- Chewing gum sales reached nearly $4.1 billion in the U.S. last year, a slight increase from 2017, according to a new study from Packaged Facts. Gum accounted for 11% of retail candy sales overall.
- The demand for health-conscious options, such as calorie-free and sugarless chewing gum, will drive the sector forward, the report predicts. In 2018, sales of low-calorie and sugar-free gum accounted for 85% of sales, with sugared gum comprising the other 15%.
- "Gum marketers are developing fun and flavorful products and are innovating with non-caloric sweeteners, as well as stressing the potential benefits of dental and nutrition-bearing gums," David Sprinkle, research director for Packaged Facts, said in the release.
Gum could be making a slow and steady comeback. The recent growth follows several tough years for gum sales in the U.S. Consumers have drifted away from gum as new mints and flavored chews have become more popular. But after a troublesome decade, gum sales did rise slightly last year. About 54% of consumers chew gum on a regular basis, the majority of which Mars, Mondelez and Hershey produce under a variety of brands.
Dirk Van de Put, chairman and chief executive officer of Mondelez International, referred to the current climate as a "refreshment opportunity" during an investor day conference in September, according to Food Business News. Although he acknowledged the gum market's challenges, he said gum has seen "stabilization and even some growth" in recent months.
A main reason gum is making a comeback is because it is checking all the boxes that consumers are looking for today. Packaged Facts found that better-for-you options accounted for the vast majority of chewing gum sales last year, a trend the report expects to continue. New research suggests that gum could be an effective means to deliver nutritional benefits through developing vitamin-supplement options.
Brands are also responding to consumer demand for more sustainable and transparent products, according to the report. Mars Wrigley has a "Sustainable Generation Plan" and has launched efforts to help mint farmers mitigate environmental degradation and risk. These new efforts and marketing tactics draw in consumers that were previously driven away from sugary gum.
But challenges still remain. This new surge in sales might not last, since gum products are less common than other candy retail products like chocolate bars, which can be a challenge for growth. And the way people buy gum is changing. Most consumers still buy candy bars and gum in brick-and-mortar retail shops, but the industry recognizes the push to drive online sales.
Hershey is exploring how to bring the "impulse purchase" to e-commerce while others explore interactive marketing through social media. One company is exploring the online subscription model for chewing gum, where Project 7 sends customers six packs of sugar free gum in a variety of flavors each month at a flat rate.
And some researchers say that smartphones themselves could be part of the problem. While distracted by devices, people don’t grab a pack of gum at checkout like they used to. Whether online or off, marketers are scrambling to figure out how to keep consumers engaged and grabbing for another pack. Some have turned to bulk packaging, others to new flavor like sour gums and dual-flavored gums.
But the most important growth in the future will likely continue to come from products that respond to the better-for-you market. More functional and allergen-free gums without artificial ingredients will likely continue to develop in 2019 to meet those consumer demands.