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C-store Gum Sales Are Bubbling Back

The three largest demographic cohorts are providing the biggest boosts: Generation X, followed by boomers and millennials.
Danielle Romano
A woman blowing a gum bubble

NATIONAL REPORT — The COVID-19 pandemic burst gum's bubble. In a time marked by masks and social distancing, bad breath was less of a worry and fewer consumers spent on impulse purchases. The number of packages of gum sold dropped by nearly a third in the United States in 2020, according to market research firm Circana.

Over the last few years, some manufacturers responded by leaving the market altogether. In 2022, Chicago-based Mondelēz International Inc. sold its gum business in the United States, Canada and Europe to Perfetti Van Melle Group, a leading European gum and confectionery maker. Brands sold included Trident, Bubblicious, Dentyne and Chiclets.

At the time of the transaction, the company said the divestiture advanced Mondelēz's portfolio reshaping strategy by enabling greater focus on growth and reinvestment in its core chocolate, biscuit and baked snacks categories.

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Other American confectioners cut slow-selling gum brands. Forrest Park, Ill.-based Ferrara Candy Co. confirmed that it quietly ended production of Fruit Stripe and Super Bubble gums in 2022 after more than 50 years, citing consumers' changing preferences.

Today, however, gum is making a comeback as consumers are increasingly resuming their normal routines, which include stops at convenience stores on the way to and from work and school. Gum category sales grew in the convenience channel for the 52 weeks ended Feb. 25, with unit sales up 4.4%, data from Circana showed.

"Consumers are often purchasing gum both through planned and impulse buying. Previously, gum was all about freshening breath. Now, consumers turn to gum in different ways and for different occasions," Maria Urista, vice president at Chicago-based Mars Wrigley, told Convenience Store News.

Appealing to All Ages

According to Circana, all demographic groups are contributing to gum category growth in the convenience channel but, in particular, the three largest demographic cohorts are providing the biggest boosts: Generation X (aged 44-59) contributed 18.2% growth, followed by boomers (aged 60-69) at 15.7% growth and millennials (aged 28-43) at 15% growth.

To usher in a new era of gum chewers, Mars Wrigley earlier this year announced the most significant overhaul of its Orbit, Extra, Freedent and Yida gum brands in more than 100 years. The goal is to captivate and recruit the next generation of chewing champions: the coveted under-25 demographic, which is the most likely to chew gum of any age group.

The overhaul includes the launch of a new global brand platform, "Chew You Good," which repositions the Orbit, Extra, Freedent and Yida brands from an occasional freshening fix to an essential everyday chewing companion that delivers a refreshing and unconventional me moment for consumers in an increasingly chaotic world, the company said at the time of the launch.

"Chew You Good, three words that remind us that no matter where you are or what you're doing, there's a simple way to take a bite-sized me moment ... because sometimes, that's all you need," said

Alyona Fedorchenko, global gum and mints portfolio vice president for Mars Snacking. "It's what consumers are telling us they want from our brand and it's what we intend to deliver, one chew at a time, with the launch of this exciting new platform."

Getting a Refresh

As part of the category's revival, Mars Wrigley has a multiyear effort in place to attract 10 million new U.S. chewers by 2030. A key piece of that strategy is shifting the focus from solely breath freshening to other benefits in the wellness space, Urista explained.

The company's gum brands such as Extra have started to explore this territory for work and study occasions, specifically when it comes to moments of focus, since studies have shown that chewing gum can help maintain focus and attention.

Another way Mars Wrigley is elevating usage occasions in the wellness space is through innovative products such as Respawn by 5 Gum, which is aimed at gamers. The product is infused with B vitamins and green tea extract, which have been shown to help maintain focus — ideal for elevating gameplay.

"As the world's top gum maker, Mars Wrigley is driving category growth through backend insights and data to meet the evolving needs of consumers. To ensure product innovations continue to surprise and delight shoppers at retail, Mars consistently keeps a pulse on what motivates consumers, rolling out on-trend offers within the resilient gum category," Urista said.

Sugarless Strength

With consumers shifting their focus to health and wellness, one area where gum took a hit was in consumers' desire to cut back on sugar. Now, thanks to innovation in the category, growth in the convenience channel is being driven by sugarless gum. The segment grew its unit sales rate by 7.1% and average weekly items/store selling by 2.6%, according to Circana.

Unit growth in independent convenience stores outpaced chain stores, especially in sugarless gum, noted Suzy Godsted, senior director of client insights at Circana.

Therefore, she advises c-store retailers that are looking to enhance their gum offering to ensure they have the right mix of sugarless gum vs. regular gum to meet consumers' needs.

"Better-for-you gum with natural sweeteners like Xylitol and gums endorsed by the American Dental Association continue to gain momentum as consumers become aware of their benefits," she said while also noting that mint remains the primary flavor for gum, but new fruit flavors can be added to bring interest to the shelf.

Godsted also pointed out that as health and wellness is emphasized more and more in the media, "we are seeing some shift toward products with functional benefits like whitening gum and gum with vitamins."

About the Author

Danielle Romano

Danielle Romano

Danielle Romano is Managing Editor of Convenience Store News. She joined the brand in 2015. Danielle manages the overall editorial production of Convenience Store News magazineShe is also the point person for the candy & snacks and small operator beats.

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