Both companies have been busy launching new varieties and there have been worries that retailers don't have room to stock them all. However, Mini Patel of Premier Box of Delights at Woodstock, Oxford, says she makes lots of room for both Trident and Wrigley gum. "We have packets on the counter and underneath; they sell well to students. We recently received some samples of Trident so were able to give those out and they went down well. We have loads of different flavours; we wouldn't stock them if they didn't sell."
Nigel Owen of N&J Owen in Malpas, Cheshire, has three tills and each has an impulse unit for gum. "They are mixed stands of Trident and Wrigley. We haven't room to stock every flavour, but we stock the majority. If a new flavour comes out we delete a slower-selling line to make space for it. The mint gums are most popular; we have a chocolate & mint one at the moment that's going well. Older people prefer mint flavours while the youngsters like the fruity ones."
However, Ann Young, manageress of a Londis store in Wakefield, Yorkshire, says that she sometimes struggles to find space for new flavours.
Jonathan Summerley, senior buyer at specialist confectionery cash and carry Hancocks, understands her position. "Quite honestly, there are still too many products to choose from in mints and gums.
"The last phase of Trident launches has not worked for us. While Trident's share of shelf has grown, its sales are declining. Sweet Kicks was a disappointment in terms of sales and the range will certainly benefit from rationalisation.
"The Wrigley's Fusion range also didn't hit the spot for our customers. I understand that Wrigley is now reducing the number of variants, which will help independent retailers greatly."
Rachel Bevans, senior consultant at brand agency Dragon, praises Cadbury for targeting a relatively untapped youth market with Trident and for developing products, packaging and communications that reflect their lifestyles and values. But she reckons it's unlikely that more innovation will gain more space for the category. She says: "Gum already benefits from high levels of enviable 'eye-level' distribution, particularly in the c-store channel.
"Since the Trident launch, there has been a range of new launches from Cadbury and Wrigley, with packaging and product formats, and more recently, flavours. It feels as though there are still potential areas for opportunity in occasions, audience segmentation and communicating functional benefits in an emotionally compelling way - similar to the way we've seen functional food marketed over the past few years."
Wrigley defends its aggressive new product development programme by saying its new products and packaging concepts are designed to meet the needs of the "evolving consumer". Corporate communications manager Alexandra MacHutchon says: "New products generate excitement within the category, but most importantly are instrumental in growing the category. In fact, Wrigley's success is reflected by a third of Wrigley sales coming from products less than five years old."
Bevans believes Wrigley's has the lead with functional gum (Orbit, Extra and Airwaves) and in particular dental recognition for oral health and the company's research into heightened concentration and stress relief.
It is the Wrigley Science Institute (WSI) which brings together academic research and independent studies that look at the many different benefits of chewing gum, which range from the belief that chewing sugar-free gum can relieve stress to other clinically recognised benefits include aiding concentration, helping to fight plaque, weight management and increasing alertness.
You only have to look at the market sales data to see why suppliers are keen to launch new products. After all the excitement of 2007 when chewing gum sales soared thanks to Trident's entry into the market, sales dropped by 8.5% last year (AC Nielsen). However, Wrigley reports that the category is now in steady growth again and remains buoyant, currently worth £265m.
Cadbury is currently backing Trident Soft peppermint and spearmint with a poster campaign on sites close to CTNs to ensure that retailers see the benefits of the campaign. Activity also includes nationwide sampling.
Cadbury trade communications manager Kate Harding comments: "Trident has a 61% (AC Nielsen) share of the fruit gum market and with this new campaign we are hoping to create the Trident effect within mint gum."
She says that while the new campaign will drive awareness of the Trident mint range, there is a place for both mint gum and fruit gum and recommends retailers stock a varied range of both in order to cater for all preferences.
"Fruit gum has achieved growth of 37% (AC Nielsen) and Trident has a 61% share of the fruit gum market. Trident Soft tropical twist and Trident Splash strawberry & lime are the number one and number two fruit SKUs respectively in the market, and account for 40% of Trident's 61% share of total fruit gum. Since Trident launched, fruit gum has doubled in size, with a 12% share of the total UK gum market."
