Sugar-free gums with added benefits continue to flourish, thanks to new product innovations.

“Make it healthy, make it exciting and make it easy.” Those are the three top food and snacking trends, asserts Jim Cali, Cadbury’s global gum category director.

According to a Mintel study (Jan. 11, 2008 - Jan. 11, 2009), low/no/reduced sugar gum outperforms all other confectionery claims, holding the No. 1 spot in the world. Moreover, these sugar-free gums, along with functional gums, are expected to continue growing through 2013, Euromonitor reports.

That really isn’t surprising given sugar-free gum’s versatility and ability to deliver functional benefits. After conducting various studies concerning the benefits of chewing gum, Wrigley found it can help with weight management, oral health, stress and concentration.

On top of “making it healthy,” Wrigley makes it “tasty” by focusing on trendy fruit flavors. For example, in December 2008, Wrigley launchedOrbitStrawberry Mint and Positively Pomegranate. The company plans to introduce additional fruity gum flavors in March 2009, includingExtraFruit Sensations in Berry Smoothie and Mango Smoothie flavors. Also in March, the company will unveil newOrbitMist gum withMicro Bursttechnology, which reveals a hydrating sensation when chewed. The gum will be offered in Watermelon Spring, Mango Surf and Peppermint Spray varieties.

“In addition to the popularity of fruit-flavored products, category innovation continues to be fueled by new packaging and brand extensions,” says Jennifer Luth, manager of marketing communications for Wrigley.

With many of Wrigley’s gum products turning to slim packs, the company followed through with convenience and quantity in itsOrbitBig Pak. Containing 35 pieces in one envelope, the pack is small enough to fit in consumers’ pockets, but offers enough gum to last a while.

To make its products healthy, Cadbury offersTrident Xtra CarewithRecaldent, a form of calcium that strengthens and rebuilds tooth enamel. Currently,Trident Xtra Careis available in Peppermint and Cool Mint flavors. This year, the company will introduce the gum in Spearmint flavor.

Cadbury also producesStride,Trident White(clinically proven to whiten teeth and prevent stains) andTrident Splash.

One of the top chewing gum flavors, fruit is featured in the liquid centers of sugar-freeTrident Splashgum. Cadbury even mixes popular fruit flavors with mint (the global top flavor of chewing gum), according to Mintel’s report. For example,Trident Passionberry Twistcombines Passion Fruit, Blackberry, Raspberry and Spearmint.

“Fruit-flavored sugar-free chewing gum is growing because it appeals to calorie-conscious consumers, and new innovative breath-freshening products continue to be well-received,” says Dan Marquardt, Mentos USA marketing director.

Like Cadbury, Perfetti Van Melle is taking advantage of the growing popularity of fruit flavors with its sugar-freeMentos Gum. Last year,Mentos GumRed Fruit made its debut. Most recently, the company introducedMentos Pure Fresh Gumwith Green Tea Extract in Fresh Mint and Wintergreen flavors. Perfetti Van Melle also is coming out withMentos Gumin Tropical and Watermelon flavors, due to the success of Red Fruit.

In order to “make it easy” for consumers, Mentos packages its gum in pocket bottles with flip-top lids. This offers portability and convenience for consumers. Add functionality to profitability and convenience, and consumers take interest.

“We’re really trying to work with the nameBonusto give the consumer more from the chewing gum experience,” says Jay Klein, president of Bonus Gum Co., Inc. “Whether that’s by [developing] new flavors, [adding] health benefits or [giving] value - those are the areas that we’re going to cover.”

With the popularity of energy drinks increasing, it’s no surprise that gum manufacturers are buzzing about this functional trend. Bonus Gum, for example, recently introduced an Energy variety featuring taurine and guarana. To avoid a bitter taste, this gum does not contain any caffeine, according to the company.

And while consumers are looking for functional chewing gum, they’re also looking for new flavors and health benefits.

Bonus Gum’s most recent offerings include Green Tea and Cranberry flavors. One piece of the former delivers the same amount of antioxidants as two cups of green tea. The company’s Cranberry chewing gum also features antioxidant properties by infusing real cranberries into the gum.

“The consumer is becoming more sophisticated,” says Dr. Bob Thistle, chief chemist, B Fresh, Inc. “They’re starting to read the ingredients on packages and they’re starting to appreciate things that are healthy.”

With 100% natural ingredients,Solar Energy Gumis about as healthy as functional gum gets. The gum is sweetened with the naturally occurring sugar substitute Xylitol, which is derived from birch trees, and contains no dyes, preservatives, additives, artificial flavors or colors. It’s also kosher, GMO-free, vegan, soy-free, gluten-free and safe for diabetics. In addition to its health benefits, the gum energizes consumers with antioxidants, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, vitamin D, calcium, taurine and ginseng. According to studies, these functional ingredients also are healthful in that vitamin B6 may increase metabolism, taurine may promote muscle growth, Asian ginseng may reduce stress and improve memory, vitamin B12 may promote cell growth and fight diabetes, and vitamin D may help prevent osteoporosis, among other benefits.Solar Energy Gumcomes in Peppermint Planet, Moon Melon, Satellite Cinnamon, Spectacular Spearmint and Planet Wild Berry varieties.

The company also offersB Freshbrand gum in Cinnamon, Bubble Gum, Lemon, Fruit and Spearmint. These sugar-free gums are sweetened with Xylitol and fortified with calcium and B 12 vitamins. They also are vegan and gluten-free.

Infusing chewing gums with the aforementioned health benefits, innovative flavors, functional ingredients and convenient packaging make the growing gum category healthy, exciting and easy.

Editor’s Note:This article also appears in the February 2009 issue ofConfection & Snack Retailingsister publicationCandy Industry.