Gum dollar sales - sugarless and sugared gum combined – dropped -4% to $1.5bn, IRI data for H1 (26 weeks ending 25 June 2017) shows.
Unit sales were down -6% over the period.
It follows almost a decade of declining sales for the American gum sector.
Sugarfree’s market leader
Today sugarfree gum makes up around 83% of the market. Segment dollar sales for sugarfree dropped 4% in H1.
It came as sugarfree gum prices rose $0.06 over the period to an average unit price of $1.78.
Wrigley maintained its leading 54% market share in the larger $1.3bn US sugarfree gum category in H1 2017.
However, its dollars sales for sugarfree declined -3% over the period driven by falling sales of Orbit, Eclipse gum, 5gum Cobalt and 5gum Rain.
Wrigley: ‘A challenging year’
Speaking to ConfectioneryNews at Chicago’s Sweets & Snacks Expo in May this year, Michelle Green, senior manager of the global confectionery category & brand communications at Mars Wrigley Confectionery, said a movement towards self-checkouts that began around 10 years ago has taken its toll on the category.
"Our bulk segment [i.e. large bottle packs] really drove growth in 2016, but we did miss upon the fun area...In 2016, gum had a challenging year - we were not where we wanted to be,” she said.
According to Green, Wrigley’s 2015 launch Juicy Fruit with Starburst flavors helped grow household penetration with teens, but Wrigley concentrated last year on its larger pack sizes rather than on fun items.
Green said Wrigley will now focus on innovating with fun products to bring back younger gum chewers.
The company will launch Juicy Fruit Mixies in December 2017. The product contains four fruit flavors (original, strawberry, watermelon and grape) in one bottle.
"We still believe in the category and as leaders in gum we are going to turn the category around. In the next five years we'll be back to growth, but it's going to be a slow haul," said Green.
The first half of 2017 was also challengeing for number two sugarfree gum player Mondelēz International, which lost market share (-4%). The Trident maker’s H1 dollar sales dropped -15% taking its market share to 29%.
Top 10 sugarfree gum brands in the US (H1 2017)
[Source: IRI, a Chicago-based market research firm (@iriworldwide), H1 2017, Total U.S. Multi-Outlet w/ C-Store (Supermarkets, Drugstores, Mass Market Retailers, Gas/C-Stores, Military Commissaries and Select Club & Dollar Retail Chains)].
The winners: Hershey, Perfetti Van Melle & Project7
Perfetti Van Melle’s Mentos Pure Fresh outpaced the market with a +16% increase in dollar sales. Perfetti this year launched Velcro sealed packs of Mentos Pure Fresh and brought candy brand Airheads into the sugarfree gum category.
Rising star Project7 – maker of flavors such as wedding cake, margarita and cotton candy – continued its ascent in H1. The startup company – now in its ninth year – grew sugarfree gum dollar sales +17% in H1 to $4m.
But the big winner over the period was Hershey.
Its share in US sugarfree gum sales rose +1.9% as the number three player captured 9% of total sugarfree category sales in H1.
Its Ice Breakers Ice Cubes – the only Hershey brand in the top 10-bestselling brands – posted $112m sales in H1, making it the fourth bestseller in sugarfree.
The brand, launched in 2005, comprises gum pieces shaped like sugar cubes or ice cubes.
"We’re proud that Ice Breakers has contributed more growth to the category than others due to unique form (soft cube), differentiated flavor crystals and a range of flavors," Laura Renaud, corporate communications at Hershey, told this site.
"Given the growth of Ice Breakers Ice Cubes gum, one of our greatest opportunities was taking the very successful Ice Cubes bottle pack format into single pack format," she said
In May this year, Hershey launched a blister pack of Ice Breakers Ice Cubes gum, available in the same top three performing bottle pack flavors – Peppermint, Wintergreen, Artic Grape.