Gum's bubble bursts as consumer interest wanes
- Dollar sales of sugarless and sugared gums fell 4% in the first half of 2017, and unit sales were down 6%, according to Food Navigator. The IRI data is the latest research to show gum sales have been declining for almost the last decade.
- Market leader Wrigley, the maker of Orbit, Eclipse, 5gum Cobalt, and 5gum Rain, maintained its 54% share in the sugar-free gum category. The company's dollar sales fell 3%.
- Hershey, which manufactures Ice Breakers Ice Cubes, saw sales rise 1.9%. The sweets maker has 9% of the total sugar-free gum category.
Once a prominent symbol of American youth, gum has found itself in an increasingly sticky sales situation in recent years.
Many reasons could be contributing to consumers' waning interest in the product. A popular theory is that self-checkout lanes have eroded the last minute impulse purchase. Another offered by the Associated Press is there are more mint and candy options available to freshen a person's breath, cutting into gum’s market share. Most ingredient lists also are chock-full of unpronounceable ingredients, which would go against the trend of clean eating and simple nutrition labels.
Perhaps chewing gum just isn’t cool anymore. Whatever the reason, consumers aren’t buying as much gum as they used to.
There are a few exceptions to this decline. Hershey’s Ice Breakers Ice Cubes have bucked the trend with sales growing almost 2% in the first half of 2017. Its larger tub format and sugar-cube shape have been so popular with consumers that the gum maker introduced a single blister pack format earlier this year. Ice Breakers alone represents 9% of all sugar-free gum sales.
Perfetti Van Melle’s Mentos Pure Fresh gum, which is also sold in a larger tub format, saw sales increase 16%. The company released new gum packs with Velcro closures this year, and launched Air Heads candy brand into the gum category.
Startup Project7, with creative options such as champagne, margarita, and smores, grew sugar-free gum sales an impressive 17% in the same time period. As consumers, especially millennials, are increasingly interested in unique and exotic flavors, it makes sense that Project7 has been a popular choice. For manufacturers who are watching sales erode, they would be wise to introduce new flavors beyond the classic mint or cinnamon to attract young chewers while wooing back those who abandoned gum.
Sugar-free gum makers hoping to win customers back also may want to look beyond their standard cavity prevention claim and find a new health benefit to tout. Sugared gums could look to retool recipes to keep ingredient lists simple, and at the very least, experiment with creative flavor options. On the upside, consumers are already familiar with their product. They just need a new reason to buy it.
- Food Navigator Spit Out: Gum Declines Continue in the U.S.