For the full-year 2021, dollar sales of the gum and mints category were up +3.8% while unit sales were down slightly at -1.6% for the year, according to IRI MULO+C retail sales data from the National Confectioners Association's (NCA). Within the segment, 'breath fresheners' led most of the growth with +7.1% increase in dollar sales and bump in unit sales (+5.8%) and volume sales (+8.6%).
While mints may be an upward swing, when surveying the category, Davis felt the market lacked a modern, breath freshening solution.
"In regards to mints, there hasn't been anything interesting within this space for decades now. There might be some innovations in packaging and flavors, but nothing in regards to technology or function. This is a highly consolidated industry with three to five key players. Some of which are actually trying to offload their gum and mint brands as it's no longer profitable," Davis told FoodNavigator-USA at the Sweets & Snacks Expo in Chicago in May 2022.
In May 2022, Mondelēz International announced that it planned to divest its gum business which includes Trident, Stride, Dentyne, and Bubblicious to focus on its cookies, chocolate, and baked goods brands which account for over 90% of its revenue.
Modernizing the mints category
The original idea of Nude Mints -- launched in August 2020 -- is based on product technology that was first developed in Japan in 2013 for the pharmaceutical industry where it was used for medication that required multiple different activation points.
"We came across this product and thought it could do really well here in America," Davis told FoodNavigator-USA.
Davis and his team translated the technology into a sugar-free mint, creating a four-layer breath freshening capsule that would dissolve at different stages of consumption as it travels from the mouth to the stomach. The mints are housed in colorful, slim, and recyclable plastic containers (containing 30 mints which dispense one tiny bead-like mint at a time) that could fit easily and unnoticeably into a pocket or purse.
"The container design was meant to portray the sleek nature of the capsules while at the same time being small and convenient to carry in any situation. We wanted to differentiate ourselves from the rest of the market by making it more of a lifestyle/beauty product and not something associated with bad breath," said Davis.
Full breath freshening experience
Davis explained that most mints are just providing the illusion of fresh breath by targeting the mouth, but that the source of bad breath really stems from the gut. Nude Mints targets this by first freshening the mouth with its outer layer (made from gelatin) that dissolves within three second then the inner capsule is swallowed making its way down the esophagus and to the stomach where it is fully dissolved, described by Nude Mints as "freshening the gut." The brand claims to provide fresh breath for three hours.
"Most mints when reacting with saliva will lose their effectiveness as they travel down the upper digestive tract. While they may be good for that initial breath freshening, their effects are short-lived," said Davis.
"For the first capsule we made it dissolve almost instantly, no chewing, no biting, it gives you fresh breath right away. For the inner colored capsule we hardened it, so that it would not react with the saliva. As it moves down the upper digestive tract it releases a very potent mint extract, slowly covering the upper digestive tract as it moves down, completely masking and getting rid of any odor from recently eaten food or drinks."
With nearly two years of selling under its belt, Davis said the brand has relied heavily on online marketing and advertising to grow brand awareness and is beginning to grow its retail business and enter larger accounts.
"When we first started running our ads on Facebook, and it was perfect timing of people staying at home and being on their phones. I think we really hit a nerve with consumers," said Davis, who noted that after lifting its demographic targeting on its online ads the brand's monthly sales surged from roughly $10,000 to $100,000 per month.
But the challenge remains of convincing consumers to spend $25 on a 5-pack of mints when they may not fully understand the product's differentiation, said Davis, who added that moving into the retail environment will make brand communication and messaging even more difficult.
"At retail, I have three seconds to portray how the product works," said Davis.
However, the brand is receiving retail interest landing distribution with AFI out of Texas and with Urban Outfitters.
"We are currently working on rollouts with tier 1 retailers for national distribution. After the Sweets and Snacks Expo, we are confident that we can be in about 5000 stores by the end of the year, the interest generated at this show was beyond expectations. The velocity figures from our current stores have been substantial enough to generate a wide range of interest from national retailers and distributors,' said Davis.