Chewing gum giant The Wrigley Company, the undisputed market leader, hit a sticky patch last year when it was outgunned by the launch of Cadbury’s Trident brand.
Wrigley, established over 100 years ago, retained its lead, although Trident, which despite initial accusations that its ad campaign was racist, seemed to capture the consumer zeitgeist with a positioning centred around the “fun” of chewing.
According to figures from AC Nielsen, Trident’s share of the market had grown to 15% by the end of April. Before it launched Wrigley held a 98% share.
Now Wrigley has unleashed a £30m marketing push and was a fortnight ago acquired by Mars for $23bn (£11.8bn) in a deal backed by billionaire investor Warren Buffett.
The value of the UK chewing gum sector increased 9% year on year for the six months to the end of April to £275.9m, according to Nielsen figures.
A Wrigley spokeswoman says Wrigley brands, which include Extra, Airwaves and Orbit, are performing well. “We had a fantastic year last year,” she says. “Over 28 million people chew gum. Things are good.”
As part of its new marketing push Wrigley overhauled its packaging and logo to help products stand out on the shelf. The new packaging covers the entire Wrigley range and launched at the end of April.
The overhaul is being supported with an Abbott Mead Vickers.BBDO-created TV ad campaign which will run from early May for seven weeks. This advertising, which uses the strapline “Get Extra Close”, is also supported by activity across the Extra range, including the brand’s sponsorship of TV soap Hollyoaks. Extra is also a sponsor of the Premier League and British super bikes team Ducati. At the of end April Wrigley launched a range of new products including two new variants of Orbit Complete – Strawberry & Lemon and Lime.
Wrigley was originally a small US maker of soap and baking soda founded by William Wrigley Jr in 1891, launching its chewing gum as a free extra two years later, before repositioning after finding the gum was more popular than the bought-for baking sodas. Spearmint gum was introduced to the UK in 1911 and Wrigley opened its first UK factory in London in 1927.
In 2004 Wrigley paid Kraft Foods $1.4bn (£780m) for its candy division, giving it ownership of Altoids, a UK breath mint first created in the 1780s. Now Wrigley is a sprawling global company with first quarter net sales of $679m (£348m), in Europe, Middle East, Africa and India aloneAdam Devey Smith, chief executive of brand consultancy One Off, says he understands the need for Wrigley to make a marketing push now: “Wrigley has a lot of sub brands, so it is a bit confusing.” And, he suggests, there has been so much innovation in the sub-brands that it has “weakened” what Wrigley stands for. The company needs to “reignite the strength of the holding brand.”
But Eddie Stableford, group managing director at brand consultancy Bryt, says Wrigley is a strong brand that has performed well. “It is very innovative with its product ranges,” he says. “It’s a high impulse sector and chewing gum has the highest growth in the confectionery category. It also has great product placement and excellent distribution to capitalise on that consumer demand.”
When Trident entered the market in May last year, Wrigley launched new flavour variants, pack formats and TV advertising. It also consolidated its £200m global advertising account into Omnicom, by appointing DDB Worldwide to its roster alongside the BBDO network.
Wrigley’s marketing push coincided with the deal with Mars, as the latter attempts to build the world’s biggest confectionery company. Wrigley will remain a standalone subsidiary of Mars, responsible for all its non-chocolate confectionery including Mars brands such as Skittles and Starburst. “The takeover won’t have any effect on Wrigley whatsoever,” says Stableford. “They both have well established brands.”
Trident has challenged Wrigley, but the chewing gum brand is still well ahead in terms of market share. Wrigley must now work hard to maintain its lead through product innovation and promotion and its links with Mars should help.
Timeline: The Wrigley Company
1891 – Wrigley founded by in 1891 by William Wrigley Junior
1893 – Introduces Spearmint and Juicy Fruit chewing gum
1927 – Wrigley opens first UK factory
1970 – UK subsidiary opens
2004 – Acquires Kraft Foods brands Life Savers and Altoids Mints
2008 – The Wrigley Group acquired by Mars