New Approach for Gum, Mints

Once a confectionery stalwart, is gum now out of favor? While Mintel’s September 2015 “Gum, Mints and Breath Fresheners Executive Study” noted that breath-freshening gum sales increased 3% globally in 2016, its more recent “Chocolate, Sugar and Gum Confectionery 2018” study, released in January, showed that per-capita sales declined in the U.S. by 1% from 2016 to 2017. And store experience backs up the research.

“Gum sales continue to decline slightly while mints are still trending up,” said John Lutz, category manager at Pilot Flying J.

As people move away from gum, companies are trying to lure them back with new flavors, combined flavors and even functional gum that could whiten teeth, improve bone health, provide vitamins, help with weight loss or even provide medicine. But even with new tastes and reasons to chew, sales have been lagging. Mintel’s research explains why:

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“The top two reasons people purchase gum, mints and breath fresheners is to freshen their breath and to remove a bad taste from their mouth,” the 2015 study said, citing its poll that found 62% of respondents purchase gum or mints to freshen breath.

The 2018 study added, “In sugar and gum confectionery, the standard flavors are still the most popular, but innovation includes a broader array of dessert inspirations and savory/spicy launches.”

Is the demand for innovative gum flavors there? Companies are banking on it, with introductions of dessert-flavored gum with flavors like churros, cookies, sorbet and s’mores, flavor mixes and greater choice. Though international companies are gaining attention, the main players are still on top.

“Mars Wrigley Confectionery has the lion’s share of gum and mint sales, and introduced some mashups in recent months, including last December’s Juicy Fruit Mixies and Juicy Fruit Collisions, which is expected in May,” said George Puro, president of Puro Research Group.

Another way companies are trying to grab the consumer is with larger packages of gum and mints.

“I think an overall trend of trading up will occur in 2018,” said Joseph Borner, category supervisor at Rutter’s. “I believe consumers will continue to sway from standard to king. Gum packs shifting to larger pack sizes and bottles. When consumers decide to trade up there’s an overall sense of getting more bang for the buck.”

Innovation in the functional gum area has flatlined as the ability to add such things as vitamins hasn’t grabbed a foothold in American markets. So, while the world waits for vitamins or healthier ingredients to come in gum form, one area stands out as ripe for innovation—energy gum.

“In 2018, the big new gum launches are Mars Wrigley’s caffeinated Alert gum, a new gum by Tic Tac and Mondelez will come out with Trident Vibe later this year which looks very promising,” Lutz said.