If you had any doubt about the impulse buy credentials of mints and gum then you should go to Debenhams. That's because the department store has just started putting Wrigley mint and gum displays next to its tills. Just how successful these displays are will be known over time, but surely a company like Debenhams wouldn't let any old product clutter up its valuable till areas?
Wrigley, of course, is the king of gum and the company is keen to convey how impulsive a purchase gum is. Its research has found that chewing gum is three times more likely to be bought on impulse than other confectionery or snack food. Typically, consumers take no more than eight seconds to make their gum purchase, so it's important to make sure you keep topped up with stock at all times.
Gum is universally popular for a number of reasons. Kids, of course, may think that chewing gum makes them look cool, but for adults other reasons take precedence. According to the Wrigley US website, American soldiers have been provided with chewing gum since World War I and that's because scientific studies have shown that chewing reduces muscular tension and helps people feel more at ease.
There are other well-documented health benefits, not least of all gum's ability to freshen breath and help fight tooth decay. And the fact that the majority of Wrigley's gum is sugar-free is good news, too.
Its Orbit brand, for example, is recognised by the World Dental Federation for its role in improving dental health, and most dental associations across Europe recommend sugar-free gum. The reason is that chewing sugar-free gum after eating stimulates the production of saliva in the mouth, helping to clear food debris and neutralise plaque. This can help reduce incidents of tooth decay, repair dental lesions through remineralisation of the tooth's surface and help to prevent cavities. Sugar-free gum also provides relief for the millions of sufferers of dry mouth (Xerostomia).
Wrigley's Extra is the best-selling gum brand, worth £166m. Extra Fire was added to the range in April, designed to provide consumers with a fiery burst of minty breath-freshening. Wrigley reports positive feedback from retailers and consumers, with the product achieving 59% distribution in just 10 weeks.
The company is known for its innovation, with 36% of its sales coming from products that were introduced in the past five years. Other new variants launched alongside Extra Fire include Airwaves active, which combines citrus flavours with a menthol hit; Airwaves black mint, which has a powerful aniseed flavour; and Hubba Bubba Max in strawberry watermelon and sour double berry.
A final word on gum, and the fact that Wrigley doesn't really have any competition in the UK. However, it will be interesting to see what Cadbury Schweppes does with its Trident brand, which isn't yet sold in the UK. Sales of Trident were up 31% in the first half of the year and the brand does well in the US, but Cadbury says it has no plans to launch it here at present.

Mint condition

There's much more competition in the mint market with the Trebor, Polo, Tic Tac and Extra brands all jockeying for position.
Cadbury Trebor Bassett (CTB) claims the number one range within the mint sector with Trebor holding a 47% share. The company reports that the overall category is in decline, but sales of Trebor Extra Strong Mints are flat while sales of Softmints are up 1.7%.
Says CTB head of customer relations Mike Tipping: "The mints and gum category is primarily driven by freshness needs, with consumers wanting a product they can rely on to really freshen their breath. Most of these products are consumed on-the-go, making the mouth-fresh category a very important one for the impulse channel."
Tipping reckons CTB has maintained its market position by continually delivering new product development to re-energise the category. "The launch of sugar-free Trebor Extra Cool mints has delivered real innovation as these products offer consumers a new taste sensation. The mints have a clear outer shell with an extra-cool liquid centre, a must for breath freshness."
Meanwhile, Polo remains one of the nation's favourite mint brands. The 'mint with the hole' was launched in 1948 and today it comes in a number of variants including original, spearmint and sugar-free.
Nestlé Rowntree reports that the health trend has been good news for the sugar-free section of the mint market, which is showing significant growth (+10.5%) this year. The company says Polo Sugar Free accounts for 25% of sugar-free mint sales. What's more, the product is now independently endorsed, having been accredited by the British Dental Health Foundation.
However, it's Wrigley Extra Mints that claim brand leadership in sugar-free mints, with a 38% share. The range was recently boosted by the launch of a cool breeze variety, described as "light and sweet with a cool burst of lasting freshness".
Finally, we're back to where we started with gum - at the till. Nestlé Rowntree sales communication manager Graham Walker says: "Ensure you maximise your mints sales by siting the best-selling lines at the till. Mints are highly impulsive, and therefore will generate the most incremental sales when located in an area that all shoppers will see."

Coming soon?

In the US this year Wrigley has launched a whole host of new lines. One of the most interesting is the Eclipse Big-E-Pak, which contains 60 pellets of gum (roughly equivalent to five single-serve packs of gum). The Wrigley launch blurb says: "Now consumers can 'kill bad breath' at work, at home or in the car with this new durable package that sits perfectly on a desk, counter top or in a car cup-holder."
It sounds great but what about all those individual impulse sales that will be lost?
Wrigley also unveiled some interesting seasonal lines. You don't usually associate bubble gum with Easter but the Hubba Bubba brand pulled it off with Twist & Pour Easter eggs - multi-coloured Easter eggs with mini pellets of gum inside. There were also Hubba Bubba Spring Shapes which were bunny-, chick- and flower-shaped pieces of the bubble gum, and the Hubba Bubba Changerz, a chewy cherry candy that changed into gum.