For almost 10 years Wrigley enjoyed a virtual monopoly on chewing gum, with a 98% market share from brands Juicy Fruit, Doublemint, Extra, Hubba Bubba, Orbit Complete and Airwaves. But Cadbury Trebor Bassett's (CTB) launch of Trident sought to challenge this, helped by a huge £10m campaign to bring it to market. After claiming a 16% slice of the £240m market six weeks into launch, Trident now holds about 13% (AC Nielsen).
CTB is confident it can make further in-roads into the category and promises to bring £100m-worth of growth to the UK gum market with about 40% of that on track for the first year.
The so-called 'gum war' has woken up a sleepy UK market. Although globally chewing gum is one of the most dynamic sectors with recent growth unparalleled in confectionery, the UK was experiencing decline with sales over the past two years falling nearly 4%.
According to AC Nielsen, CTB's entrance into the gum market saw weekly sales across the UK rise 29% - or £1.4m - compared with last year. In fact, seven weeks after Trident's launch, total gum sales were up £6.2m compared with 2006.
Kate Harding, acting head of customer relations at CTB, says Trident has helped bring a breath of fresh air to the market.
She says: "The primary driver for the growth we've seen is that we are bringing new people into the category. Some consumers are buying their regular gum and then purchasing a new flavour on top of that, and 33% of Trident buyers are completely new to chewing gum."
Even Wrigley concedes that Trident's introduction has helped rejuvenate the category. Wrigley communications manager Alexandra MacHutchon admits: "Wrigley's overall perspective on competition is that it is healthy for the category as it increases innovation, which in turn drives growth. But that doesn't mean we don't take our new competitors seriously and our strategy is to invest in our business which prepares us for increased competition."
And invest it has. Both manufacturers are throwing vast marketing budgets behind their products.
CTB's £10m multi-media advertising campaign calls on the nation to take action and join the UK 'gum revolution'. Wrigley has upped the ante with high-profile sponsorship deals including Extra becoming the official chewing gum of the premier league. Airwaves continues to sponsor the Ducati superbike racing and has recently become the principal sponsor of the Claygate offshore powerboat team.
This year has also seen a flood of new product launches as both companies battle for the prized countertops. According to AC Nielsen, Wrigley's new product development this year alone equates to 48% of the gum category growth.
Traditionally, chewing gum has focused around functionality for breath freshening and oral care.
Wrigley's flagship oral healthcare brand Orbit was re-branded at the end of 2006 as Orbit Complete, available in peppermint, spearmint and strong mint, with a rrp of 59p.
The re-brand has contributed to volume growth of 7.2% and Wrigley dominates the mouth-freshening category with a 64% share.
Under the Extra name, Ice Liquid Burst was launched at the beginning of 2007 and has already generated sales of £4.6m (AC Nielsen week ending August 11, 2007). This contributed to a 12.1% increase in Extra brand sales last year.
Trident decided to follow a different course with Trident Soft, available in peppermint and tropical twist and its Trident Splash in strawberry & lime and vanilla & mint flavours, which aimed to inject "flavour, pleasure and excitement" into the functional gum market.
Harding says: "Previously, the UK gum market has been dominated by mint flavours used as a functional tool for mouth freshening. But now gums are being moved more into mainstream confectionery with new flavours and vibrant packaging.
"Our research shows that some consumers use gum for functionality, but about 55% chew for distraction. The idea around all the fruity flavours is to follow the US trend to bring consumers something that delights them, in
the same way that a confectionery range does."
Wrigley hit back in July with Extra Fusion, positioned as a "unique new product that delivers
a burst of freshening that transitions into a cool, long-lasting fruit flavour". This new range is available in spearmint with a twist of melon and peppermint with a twist of berry.
Wrigley has since gone one step further with the September launch of the Extra Fusion tab, which is the UK's first chewing gum that brings together three flavours in a single tab. It is available in two variants - raspberry, blackcurrant & grapefruit and orange, pineapple & banana.
Acting on impulse
When it comes to chewing gum, convenience retailers have the upper hand on multiples.
MacHutchon says: "Chewing gum is more likely to be brought on impulse than any other snack or confectionery, so the sales opportunities for convenience retailers are obvious. There are a lot of products in the market, so retailers need to evaluate themselves what the best- selling brands are."
Trident currently holds an 11.8% share of gum sales in convenience stores, helped by point of sale displays available for the main fixture and ladder racks for around the store.
