,” says Jennifer Jackson-Luth, senior manager - marketing communications, Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co. “Whether it’s flavor, packaging or function - the consumer drives the need for continual innovation.”
In addition, Maurice Herrera, marketing director for Cadbury North America’s Trident brand, notes that “consumers are looking for better-for-you treats across multiple snacking and confectionery categories, and sugar-free gum comprises the majority of total gum category sales.”
Mintel’s report adds that “sugarless gum now accounts for nearly two-thirds of gum, mints and breath freshener sales, and its sales are nearly four times those of the second largest segment, breath fresheners.” It also points out that in 2009, supermarkets were responsible for slightly more than half of gum, mints and breath fresheners sales.
Furthermore, sales in the sugarless gum category totaled $2,284.6 million for the latest 52 weeks ending May 16, according to Chicago-based market research firm SymphonyIRI Group. That’s up 2.2% from the same period last year. Top-selling brands were Orbit ($356.7 million), Trident ($298.4 million) and Wrigley’s 5 ($292.9 million). Stride, Dentyne and other Wrigley’s brands also are among the top 10.
These industry leaders maintain their success at retail by focusing on flavor and packaging.
A Matter of TasteTraditional mint flavors will never go away, but they’re also cashing in on a second life through new marriages to mainstream and lesser-used fruit flavors.
“Fruit flavors have been a key contributor to gum and candy growth, and Wrigley continues to introduce new flavors and innovations to leverage this trend and delight consumers,” says Jackson-Luth, citing recent and upcoming varieties such as Orbit Pina Colada, Lime Melon, Strawberry Mint and Positively Pomegranate; Orbit Mist Watermelon Spring, Mango Surf and Raspberry Lemon Dew; and Extra Fruit Sensations Sweet Tropical.
In addition, this fall, Orbit Tropical Remix, Perfect Peach and Berry Red will hit stores with a “fruit proposition that goes beyond ‘good taste’ to deliver a new experience for fruit chewers,” according to press materials.
Meanwhile, Wrigley’s 5 Gum will add a tenth variety, Prism, in Electric Watermelon.
Last but not least, Wrigley’s has taken inspiration from real dessert items to create a new line of Extra Dessert Delights, available in 5-calorie Mint Chocolate Chip, Strawberry Shortcake and Key Lime Pie.
Truly original (and “ridiculously long lasting”) flavors also can be found over at Cadbury, which kicked off 2010 with the introduction of Stride Mega Mystery. Just what does it taste like? The folks from Cadbury aren’t telling. It’s up to individual chewers to decide what they think.
More recently came Stride SHIFT Flavor Changing Gum, available in two flavors: one which goes from Citrus to Mint and the other from Berry to Mint for twice the fun; call it two sticks in one.
Some new flavors go so far as to “purify” your breath. Take Cadbury’s sugar-free Dentyne pure, which “neutralizes bad breath odors caused by bacteria and food” through the use of a proprietary blend of ingredients called NeutraFRESH. The product also contains “40% fewer calories than sugared gum.” Dentyne pure currently comes in two varieties: Mint with Herbal Accents and Mint with Melon Accents.
Cadbury is well-versed in the functional attributes of chewing gum. The company’s Trident franchise has a long dental heritage, “including that four out of five dentists recommend it for their patients who chew gum as well as Trident’s partnership with Smiles Across America,” Herrera points out.
Recently introduced varieties include Trident Layers, a dual-flavor combination product now available in new Cool Mint + Melon Fresco, which taste as refreshing as it sounds … and appears.
Made to ShareClearly, the “pack of gum” many consumers grew up with is no more. Modern twists on everyday packaging embrace colorful graphics and catchy taglines, glossy papers and matte finishes, and re-closable flaps and lids that make products easier to open, close, carry and share.
In fact, a 2010 survey of men and women ages 18 and up by Mintel found great willingness by respondents to offer gum to friends, family or colleagues. That said, younger consumers and members of single-person households are less likely to do so. Meanwhile, members of wealthy households and women are less likely to directly ask someone for a piece of gum.
Today, manufacturers make it even easier for those who want to share. Take Wrigley’s Big-E-Pak (used for Orbit White, Eclipse and sugar-free Juicy Fruit, for example), a 60-pellet, durable container designed to fit in a car cupholder or on a desk or tabletop; it features two re-closable openings - one to pour and share, and another for single servings. Meanwhile, Wrigley’s Slim Pack (used for Wrigley’s brand products, Extra and 5, for example) sleekly fits 15 sticks in a durable envelope that’s portable for on-the-go consumers.
This year, Wrigley’s will reinvigorate the category further “with the introduction of breakthrough packaging that invites consumers to ‘reveal their style’ with 36 unique retro-forward pack designs featured across the various Orbit flavors,” Jackson-Luth notes. According to company literature, said designs won’t be visible to purchasers until the outer wrapper of the product is removed and they uncover the pattern featured on their favorite variety for a sweet surprise.
It comes as little surprise that gum chewers often are loyal to one name brand or another, but with increasingly impressive flavor and packaging innovations coming from all sides, the sugar-free category definitely has opened up, competitively.
“Consumers often use more than one brand in this category, as they have many options to fulfill different needs,” says Gary Osifchin, marketing director for Stride and Dentyne. “That said, brands both new and old have been able to build loyalty by establishing a firm spot within the regular repertoire of brands that consumers choose.”
That loyalty will continue so long as manufacturers remain focused on how products look and, of course, taste. No doubt Lonnie Donegan would agree.
A Healthier ChewIntense flavors and upscale packaging aren’t the only qualities to be found in today’s sugar-free chewing gum market. Introductions from small companies also are garnering attention, especially from those in search of more healthful options.
“Chewing gum over the past few years has become more than just a breath freshener; it now holds a distinguished purpose for why consumers choose their brand,” says Jay Klein, president of Action Candy Co. “Whether the purpose is whitening, added vitamins or natural flavors, it has changed the way people buy and chew gum.
“Oral hygiene is a growing concern among consumers everywhere,” he adds.
To that end, Action Candy Co.’s pür gum is made with xylitol, an ingredient that helps to prevent tooth decay. Made in Switzerland, the product is free from artificial colors and flavors as well as aspartame and comes in three flavors: peppermint, spearmint and pomegranate mint. (For more information, visit www.pur-gum.com.)
Then there’s Vitaball, Inc., whose Vitamingum comes in the usual blister pack, but offers the added benefits of nutrition. It is sold in the following “enhanced” flavors: Defense (peppermint ice) with calcium, Vitamin D, antioxidants w/Extra C and B-Vitamins; Traction 50 (grape pomegranate) with 50% of your daily recommended values of antioxidants, B-Vitamins and Vitamin D; and Complete (raspberry lemonade) with antioxidants, B-Vitamins, Calcium + Vitamin D and minerals. (For more information, visit www.chewvitamingum.com.)