Want to manage your weight, strengthen and whiten your teeth, increase your vitamin intake? Just bored out of your mind? Have some gum.
Candy manufacturers are rolling out gums for all occasions to entice people to chew more frequently. Some of the gums seem to have been pulled from science fiction, or at least Willy Wonka's factory.
Kraft Foods Inc.'s Stride Shift, for instance, changes flavor while you're chewing. Trident Vitality contains vitamin C for those who can't be bothered to eat fruit. William Wrigley Jr. Co.'s Extra Dessert Delights, meanwhile, give dieters a reason to pass on cake, with flavors including chocolate mint chip and key lime pie.
"Gum is the new delivery system for benefits, whether it's breath freshening or teeth cleaning, relaxation or just excitement because of new, unusual or interesting flavors," said Lynn Dornblaser, director of consumer product group insight at Mintel International Group Ltd., a global consumer, product and market research firm.
With gums such as Extra Dessert Delights launching now, and Trident Vitality queued for early 2011, Kraft and Wrigley appear to be stepping up their game; in effect, declaring a gum war. After all, the mergers of Mars Inc. and Wrigley and then Kraft and Cadbury have created global gum and confectionary giants. Together, the two big Chicago-area players account for nearly 65% of the world's gum sales, according to Euromonitor International.
Gum as a whole has been growing at a rapid clip over the last decade, with global sales up 37% since 2001, according to Euromonitor. Total sales are expected to top $24 billion this year.
However, sugar-free gum sales growth has been slowing at home over the last 12 to 18 months. According to SymphonyIRI Group, a market research firm, sugar-free gum sales increased 3% to $2.3 billion for the 12-month period that ended Sept. 5, compared with a 4% increase during calendar 2009.
Candy manufacturers blame the recession, which reduced foot traffic at gas stations and at grocery and convenience stores. There also have been indications that shoppers in checkout lines became less willing to spend $1.39 or $1.49 for a pack of brand-name gum.
Ann Hanson, executive director of product management at NPD Group Inc., a consumer and retail market research firm, pointed to another possibility: saturation in the U.S. market.
"It's possible that either you're a gum chewer or you're not, and how much gum can you chew in a typical day?" she said. "Gum manufacturers do have to get creative because consumers are looking for what's new and what's different, and as [the market] becomes saturated, it's about stealing share from each other."
That's why gum brands need to multitask to keep growing the category, especially in the United States, which leads the world in per capita gum consumption.
"Innovation we bring to the category" helps sell Kraft's brands during "the impulse moment" at cash registers, said Jim Cali, the company's senior vice president and global gum and candy category team leader. The more exciting the gum or the more benefits the gum may offer, he said, the more times consumers may use the product.
For instance, Stride Shift, which changes flavor from fruit to mint, is appealing to young adults looking for excitement. Trident Layers, on the other hand, is designed as an indulgence, particularly for young women looking for an afternoon break from the monotony of work. The gum also has a bright stripe through the center, to connote the combination of fruit flavors such as strawberry and citrus.
Mary Kay Haben, president of Wrigley North America, noted that packaging has changed to make sizes larger and less likely to spill in a woman's purse. Popular brands have moved from sugar-sweetened to sugar-free, and the leaders aren't built around one flavor such as Big Red and Juicy Fruit, but an occasion, benefit or state of mind. From there flavors can be added or taken away and lines extended more easily.
Haben pointed to Wrigley's successful launches of Orbit and 5 brands, both in the last decade. Orbit, with annual sales above $350 million in the U.S. alone, has been the country's top-selling gum since 2005. Launched in 2007, 5 will surpass $500 million in global sales for 2010 and is now available in 18 countries. Orbit became part of popular culture with its edgy advertising promoting its ability to clean consumers' mouths. Its slick packaging caught on industrywide.
But Orbit's sales have slipped the last two years, Haben said, because it became less relevant with young consumers. That's important because American gum consumption is driven by young adults.
Wrigley's Haben defines an "older gum chewer" as being about 30 years old. For that reason, one of her charges is to develop products that keep people chewing into middle age and older.