Taste is Key With Gum, Mints

Non-chocolate candy sales, which include breath fresheners, mints, licorice and taffy, in convenience stores increased 2.4% in dollar sales, according to Information Resources Inc. (IRI) Convenience All Scan data for the 52 weeks ending Dec. 25, 2016.

However, anecdotal evidence suggests that while mints are providing a category boost, a refresh is needed when it comes to gum. In the 52 weeks ending Dec. 25, 2016, dollar sales for gum fell 2.2%, compared to the same period in 2015. Sales of regular gum and sugarless gum declined.

“The gum category is in need of a boost,” Marcia Mogelonsky, director of insight, food and drink at the Mintel Group, published in a January 2017 blog entry. “Among the complaints consumers voice are the inability of gum to maintain long-lasting flavor and a desire for more innovative flavors.”

While mints seem to be in good shape according to Chicago-based research firm IRI, as breath fresheners grew 12.26% over 2015 and plain mints grew 4.13% over 2015, gum sales continued to flatline.

“Our total candy category was down slightly in units sold but up slightly in sales, said Mike Clifford, category manager at Clifford Fuel. “Mints were up 10%, and gum was down 6%.”
So what does the future hold?

“We estimate a solid 2% growth for the combined candy/gum/mint (CGM) category in our stores,” said Sheril Retson, a category manager–center of store at Chevron.

“We expect innovation and seasonal items to continue to provide growth for retailers, while gum will continue to show decline,” Retson said. “A longer Easter holiday season in 2017 could help lessen the impact from soft sales. Overall, we expect continuous growth in non-chocolate items, new promotional vehicles and innovation in standard and king bar pack types to help keep the CGM category growing.”

While companies continue to experiment with flavors and textures, adding non-traditional items like fruit juice, coffee, milk, caramel and coconut, they also continue to enhance packaging to limit the appearance of disposability and enhance mobility of packaging.

Growing research indicates that U.S. consumers crave more flavors and textures in the gum segment. Mintel’s “Gum, Mints and Breath Fresheners 2015” report states that “two in five gum/mint eaters agree that there is a need for more texture innovation” and some companies are responding.

For example, the Project 7 brand has introduced exotic and titillating flavors such as Front Porch Lemonade, Coconut Lime and Wedding Cake as well as packs featuring multiple flavors that allow consumers to build a taste profile like apple pie or s’mores. Other manufacturers are adding vitamins or using healthier products in their recipes.

“I don’t know if they will gain much traction this year, but I could see manufacturers promoting healthier sweeteners for gum and mints, like the Trident Purely line that just came out,” Clifford said.

“I see more growth in bigger packs and to-go cups,” Clifford said. “These bigger packages were successful last year and there will be more options coming out this year. I think manufacturers and retailers will be focusing on these.”

Retson agreed, noting that “a growth in gum bottle packs may help stave off a decline in overall gum category.”


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