Both manufacturers have also recently launched larger packs for their gums - aimed at sharing, for the car or for heavy chewers.
Wrigley's Extra Big One, a bottle- type packaging format, has already achieved £5.9m in sales since its introduction in January.
CTB followed suit this summer with the launch of Trident Gum Ball, a spherical container of 40 pieces of Trident Splash.
But are retailers managing to navigate the maze of formats, flavours and new launches?
Rishin Patel from Hilltop Stores in Tadworth, Surrey, says that all the new gum launches are "heavily flooding" the market.
He adds: "We don't have much passing trade so we have whittled our chewing down to a core range. We also have limited space so we stock the main brands, but occasionally we introduce a new variety and if it sells well then we will keep it on."
Rishin's best sellers are Wrigley's spearmint and peppermint. "We were enticed into taking the Trident range, but we haven't had a great success with it. Our older customers don't seem to have an interest in the flavours and the children still go for sweets," he says.
However, Julian Taylor from Lindford Store in North Bordon, Hampshire, says that since Trident's launch about a third of his sales
are now from fruit-flavoured chewing gum.
His display is positioned on counter with the Trident display attached to the side of the Wrigley stand. A recent change is that Hubba Bubba has left the countertop and is now displayed in the main confectionery area so his pos gum display is primarily chewing gum rather than bubble gum.
He says: "You can feel overwhelmed by new product launches. But when it's a new range like Trident, which is more innovative than traditional ranges, it helps to invigorate the market."
The mint market is struggling to carve a share of the confectionery market. While AC Nielsen figures showed total confectionery sales were up 6.1% in August, mint sales slipped 1.3% to £166m.
However, some brands are managing to buck the trend with regular npd. AC Nielsen figures show Wrigley Extra Mints leads the market in sugar free with 42% of the market following its launch last year. Fox's Glacier Mints is also outperforming the market, showing growth of 8.8%. Relaunches of classic varieties have also boosted the sector, such as Werther's Original Butter Mints brought back as a permanent line from March.
But most new launches over the past year have focused on functionality, mainly around breath-freshening - accounting for £50m of sales in the UK.
Fox's Intense was launched earlier this year, which it says fulfils the trend towards stronger mint flavouring with a strong mint soft centre.
Nestlé's spring launch of Polo Extra Strong follows the trend. It contains menthol and 300% more mint oil than the Polo original. The new variety aims to deliver "strong flavour and longer lasting breath freshness" with a rrp of 36p.
The launch has added to Polo's strong position, with the brand worth £27m and taking a 16.1% share of the mint market.
'Sharing' is the second key trend and is now worth £583m across confectionery. Over the past three years, sales of sharing bags have increased by 9.5% in value and account for 14% of all confectionery sales.
Fox's has just launched a new 170g bag retailing at 99p. Marketing manager Tracey Mattock says it hopes the one-coin purchase will pick up more impulse trade.
In the spring, Nestlé launched two new sharing bags for Polo - original and sugar free. The pouch-style bags with re-sealable zipper are designed to sit in car cup holders. Rrp is 79p.
Nestlé UK trade and communications manager Graham Walker says npd will only be successful if it taps into consumer trends. "The big question with new launches is has it been developed to sit clearly underneath one of the consumer trends? If there's a reason behind the launch and that product receives consistent consumer communication, then it will transfer to sales."
As such, Polo Extra Strong's launch received £1m media support this year, predominantly through press and radio.
Meanwhile, new launches in after-dinner mints have targeted the trend towards 'indulgence.' This has mainly focused around dark chocolate, which has grown by 45% since 2003.
Bendicks Mayfair's Mint Collection, worth £2.7m, is launching a new pack and new Intense English Mint flavour, which uses mint oil from the Black Mitcham mint plant grown by a local farmer. The new-look 225g pack has a rrp of £3.99.
Also new for 2007 are Bittergingers, combining hot and spicy Chinese ginger extract and ginger pieces in a fondant covered in dark West African chocolate. They come in 200g boxes with a rrp of £2.99.
In September Nestlé introduced a new After Eights Wafer Thin with 85% cocoa solids and a rrp of £2.79.
Walker says convenience retailers can further increase sales in after-dinner mints by having two fixtures in store. "I did some work with a retailer where we dual-sited After Eights in both his normal fixture and in his wine fixture, and his sales flew through the roof."