If you asked people a couple of years ago what chewing gum tasted of, they would probably give you a one-word answer – mint. If you asked them who makes chewing gum you’d most likely be told it was Wrigley. Today you could get a very different response.

The launch of Trident into the UK gum market in early 2007 promoted strong competition, which has been great news for independent retailers, as continuous npd has seen packs of gum flying off the shelves as the Wrigley and Trident brands battle for market share. What slice of this £280m market each of them now has differs slightly depending on who you ask. According to Wrigley, in the total gum category it has a value share of 86.5% and Trident a share of 9.7%, while Trident says that it now has a 12.8% share of the market, making it the clear number two brand in the UK.

Irrespective of the figures, chewing gum is still seen as a very lucrative opportunity for independent retailers. “A proactive retailer can use this situation as a good profit opportunity as the market grows and the fight for share continues,” says Richard Brittle, purchasing director at confectionery wholesaler Hancocks.

This summer saw a flurry of new product activity within the gum category. Last month Wrigley introduced three new flavours to its bestselling Airwaves and Extra brands: Airwaves Green Mint, Extra Fusion strawberry peach, and Extra Fusion orange mango flavour liquid-filled pellets.

Wrigley says that it’s aiming these new products at the ‘tween’ and teen market. In order to do so the launch has been backed by a serious marketing push that includes a national Extra Fusion TV campaign as well as sponsorship advertising on teen drama series Hollyoaks. The new flavours have a rrp of 49p.

In July Trident introduced Trident Sweet Kicks chocolate mint gum and Trident Fresh Mouth Watering Gum in oooh peppermint, aahh spearmint and coool lemon flavours. The launch is supported by the brand’s £10m multi-media 2008 campaign that includes TV advertising and dedicated PR based around Trident’s ‘Mess with Your Head’ idea. The gums have a rrp of 37p.

According to Cadbury Trebor Bassett trade communications manager Kate Harding, Trident Sweet Kicks and Trident Fresh are already being well received by consumers and are showing impressive launch sales.

However, according to some retailers it is becoming quite difficult to keep up with all the new variants coming to market. Nisa-Today’s confectionery category controller Brian Porter says that while there has been some success with the fruit variants these will not stand the test of time like the key Wrigley products such as Extra, Orbit and Airwaves mint variants. “Fruit-flavoured products have become more popular due directly to the launch of Trident in the gum market and the subsequent u-turn by Wrigley to develop and launch fruit-flavoured products. But the sheer number of fruit-flavoured products launched over recent months appears to be putting a strain on in-store space, and is clearly causing confusion for consumers and retailers alike,” he says. “The initial Trident range continues to sell well, although again the follow-up extensions have not been as successful.”

Brittle paints a similar picture: “From our perspective at Hancocks the retailer continues to buy spearmint and peppermint products from Wrigley. The flavoured market, however, is perceived as entirely new and so both Trident and Wrigley have a good opportunity here. Trident seems to be winning at the moment, but there are too many flavours to survive. Retailers must keep an eye on their sales and drop slow-selling products quickly.”

Peter Laurijseen, manager of Spar in Compton, Wolverhampton, says that he is still selling Wrigley’s gums at a 2:1 ratio to Trident and is shifting about 70-80 packs of Wrigley’s Extra spearmint a week. He says that the new flavours are definitely helping to drive sales, but it’s becoming difficult to keep up with the new launches. Thankfully, his wholesaler, Blakemore, selects the flavours for him.

David Powell, manager of Tates Spar Tenbury Wells, Worcestershire, is seeing better success with Trident, which is outselling Wrigley at a rate of 60:40, mainly to younger customers.

Both brands are keen to ensure that their products are marketed effectively in-store. Throughout the year Wrigley has been conducting a ‘direct to retailer’ communications programme which recently saw the launch of the ‘Wrigley Café’ at three cash & carries in different locations around the UK, where Wrigley representatives meet independent retailers to discuss the latest npd and provide advice on how to increrase sales.

Wrigley’s communications manager Alexandra MacHutchon says that the look of the product and shelf-standout are just as important as taste when attracting consumers. The company has recently conducted a major redesign for its Extra range. “The new look retains aspects of the existing design that consumers have come to love but has even greater standout on shelf,” she says. Orbit underwent a redesign last year.

