January 1, 2006
Lately, sugarless gum has had a very strong following, especially among dieters and snackers.
Sugarless Gum Estimated U.S. Retail Market Size
$700 - $800 million
Source: Confectioner estimate based on input from industry players
Gum is a top-selling confectionery treat — especially now sans the sugar. Recent industry data reveals that with a 6- to 11-percent increase in sales last year (depending on the month), sugarless has been leading the gum category charge — non-sugarless gum varieties were flat or down for the same time period last year. In 1997, the gum category was two-thirds regular gum and one-third sugar-free; now that’s completely reversed, according to candy industry tracking. For 2005, sugarless gum represents a little more than two-thirds of the total gum category, which translates to a $1-billion business. In total, Americans chewed almost 50 billion pieces of gum (sugarless and non-sugarless) in the past year.
The traditional “heartland” of gum chewing has previously been identified by industry players as ages 18-34 with a real concentration on the 25- to 29- year-old set; but with sugarless gum on the rise, indications are that the target audience is getting much wider — now encompassing a more mature segment of the population.
It seems a growing number of consumers (of all ages) are turning to sugarless gum as an ideal snack substitute. With dieting on the rise, it has been reported that consumers are reaching for sugarless gum instead of a sweet snack or to keep from snacking. Five years ago, about 25 percent of surveyed respondents said they chewed gum to keep from snacking; today that number is reportedly 50 percent.
Sugarless gum now has greater appeal in January, the most popular month for embarking on a diet.
Sugarless gum has tremendous growth potential as more and more consumers turn to the sub-segment to keep from eating, to relax and even to concentrate. It’s also a category that is very responsive to innovation; many players/gum base companies are introducing technologies that support intense flavors and unique product shapes.
Move it back. Of course, sugarless gum belongs plan-o-grammed in the front-end set, right alongside regular gum; but it also belongs conspicuously clipped in plain view of snackers or dieters (including diabetics) as they travel throughout the store — in the diet aisle, near the bakery, with school supplies and office supplies, at the pharmacy counter, and anywhere snacks of any kind are sold.
Promote, promote, promote. With sugarless gum constantly reinventing itself now, retailers need to be up on the latest flavor trends (unique fruit flavor/mint blends are currently on the rise) and sugar-substitute trends — and promote them all. Two-for-$3 (vs. $1.69 to $1.99 each) is one price promotion that some category players have had recent success with.