Big Inter-chew: Gum giant talks strategy & innovation in 2015

Wrigley sees recovery after ‘bringing the fun’ back to gum with Juicy Fruit and sours

By Oliver Nieburg contact

- Last updated on GMT

Juicy Fruit: That gum you like is going to come back in style, Wrigley tells disenfranchised young gum consumers
Juicy Fruit: That gum you like is going to come back in style, Wrigley tells disenfranchised young gum consumers
Wrigley says marketing dollars and R&D efforts put into its Juicy Fruit brand last year helped win back young U.S. consumers who had moved away from the category and hopes innovations with sour flavors will pull in even more young people.

The North American gum market has declined 4.7% in retail value sales every year since 2009, according to Euromonitor International, but gum market leader Wrigley tells ConfectioneryNews the tide is changing.

Wrigley back in growth in C-stores

“In the last year we've seen some very positive momentum and the trend has been reversing,”​ said Caroline Sherman, senior manager of external affair U.S. at Wrigley, at the Sweets & Snacks Expo in Chicago last month.

"In some channels like the convenience store channel we're actually back into growth in the category as well as for Wrigley,” ​she said.

Forecast for N. American gum sales

In spite of Wrigley’s optimism, Euromonitor International forecasts a negative compound annual growth rate (CAGR) for gum in North America up to 2019 of 2.1%, but does expect the global market to record a positive CAGR of 1.5% over the same period.

According to IRI, regular sugarfree gum sales in the U.S. grew ahead of the overall market candy market in 2014. While the overall U.S. candy market climbed 2.7% on the previous year to $24.1bn, sugarfree gum sales rose 3.3% to $2.6bn, it found.

Increased marketing spend

"We need to make gum relevant again. To do that we've really reinvested in our brands in a big way and increased our marketing investment in our big gum brands - Five. Extra and Orbit, putting them on air in a bigger way, so investing more media dollar,” ​said Sherman.

Wrigley has also got behind its Juicy Fruit brand to appeal to younger U.S. consumers and launched its first dedicated TV ad for the brand in over a decade.

5 gum Flood Sour Strawberry
Wrigley says sour flavor innovations such as 5 Gum Flood will attract younger consumers.

“We're steered too far away from reminding consumers of the fun of the gum category. By relaunching our Juicy Fruit brand on TV as well as product innovation, we're bringing some of that fun back into the category,” ​Sherman said.

Wrigley launched Juicy Fruit fruity chews and Juicy Fruit bubblegum last year and introduced Juicy Fruit Starburst flavors in January this year.

Sherman said that while most people reported enjoying gum, it was rarely top of mind during a food shop. “By reinvesting in our brands and spending more in media marketing we're helping to make it more top of mind so it's part of the thinking,” ​she said.

Wrigley says its LED lighting gum displays introduced last year helped draw in consumers and lifted sales across confections by 10-12%.

‘Make 2016 the year of the sours’

"This year we have some new innovation as well bringing some sour flavors into the category, which will be another way of bringing in that under 25 year-old consumer back into the category. Those sour profiles are very very popular among the younger consumers,”​ said Sherman.

Wrigley has begun a campaign to ‘Make 2016 the year of the sours’. Later this year it will add a Sour Strawberry Flood flavor product to its 5 Gum range, and sour green apple flavors for its Extra and Juicy Fruit brand. The firm also plans to introduce sweets & sours versions for non-gum brands Skittles and Starbust.

Gallery: Wrigley products for 2015-16

Wrigley won’t walk away from functional benefits of gum

We asked if Wrigley and its competitors had focused too heavily on the dental benefits of gum, contributing to the category’s decline among younger consumers.

Sherman said: "Functional is certainly an area that we are not going to walk away from. It's going to be maintained with our Orbit brand, but we do need to have something that represents the fun in category, which we're doing with Juicy Fruit."

Wrigley also plans to introduce novel formats to extend its reach among consumers. This year it will introduce a 35-piece Mega Pack filled with stick gum rather than pellet gum.

“It's the first time we're offering it in a stick format in this way,”​ said Sherman.

Impulse purchase pressure at checkouts?

In the UK, major supermarkets such as Tesco, Lidl and Aldi have banned confections from checkout zones in favor of healthier items, but sugarfree gum has in most cases survived the purge. Wrigley’s external affair chief said confections weren’t experiencing the same pressure in the U.S.

“What we are seeing are some additional options being offered at front end by different retailers, so a variety of other products from health & beauty to drinks, snacks and magazines.”

She said Wrigley’s was working on transaction zone research to show how retailers could optimize sales in gum in combination with goods in other categories.

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