The category is one of the ultimate impulse purchases with the majority of shoppers buying mint or gum on the spur of the moment. And in light of sales taking a turn for the better this year, it's not a category that should be ignored.
According to AC Nielsen data for the year ending August 21, 2010, the gum market is worth £136.7m in the convenience channel and growing by 4.3%. Mints, meanwhile, are now showing similar growth of 4.8% to a value of £76m in the c-store sector.
"Mints and gum are very important to us because they're such an impulse buy and are popular with smokers. We have our display in front of the counter so people come in the morning, get their cigarettes and pick up some gum at the same time. "The profit margin is about 20-25% so it's similar to everything else, but you need to turn over a lot of it to make substantial gains. "We're not yet seeing any massive improvement on last year. There are so many gums on the market everyone is trying to get a share of it but it's the Wrigley products that are holding it really. Trident is doing okay, but it's not a fast seller for me. "We've put fruit products under the Wrigley's brands and the kids are starting to go for them now. They've only been back at school for a couple of weeks and fruit gum was quiet in the holidays."
Manny Patel, Manny's, Long Ditton, Surrey
Wrigley spokesman UK and Ireland Gareth Streeter says: "The mints and gum category is extremely healthy in convenience stores. Last year was a tough year for convenience, but this year is more promising.
"Last year Extra was on TV for four weeks; this year it's 24 weeks. We're bringing communication back to the reason why people chew gum because they want their teeth to feel cleaner and mouth to feel fresher. Consumers need to hear about the functional reasons for chewing sugar-free gum and need to be reminded of why it's important to chew gum after eating."
As well as a TV presence, the campaign will encompass nationwide outdoor advertising on buses, tubes, trains, train station escalators and digital screens in shopping centres.
While Wrigley continues to hold the lion's share of the mints and gum market 55% in the convenience channel gum's stronger performance has urged some of the more traditional mint brands to move into the gum sector.
Cadbury's market-leading Trebor Extra Strong brand, for example, made its move into gum last year and has now clocked up 60% distribution in the convenience channel. Fuelling Cadbury's growth within gum in the convenience market, Trebor Extra Strong gum has built up a 3% value share and 4% unit share.
Perfetti van Melle's Mentos brand also did the same leap from mint to gum. Mentos brand manager Aimee Reason says that the launch of the Mentos gum stick pack in May this year has brought a lower-priced product to the gum fixture, giving the entire gum category a boost.
"We already had our Mentos gum bottle packs with an rrp of 99p, but that price point was too high for some places," says Reason. "We wanted to develop a competitively priced range for the convenience sector; something that gives consumers more choice. We've had great feedback from retailers and it's already added £3m to the category."
While mint flavours are by far the most dominant in the gum category, Wrigley's Streeter says retailers should make sure they are not missing out on other smaller but vital areas such as fruit flavours.
The trend for all things natural has not bypassed the gum market as the Peppermith brand becomes the UK's first all-natural gum made with English peppermint. The brand, which launched in January this year, is yet to focus on the convenience sector, but it's only a matter of time. This year distribution is being aimed at coffee shops, delis, farm shops and health & whole food stores that don't currently offer gum.
Peppermith co-founder Dan Shrimpton says: "Once we have built significant brand awareness, we will specifically be targeting c-stores. We see it as a potentially very big sector for us.
C-stores have seen an ever-increasing consumer demand for quality, natural products. "Despite it not being our current focus we are still stocked in some c-stores. We were recently on the counter of a Londis store in Barnes, London, and the owner reported how well it was selling. In the near future we hope to run a trial so we can see exactly what rate of sales can be achieved and put some numbers behind our theory."
Cadbury's declining Trident brand is now focusing largely on fruit flavours. Its two best-selling SKUs are Trident Splash strawberry & lime and Trident Tropical Twist. Cadbury UK trade communications manager Susan Nash says: "The majority of Trident's decline within gum in the convenience market has stemmed from the removal of the lower-performing SKUs under the Trident brand. Trident's strength remains within fruit flavour chewing gum and the brand holds number three and four positions within fruit flavoured gum in convenience stores."
The mint category had been going through a period of decline, but has managed to pick up some pace thanks to the support of new brands and innovation. While Cadbury may have had to change tack within gum, its Trebor Extra Strong brand continues to lead the mints category, with 44% value share and 48% unit share through convenience stores.
Cadbury UK's Nash says: "Growth within the mints market is being driven by new brands entering the market and innovation, as well as top SKUs such as Trebor Extra Strong mints, which is growing by 4% following an increase in distribution through the convenience channel."
Number two mint brand Polo is growing by 4% and last month kicked off its biggest advertising campaign for 10 years. The £2.5m online and outdoor campaign involves asking the nation whether they're a sucker or a cruncher and will run until the end of the year. The campaign will be seen by 73% of the target audience 35- to 54-year-olds 15 times.
The Mentos brand, meanwhile, is helping to bring a younger consumer to the mint market and growing ahead of the category by 10% year on year, according to IRI data. Mentos' Reason says: "Many of the most successful mint brands such as Polo and Trebor Extra Strong are highly established within the market place and this could explain the older demographic of mint consumers as people purchase the brands they have grown up with.
"Mentos has a much younger target audience of 16- to 34-year-olds and is therefore helping to draw new consumers to the category. We're investing more heavily than ever with TV, outdoor, sampling and trade support. We've still got quite a way to go with distribution, but the mint roll product is the fastest growing product in the mints category."
Wrigley is also drawing younger consumers into the mint category with its launch of Extra Chewy Mints in April this year. The company is hoping to have the same success with new 38g bags of mixed mint flavours peppermint, spearmint, sweetmint and coolmint as it had last year with the launch of Extra Ice Mints.
Wrigley marketing director Toby Baker says: "As one of the few mint brands that appeals to younger consumers, Extra is successfully modernising and bringing a more youthful image to the mint category and increasing profit opportunities for retailers as a result."
Power mint brand Smint is also having its fair share of activity this year with a makeover including full packaging redesign and the launch of a spearmint flavour in May. Brand manager Aimee Reason says the brand is aimed at 16- to 34-year-olds and does particularly well in commuter areas, city centres and forecourts.
With purchases of mints and gum made almost exclusively on impulse, display holds the key to success within the category. l Focus on a core range of the best-selling brands l Add incremental sales through new product lines and keep your range refreshed l Ensure you are offering consumers choice l Merchandise gum lines together and mint products together l Ensure that your products are clearly priced l Maximise impulse purchases by merchandising mint and gum close to the till point Source: Perfetti van Melle
Chew it over
Extra Chewy mints are bringing younger consumers to the soft and chewy segment. Look out for mixed flavour bags. rrp: 59p tel: 01752 701107 Star turn Tic Tac is partnering with The X Factor talent show for an on-pack promotion as part of a £5m support programme. rrp: 45p tel: 01923 690300
Smint added a spearmint flavour in May, along with new-look packaging designed to convey the product's freshness. rrp: £1.05 tel: 01753 442100
Stick with it
Mentos expanded its gum range in May with the launch of a stick pack as an alternative to the flip-top box and pocket bottle lines. rrp: 35p tel: 01753 442100
Wrigley's Extra brand will benefit from a huge £10m support package this year, including its biggest ever TV campaign. rrp: from 36p tel: 01752 701107