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.
Breath Fresheners Estimated U.S. Retail Market Size
Source: Packaged Facts
Breath Fresheners Estimated U.S. Retail Market Size
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 mirifica plant.
• A company in Mexico sells Sex Gum, Love Gum and Extasy Gum — all laced with a purported herbal aphrodisiac that is called damiana.
• 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