There’s something about the hot months of summer that make chewing on a piece of gum or biting into a mint all the more refreshing.
Even though gum and mint sales have dipped slightly in recent months, creative pushes are coming from both markets to keep customers cool, calm, and collectively chewing. Products that offer multiple benefits, use natural ingredients, serve up exotic flavors and are sold in creative packaging reflect some of the strategies companies are using to combat declining sales.
“I think there’s been a decrease among consumers for two reasons: the price of gum has gone up because of the sweeteners and formulas used, and the amount of advertising money spent on gum has declined, certainly compared to a few years ago,” says George Stege, president of Ford Gum & Machine, Inc.
That could explain the 6.47 percent decrease in gum sales versus a year ago. According to SymphonyIRI, the $3 billion-plus in sales total is less than what was once common. The good news: the numbers are slowly coming back up.
Sugarless gums outsell regular chewing gum by nearly four times the amount, showing consumers’ preferences for gums that do double-duty. Orbit gum was first with over $444 million in sales, followed by Trident at $384 million and Wrigley’s Extra, 5 and Eclipse gums with $311, $259 and $188 million in sales, respectively.
“I see gum becoming more functional, it’s serving more of a purpose than just being an enjoying thing to eat,” continues Stege. “Xylitol is becoming more and more common than it once was.”
The main sweetener used in sugar-free gums and mints, xylitol is beating out sorbitol for its breath-freshening capabilities.
“We use 100 percent xylitol to sweeten our two sugar-free Glee Gum flavors because of the associated benefits for dental health, including cavity prevention and plaque reduction,” says Molly Lederer of Glee Gum. “Xylitol is a sugar alcohol found naturally in the fibers of fruits and veggies like corn, raspberries and plums.”
Naturally derived, xylitol is another way for gum and mint producers to provide customers with the natural products they desire. There’s something to be said for the use of plain ol’ sugar in products too, though.
Recently, Sencha Mints has begun to make the shift from using sorbitol and xylitol in its mints to using pure cane sugar.
“We find that consumers are looking at the label a little bit more,” says David Kerdoon, chief enlightenment officer, Sencha Mints. “It just scares off people enough that we feel pursuing a natural route, that just having cane sugar, pure sugar, is just going to be a better thing.”
In lieu of xylitol, a mixture of green tea extract and peppermint oil give Sencha mints their refreshing power. The tea naturally kills bacteria while the peppermint oil gives the well-known cooling sensation.
Sencha also adds different herbs and spices to its products that fight bad breath with tongue-tingling flavors like Bombay Chair and Pink Dragonfruit. Kerdoon has found that it’s imperative to find the right balance of exotic and expected, a challenge not faced by gums.
“With gum you see more exotic flavors, but we’re one of the companies that push exotic-flavored mints the most,” relays Kerdoon. “When we switched to exotic, but not so exotic, we saw a jump in sales. I think you’ve got to be careful when you’re trying to think outside the flavor box. You can push outside the limits a little bit, but if you get to exoteric, people get skeptical.”
Kerdoon posits that it might be easier for gum manufacturers to get away with wacky flavors, because gum is geared toward a younger generation that is more adventurous with their candy purchases. Mints become more than candy when packaged and marketed in a sophisticated way, making them perfect for adults to enjoy.
“The packaging of mints is more sophisticated and catered to adults,” says Kerdoon. “Packaging and design, plus some sort of mint oil to create a cooling effect, starts to change the product from a candy to a mint.”
Packaging plays a big role in consumers’ choices too. Recently, the well-loved Bazooka bubble gum repackaged its products and amped up the flavors to drive purchases. Glee Gum has also seen the positives of differentiated packaging.
“Smaller pack sizes are on the rise,” says Lederer. Mini Glee Gum boxes and Mini Glee Variety Packs offer customers a plethora of products in petit portions. The products are also great for use during the holidays.
So, whether it’s a perfectly packaged piece of mint mojito gum or a tubular tin of tangy mints, customers are drawn to natural, delicious, and (slightly) exotic flavors that pull their weight in both taste and utility.