Gum innovation

Is Hershey’s Ice Breakers glitter gum the next unicorn Frappuccino?

By Douglas Yu

- Last updated on GMT

Hershey's Ice Breakers is one of the high-growth gum brands among major US players. Pic: Hershey
Hershey's Ice Breakers is one of the high-growth gum brands among major US players. Pic: Hershey
Hershey will release its first edible glitter-sprinkled gum in the US under its Ice Breakers brand starting April 15, 2018, as it believes the sparkle trend will sweep the food industry in 2018.

The gum will only be available this summer across the US with a suggested retail price of $3.69 while supplies last, according to the company.

Nathan Johnson, Ice Breakers’ brand manager, said the Ice Breakers brand has a connection with unicorns as Hershey used the animal in its “Break Through”​ campaign​ to target millennials recently. “Just think back to the unicorn Frappuccino,”​ he said.

However, Hershey worried that the unicorn trend might end in 2018 so it decided to explore new food trends in the middle of last year.

“In May of 2017, we began brainstorming ways to give Ice Breakers Ice Cubes gum a trendy transformation,”​ Johnson said. “By September 2017, the format was set. Each cube would be covered with a dusting of edible glitter to maximize visual appeal and give it the perfect amount of shimmer.

“Experts have declared 2018 ‘the year of glitter’ when it comes to new food products – from glitter cakes and pizza to glitter beer and lattes, sparkle is popping up all over the place,”​ he added.

‘Soft cube’ nature drives Ice Breakers’ growth

Ice Breakers manufactures several products including cool mints and peppermint chews, but Hershey believes it is the Ice Cubes’ “soft cube”​ texture that makes the brand outgrow the overall US gum category.

“Ice Cubes gum has been on the rise. Its soft cube provides a different experience from the standard hard-pellet form that dominates the market,” ​said Johnson. “The brand’s bottle packs are number one in total sales and number one in sales velocity, making Ice Breakers a leader in the [US] gum market.”

Hershey did not give away detailed sales number regarding the soft chewy gum brand, but IRI 2016 data (all channels combined) showed that Ice Breakers was one of the few fast-growing gum products among major players, even though the category declined in sales.

Ice Cubes sugarless gum posted total sales of $180m for the past 52 weeks, ending September 4, 2016, growing 18.72% compared to a year ago, IRI said. While Perfetti Van Melle-owned Mentos sugarless gum registered a high growth rate of 52.24%, generating total sales of $24m during the same period.

Even though Mars and Wrigley has high-growth brands, including Extra (10.45%) and 5 Ascent (10.87%), the company’s gum portfolio declined by 3.01% in total sales, according to IRI. Mondelēz, the second largest US sugarless gum maker after Mars and Wrigley, declined by 5.92% in sales.

“Over the last five years, Ice Breakers Ice Cubes gum has led the category in growth, more than doubling the growth of the next largest-growing brand,”​ said Johnson. “Ice Breakers is the gum revival.”

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