Chewing gum sector’s bubble shows no sign of bursting

There has been plenty to chew over in the gum market in the past 18 months following the introduction of Cadbury’s Trident brand and market leader Wrigley’s subsequent retaliation.

According to Cadbury, the launch of Trident helped reverse a 4% decline in the gum market over 2007 (AC Nielsen), although sources say the initial shine is beginning to fade.

Cadbury is now understood to be consolidating the range to refocus on stealing share from Wrigley (MW last week). Meanwhile, The Wrigley Company is also believed to be reviewing its range and cutting several of the fruit flavours it introduced in the aftermath of the Trident launch, in a bid to get “back to basics” with its core mint range.

It signals an end to the high level of new product development and also the “category in-fighting” seen over the past year, says one retail source. She adds: “Wrigley and Cadbury were just playing one-up and now the category is awash with products. They have both decided enough is enough.”

Cadbury declines to comment on the consolidation of Trident, but says: “While we have introduced seven SKUs (product lines) to the original four, Wrigley have introduced more than 20, none of which seem to have delivered any real value.”

The introduction of a new brand in the category was welcomed across the board. Before the launch of Trident, Wrigley accounted for more than 98% of the market. Even Wrigley marketing director Toby Baker admits that the new brand created interest in the category. He says: “Competition in the category has created additional news and excitement.”

Market share

Last year, analysts said Trident had built a 15.4% market share in the first three months, although sources say this has now slipped to about 9% – far short of the 25% share Cadbury had hoped for, in part due to its failure to attract repeat purchases.

The insider adds: “Cadbury has always said there was a five-year plan for the brand and that it is in the market for the long term, but this move suggests that all is not going to plan.”

The chewing gum category was worth £275.9m over the six months to the end of April this year, according to Nielsen data. The trend is attributed to the lower use of chewing gum among children and data suggests there will be a 5% decline in use by under 15-year-olds by 2012. Adult consumption, however, remains steady.

According to Nielsen data for the year to date, the category has slipped by 7.6%, which sources say is primarily due to a poor performance by the market leader.

Wrigley has already rolled out new packaging across the range and introduced “Get extra close” as its new strapline on the Extra range, coupled with a new ad campaign and new idents for its sponsorship of Channel 4’s teen soap, Hollyoaks. It has also become the official chewing gum for the Premier League and continues to sponsor the Ducati superbike team through the Airwaves brand.

While Mintel predicts the market will be worth £586m by 2012, the lower use among children is a challenge all gum brands need to address.

The explosion of new textures, such as liquid centres and flavours, is expected to attract younger consumers. Meanwhile, Baker says consumers will increasingly be looking for indulgence from the gum market, as well as products that “revitalise”.

There may be less new product development over the next 12 months, but with strong brands such as Wrigley and Trident pouring more money into marketing, the bubble has not yet burst.

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