White tea. Vitamin C. Ginseng. These are the latest infusions forming a health halo over the gum category. Sugarless SKUs also continue to stick. And now, there are even earth-healthy options for eco-conscious consumers.
Some retailers are doing their part to boost sales of healthful gum by cross-merchandising it in strategic areas of the store. Others are adding more shelf signage.
Dayton, Ohio-based Dorothy Lane Market does both. The supermarket chain stocks an assortment of health and wellness gum in the health and wellness section of its stores. Wherever possible, shelf talkers are added to help call out the functionality of the chewable treat.
“We have the occasional shopper who comes in and asks for Trident’s Vitality gum by name. We merchandise this brand up front, but also in the health section to inspire impulse purchases there too,” said Tom Winter, vice president of marketing for DLM. “People definitely identify with the ingredients and know that they are being put into the gum for health purposes.“
Each Vitality variety is made with an active health ingredient. Vigorate is one of them. It contains 10% of the daily recommended value of vitamin C.
The other two varieties include Rejuve, which is infused with white tea, and Awaken, which boasts a peppy peppermint flavor and a dash of ginseng.
According to data from SymphonyIRI Group, Chicago, sales of Trident Vitality gum were $9.3 million in supermarkets during the 52 weeks ending July 8.
A strong newcomer, Vitality has helped keep the chewing gum category from falling further than 5.5% to $758.1 million during the same time period.
Placement, said Winter, is a highly important part of promoting this category. By putting health-centric gum in the health aisle with other body-bettering items, the manufacturer’s marketing message is strengthened.
In many stores, Trident’s Vitality line is the only brand in the healthy gum segment at this time. It sells very well at Dorothy Lane. Anything labeled “sugarless” is also popular there.
“People prefer sugarless gum because they want to avoid an ingredient that is bad for them,” said Winter. “They are buying these healthy gums for a different reason: because they have additives that actually do something good.”
Sales figures from Euromonitor International bear this out, but not all Americans trust the health claims on gum.
“None of the varieties in Trident’s Vitality line have not been a gigantic hit,” said Matt Hudak, U.S. analyst for Euromonitor International.
“Not all consumers trust the health claims on products, especially in this category. They might buy it because it’s new, but many don’t believe that something they chew and then discard will enable them to absorb vitamins or other healthy ingredients like when consuming foods.”
The absorption process with functional gum is different from that of food. Most contain micro-sized beads that are steadily released when the user chews. The functional ingredients are then absorbed directly into the bloodstream through the capillaries in the lining of the mouth tissue.
Communicating such a complex concept to consumers may be difficult. But it must be done, said Kenny Kane, store director for Dahl’s Foods’ Merle Hay store.
Gumming Up the Works
Kane believes that more shoppers would purchase gum if manufacturers made claims more prominent on packaging. Unfortunately, there is little space for doling out details of health benefits on the wraps themselves.
“I haven’t seen anything on the packages that call out the healthy ingredients well enough for people to notice. There really isn’t enough room for a full explanation,” said Kane.
“As a result, most people view gum with things like ginseng or tea as having different flavor profiles, not as functional ingredients. The only thing that seems to be taken seriously is anything with teeth-whitening capabilities, which can be conveyed in a few words or less.”
Wrigley’s Orbit White is one teeth-whitening gum that comes in bubblemint, spearmint and peppermint. Trident White is another, with flavors that include Cinnamon Tingle, Cool Bubble, Cool Colada, Cool Mangoberry, Cool Rush, Peppermint, Spearmint and Wintergreen. And, Arm & Hammer has Advanced White gum in icy mint flavor.
With on-pack marketing at a minimum, shelf signs are a necessity, said Robert Passikoff, president of New York-based consulting firm Brand Keys. Shelf talkers allow room for a list of ingredients and their health benefits. They also enable catchy phrases like, “Add a little piece of delicious well-being to the gum-chewing experience,” one of Trident Vitality’s taglines.
Like DLM, other food retailers should formulate merchandising strategies based on areas of the store where healthy gum makes sense, said Passikoff.
“You can’t just throw a few packs of the latest gum creation up at the checkout and hope they sell well,” he told SN. “People shop for gum in different places of the store and will be more likely to buy a single pack or multi-packs of healthy gum if they are merchandised alongside other items that deliver the same health benefits.”
Gum infused with white tea would make sense on a shelf next to boxes of tea or hung from a peg hook nearby. A chewing gum with vitamin C could capture consumers’ attention in the supplement section next to bottles of vitamin C pills or Hall’s Vitamin C drops, he added.
Kane claimed that he would be willing to hang more signage and display gum in other areas of the store if suppliers provided the materials and better insight into shoppers’ purchase patterns.
Dahl’s Foods already stocks select gum near toothpaste and other oral care items.
“Some of our stores have Orbit White, Trident White and Eclipse sugarless gum in the oral care sections,” he said. “There are people who buy gum for the sole purpose of chewing after a meal when they can’t brush their teeth.”
Wrigley’s is the Chicago-based maker of Orbit White. The company also created an “Eat. Drink. Chew.” campaign that encourages consumers to chew gum between meals to improve dental health.
Collaborative studies involving Wrigley’s and oral health scientists have revealed that chewing sugar-free gum for 20 minutes after eating or drinking can help protect teeth from unnecessary plaque build-up, cavities and other oral health issues that occur when food and drink particles are not removed immediately after consumption.
“People have always chewed gum for the functional benefits of freshening, cleaning teeth between meals and taste,” said Jennifer Jackson Luth, spokesperson for Wrigley’s. “We also hear from consumers that they chew for ‘occasion-based’ reasons like oral care, weight management, focus and stress relief, all of which are part of overall health and wellness.”
Sidebar: Green Gum
While benefits to humans are the focus of most healthful gum marketers, some chewy treats also address the needs of the planet. Take, for instance, Glee Gum, a Verve brand.
Classic Glee is sweetened with Fair Trade cane sugar and brown rice syrup. Sugar-Free Glee is sweetened with 100% xylitol from American birch and beech trees for added dental benefits. All Glee varieties come packaged in biodegradable, recycled cardboard.
According to Robert Passikoff, president of New York-based consulting firm Brand Keys, there are very specific markets for such items.
“If a standard supermarket carried brands like Glee, Tree Hugger Gum or Xylichew, they probably wouldn’t sell enough to warrant the space,” he said. “Some consumers are so into health and wellness for themselves and the Earth that they will even stop to consider the ingredients in gum. They might also think about where the gum comes from and whether it is healthy to consume or not.”
Shoppers with such a strong focus on healthy living tend to frequent stores like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s anyway. Consequently, they are most likely to forgo foods made with synthetic ingredients, like standard chewing gum, he added.
Xylichew is made with all-natural xylitol, derived from birch bark. It can be found at Fruitful Yield, a Chicago-based health food chain. Tree Hugger is currently sold online at Amazon.com and other select e-tail sites.
For supermarkets with the right mix of shoppers, even gums like Rev7 could capture earth-conscious consumers’ attention. “Rev” stands for “Revolution” and “7” is the number of times it took the England-based polymer technology company, Revolymer, to make just the right mix, making Rev7 gum easier to remove from park benches and sidewalks compared to traditional chews.
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