Sweetening Gum and Mint Sales

Unique flavors, packaging and promotions help boost the category with younger consumers.

By John Lofstock, Editor

Gum and mints can be easy to miss in a crowded store—which is why retailers must work hard to make sure they never get overlooked.

Operators must also keep up on product and consumer trends, which continually serve to reshape the category. For instance, Euromonitor International research noted that gum’s key role as a breath freshener continues to be supplanted by mints, which saw value sales jump by 8% in 2016.
Mintel predicted that the mint category alone will grow to $9 billion by 2019, an increase of 25% over current sales, due to candy, gum and mints following other industries’ lead in resealable, portable and multi-size packages as well as the desire for impulse purchases. The increase continues to come at the expense of chewing gum. Gum sales in the U.S. have been declining since 2010, according to Euromonitor International. Sales last year were about $3.5 billion, the consulting group reported.

“Younger consumers continue to be drawn to the convenience, innovation and intense breath freshening offered by mints, and this shift has dramatically affected sales of gum,” a Euromonitor report said. “In this challenging environment, gum manufacturers looked outside of breath-freshening occasions to spur sales growth in 2016.”

Though a smaller segment, bubble gum is typically consumed by teenagers or children as a fun indulgence. The segment relies on bright colors, creative formats and unique flavor innovations to maintain interest, and so has been less affected by consumer shifts from gum to mints for breath-freshening purposes.

“People are tremendously brand loyal about gum, so it’s important to offer a broad selection of gum and mints—especially those targeting fresh breath,” suggested Ryan Mathews, founder of Black Monk Consulting in Eastpointe, Mich. “Gum is a big impulse item, so it should be merchandised close to the checkout area. It’s also an easily stolen item, all the more reason to display it where an associate can keep a careful eye on it.”

Retailers should be aware that gums and mints often have a high cross-purchase with foodservice and foodservice beverages, reminded Steven Montgomery, president of b2b Solutions in Lake Forest, Ill. “For example, many people have a piece of gum or a mint after having a cup of coffee. This means merchandising gums and mints near foodservice items or on the consumer path from the foodservice area to the pay point.”

Montgomery pointed out that the c-store industry is noted for being the place to buy new items. “Distributors provide information on new items so the retailer can have them in stock when the manufacturer’s ad campaign starts. The ads create awareness and the retailer has to be ready to meet the consumers’ desire to try the item.”

Showcasing and updating these products also help generate some excitement at the store level.

“When it comes to gum, mints and other small products, it’s important to keep them visible to the customer, and prevent them from getting overlooked in the crowd of other products,” said Scott Simon, president and CEO of Swiss Farms, the Delaware County, Pa.-based drive-through market with 12 locations.

Visibility is a key selling point for these products because, more often than not, they’re the type of purchase that a customer may not have in mind prior to seeing them. “It’s beneficial to keep these products in the front of your retail space, or in other high traffic locations,” Simon said. “Visibility always leads to consideration.”

Like with chocolate and other confections, package sizes and value play a serious role in driving gum and mint sales. “I envision most candy planograms to be even more weighted toward king size or sharing-size pack sizes,” said Jared Scheeler, managing director of The Hub Convenience Stores, while noting that even though healthier options are popular across many food segments, size of candy still matters.

Simon called it imperative not to let these products get lost in the array of products that are essentially competing for the customer’s attention. “Don’t stock irrelevant or incongruous products next to each other. When you’re pressed for space and put gum next to cereal, it no longer acts as an asset and becomes a distraction. Customers don’t need their thoughts crowded by gum or mints when they’re trying to decide what juice boxes they want.”

Mathews likewise stressed visibility. “Don’t hide the gum and mints in the middle of an aisle somewhere where they can be easily missed and/or stolen, offering a limited selection and/or cross-merchandising with beer and wine—even though that may be tempting.”

Tim Cote, vice president marketing for Plaid Pantry, which operates 110 stores in Oregon and Washington State, recommended executing frequent resets to get new items set in a permanent home quickly. “Get some of the category on the check stand, but not so much that you eliminate the usefulness of the gondola set. Utilize shippers, and merchandise kid gum low enough in the schematic that a kid can reach it.”

On the other side of the equation, Cote added, operators should avoid over-extending the assortment to qualify for a manufacturer contract. The deal to carry a product has to be in the best interest of the retailer. “No matter how trustworthy a manufacturer is, if they are a good partner they should negotiate with you.”

Average Chewing Gum Statistics in the U.s.
Annual U.S. chewing gum sales — $2 billion
Total number of sticks of chewing gum made every year  —   1.74 trillion
Total number of chewing gum manufacturing companies —    115
Number of U.S. chewing gum companies  —   30
Tons of chewing gum consumed each year  —    100,000 tons
Total time gum would be chewed every year if each piece of gum was chewed for 30 minutes — 187 billion hours
Average amount of sticks of gum each person chews every year — 280


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