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Gum, Mint Sales Still Full of Flavor

CHICAGO -- While the economy continues to negatively influence certain shopping behaviors, one category's bubble refuses to pop. According to recent research from Mintel, the gum, mints and breath fresheners market has seen sales growing through the recession, increasing more than 10 percent since 2007, and is expected to continue growing through 2014.

"Although this market is not entirely recession proof; gum, mints and breath fresheners are faring well due to their low price points and the feeling that consumers are getting a small treat," according to Bill Patterson, senior analyst at Mintel. "In addition, innovative packaging and unique flavors are aiding in the upward sales momentum."

Marketers normally use packaging to help freshen and develop a brand's image, but Mintel's survey respondents think functionality is key in the gum category. Nearly 50 percent of people cited packaging that reseals better or is easier to open as being most important. Meanwhile, 19 percent want gum and mints to have packaging that's better for the environment.

Innovation is seen in unique flavor combinations too. For instance, Wrigley's well-known Orbit brand of gum has launched flavors such as Sangria Fresca, Maui Melon Mint and CitrusMint. According to Mintel's research, this is what gum chewers want. Forty-three percent of respondents say they like to try new brands or flavors because they like the variety; 13 percent try new brands or flavors because they have yet to find one they love.

"In recent years, gum and mint manufacturers have placed an emphasis on the health-delivering benefits of their products," Patterson said. "Gum has long been associated with this approach, but has become even more so by providing more functional benefits like whitening teeth, strengthening teeth and overall oral hygiene. Mints have followed suit by enhancing their products with antioxidants, green tea and other health-promoting ingredients."

Despite the emphasis on health, breath freshening remains the most important function of gum and mints in the minds of Mintel's survey respondents. Nearly four times as many respondents cited this compared to a healthy function (43 percent vs. 13 percent).

One other finding: People are quite willing to share. Nearly half (44 percent) claim to give many pieces away to friends, family or colleagues. But of those, only 6 percent offer it to colleagues, not wanting to insinuate someone has bad breath.

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