Wrigley has also launched a new counter merchandising unit for its range, called ‘CMU 21’. MacHutchon says that according to a study conducted by the Oxford Research Agency in May of this year, Wrigley till-point displays deliver better chewing gum sales and profit for retailers than other available units. “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,” she says.

Trident is also backing its latest flavours with a high-impact display unit. It says that eight weeks after the new display units were rolled out across independent retailers, overall gum category sales were up 11% and Trident sales were up by 51%. Trident has also introduced a temporary off-shelf feature display unit for both Trident Fresh and Trident Sweet Kicks, which features 3D imagery and a textured surface. The displays can be adapted to suit retailers’ in-store requirements.

Worth a mint

Having successfully re-invigorated the gum category, will Wrigley and Trebor now be able to do the same for mints? According to Euromonitor, mints haven’t been performing as well as gums over the past five years, with growth in retail sales at 12% compared with 19% for gums. However, it looks as if some of the innovations that have revitalised the gum category are now shaking up the mints sector.

Trebor remains the UK’s number-one mint brand, with a 54% share of the market (ACNielsen week ending June 28, 2008). Trebor Extra Strong Peppermint single is the best-selling mint SKU in the UK and the top three selling singles mint lines are all Trebor, with Trebor Extra Strong Mints single stick/roll-pack 48g in first place, followed by Trebor Softmints Mint single stick/roll-pack 46g, and Trebor Softmints Spearmint mint single stick/roll-pack 46g.

The top three Trebor singles also have the highest cash rate of sale in the mint category, says Harding. “Shoppers are buying Trebor an average of 10 times a year. Consumers are also more loyal to Trebor than any other mint brand and we’re seeing 70% loyalty. Due to this high level of adherence, when the Trebor brand grows the whole mint category grows, so retailers should always consider including the UK’s number-one selling mint at their till point.”

Flavours are also proving to be a hit with mint buyers in the same way that they have in the gum category. In June, Ferrero’s tic tacs launched its cool cherry flavour, which comes in bright red packaging. Ferrero is also seeing continued success with its larger pack size, which now contains 100 sweets. It says this range is now growing at more than 137% and is now worth £2.6m. A new spearmint flavour has just become available in this larger format to go with the existing fresh mint and lime & orange flavours. Levi Boorer, head of customer development, says that a new tree display unit for tic tac allows retailers to market the whole range adjacent to the till point. “The unit has a footprint of just 10cm x 25cm and enables the retailer to merchandise all four flavours. It has also been shown to increase sales of tic tac by up to 161%.”

You can’t really mention mints without mentioning ‘the mint with the hole’, and this year the Polo brand is celebrating 60 years as one of the nation’s favourite confectionery items. Nestlé claims that today an average of 150 Polos are eaten in the UK every second. Nestlé UK trade communications manager Graham Walker says: “The heritage brand Polo has stood the test of time and continues to be a leader in the confectionery market. Polo is currently outperforming the category and all major competitors.” Polo’s share of the mint market is 17% and the brand is worth £26m. In the convenience and independent channel, Polo is worth an astonishing £17.3m, according to Nestlé.

Another brand, DayStretcher from Sweet Cred, is planning to bring out a mint version of its successful DayStretcher gum this November. Each pack of DayStretcher Instant Energy Gum is said to deliver the same effect as eight cans of energy drink. The mints will offer the same energy hit, will also retail at £1.49-£1.99 per pack and will have the same packaging as the gums. At c-store and newsagent chain Martin McColl, DayStretcher Instant Energy Gum has been going extremely well to date. Trading director Tony Start says: “We introduced DayStretcher Instant Energy Gum into all our stores, supported with a parasite unit earlier this year. Continual sales growth has caused us to dual-site the product and it’s now also located at the front of every store to maximise impulse purchase. We’re now looking forward to the introduction of the Instant Energy Mints as we have identified this area as a real growth category.”

At Hancocks, Brittle says that traditional mint products are still extremely popular, with weigh-out products still showing buoyant sales in the category.

“Mint Imperials continues to be the biggest selling mint product in the weigh-outs category, followed by a soft-centred mint called Dragee,” he explains. “Although it’s true that many confectionery categories see no regional variance in sales, for whatever reason mints continue to sell much better in the north of the country.”