However, Hancocks reports that fruit gum is the fastest declining sector in the market as consumers revert back to the core flavours.
Meanwhile, mindful of its privileged position on shop counters across the country, Wrigley recently launched an improved counter unit for its gum. Called the CMU 21, the company says the design has been updated for the 21st century.
The company claims that its till point displays deliver better sales and profits for retailers than others available. In three independently run tests, stores with a Wrigley display delivered chewing gum category sales on average 5.2% greater than those with a non-Wrigley display, and tests reveal consumers are 67% more likely to buy gum from a Wrigley display than a non-Wrigley display.
Over at Hancocks, Summerley's advice is simple: "Maintain a strong display of gum, taking advantage of any pos material available. Always try new lines as they are usually supported by marketing activities. However, be quick to react if they don't sell in your store."
3 Orbit Complete
5 Hubba Bubba
6 Wrigley Juicy Fruit
7 Wrigley Doublemint
8 Wrigley Spearmint
Source: AC Nielsen 12 weeks ending Jan 17, 2009
Hancocks sees more sales potential in mints than gum. "Pick 'n' mix mints such as Mint Imperials are showing tremendous growth (up 20% during 2008). Triple XXX mints continue to perform extremely well in our depots and a recent Cadbury promotion on mint rolls was really successful," says senior buyer Jonathan Summerley.
AC Nielsen data values the total mint market at £150m with c-stores and independents accounting for £116m-worth of sales. But according to IRI data the mint market grew by just 1.2% last year.
That figure masks several success stories, though. Mint rolls are performing particularly well, up 6.4%, with Fox's Confectionery's XXX Mints enjoying year-on-year growth of 34.1%.
Fox's head of marketing Jane James says the product has benefited from demand for a stronger, more intense mint flavour.
Value for money is also important to mint consumers. Fox's has reflected this in its Glacier Mints, which are available in 99p pricemarked bags specifically for the convenience sector.
Trebor enjoys a 54% share of the mint market. Says Cadbury trade communications manager Kate Harding: "Shoppers are buying Trebor an average of 10 times a year. They are also more loyal to Trebor than any other mint brand."
While brand loyalty is a major focus for many mints, Wrigley is busy winning over new customers. It is trying to change mints' stereotypical image as the pensioner's sweetie with the introduction of Extra Ice Mints in a stylish tin. The launch is supported by a campaign which includes sponsorship of Channel 4's Hollyoaks, in-store promotions and sampling.
Cool for kids
Extra Ice Mints tins contain 33 mouth-freshening sugar-free mints and are available in peppermint and spearmint varieties.
tel: 01752 752094
Nestlé is investing nearly £1m in marketing support for Polo. It includes a poster campaign, consumer sampling and new pos material - the Polo Pod.
tel: 0845 603 1979
Perfetti Van Melle's Mentos will be advertised on national TV in May and October and supported in stores via promotions.
tel: 01844 293 637
Fox's Glacier Mints are a regular seller. With a history that dates back to 1918, the mints have a loyal fan base, with sales up 10.7% this year.
tel: 0116 287 3561
The Extra factor
Cadbury's Trebor Extra Strong peppermint single is the best-selling mint SKU in the UK, followed by Trebor Softmints single.
tel: 0870 191 7343
"Sales of gum aren't brilliant. We stock both Trident and Wrigley, but stick to the most popular flavours - the peppermint and spearmint. We do try new flavours when they are launched - we swap things around a bit, but usually just go back to the minty flavours.
"We sell a lot more mints and that's because of the age of our customers. Extra Strong Mints, Mentos and Polo all sell really well. People don't come in especially for them; they're much more of an impulse purchase."
Gloria Williams, The Village Store, Hook Norton, Oxfordshire
"We don't have many children come in so we probably don't sell as much gum as other stores. We stock Wrigley and Trident, but not every flavour. We tend to stick to the more conventional minty flavours. It does help when they supply us with samples so our customers can try the new flavours.
"We sell mints, mostly Extra Strong; Polo doesn't sell as well as it used too."
Stephen Green, Leeses, Barlaston, Stoke on Trent