“We are seeing gum taking off” with a “resurgence” in sales, which climbed 3.3% in the 52 weeks ending April 19, Larry Levin, executive VP of industry insights at IRI Worldwide, told attendees at the Sweets and Snacks Expo in Chicago. He added that household penetration of regular gum also is up 1.6% during the period, as are sales of sugarless gum, which reached $2.6 billion during the period.
Levin attributed the increase in gum sales in part to consumers’ growing preference for bold flavors and spicy foods, which can increase the need for a breath freshener. He based this in part on the $770 million spike in sales of gum and candy during the two weeks surrounding the Super Bowl, which is a time when many people indulge in spicy, flavorful snacks.
The bump in gum sales also could be related to consumers increasingly eating on-the-go and needing a similarly portable, fast-acting breath freshener. Likewise, new product launches likely are contributing to consumer interest in gum.
Jolt relaunches to give gum category additional energy
Candy Treasures hopes its re-launch of recently acquired Jolt Energy Gum can further energize the chewing gum category, which it describes as being “sleepy” since 2009. Citing Euromonitor data, the firm said gum sales seemed to “hit a wall” in 2009, following growth of about 50% between 2000 and 2009.
Since acquiring Jolt Energy Gum, Candy Treasures modernized the product by making the gum softer and the flavor last longer, said Kevin Kass, co-founder of Candy Treasure. The company also updated the packaging to soften the font and color palette to more clearly align with today’s consumers’ tastes, he said.
It also added B vitamins, which is called out on the top of the new packs, for an extra energy boost, Kass said. However, most of the energy comes from the guarana and caffeine, which is clearly labeled on the front and back of the pack so that consumers know there is “no hocus pocus,” Kass said.
The back of the gum packages include a diagram that helps consumers understand how much energy is in each piece of gum so that they can “choose your boost,” Kass said. One piece is equal to the energy in a regular cola, two pieces to an energy drink or small coffee and five to an energy shot, according to the diagram.
While the gum competes against energy drinks, it is not targeting the same consumer, Kass said. He explained that unlike energy drinks and shots which skew “ridiculously male” and towards college and high schoolers, Jolt targets professional men and women.
The format is more conducive for professionals who do not want the side effect of multiple bathroom trips that can come from drinking cup after cup of coffee or energy drinks, said Kass, who specifically called out teachers, drivers and law enforcement as those who benefit from Jolt.
Jolt also has the added benefit of being a breath freshener, unlike coffee and energy drinks which might need to be chased with a mint or gum, he said.
Candy Treasure sees Jolt as a category expander, rather than a competitor for existing gums. Kass explained that consumers buy Jolt for its energy and not just as a freshener. As a result, about 40% of Jolt buyers also buy a different, non-energy gum at the same time as they buy Jolt gum, he said.
Impact of previous investigation unclear
The re-launch of Jolt Energy Gum comes almost two years after FDA announced it would investigate the safety of caffeine in food and Wrigley withdrew the launch of its caffeinated Alert Energy gum.
The failed launch of Wrigley’s caffeinated gum was poorly timed for when several children and adolescents suffered harm from caffeinated foods, confections and drinks, which prompted a Congressional investigation. Lawmakers in turn put pressure on FDA to investigate the products.
Despite the investigation, consumers still want products that provide energy, creating a solid marketing opportunity for Candy Treasure and others in the category.