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Gum Category Embraces Germ Warfare

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Germ-killing gum anyone? Mentos Pure Fresh gum, launching next year, will include green tea extract that kills the bacteria that causes bad breath. Eclipse, meanwhile, has been assassinating germs, using magnolia bark extract as its weapon of choice, since its relaunch this summer.

These germicidal gums are part of the growing functional-gum category. Sales of such products, which do everything from mask breath to whiten teeth, are expected to surge 8.9% to $376.1 million this year, per Euromonitor, Chicago.

And the innovations keep coming. Wrigley next year will launch Orbit Mist. The new product includes "Microburst" technology that increases saliva flow or what Wrigley calls a "hydrating sensation."

Mars, which recently completed its acquisition of Wm. Wrigley Jr., globally introduced AquaDrops as a hydrating mint in 2004, but U.K. advertising regulators forced the company to drop its "instant hydration" advertising claim because they deemed it misleading. Orbit Mist's U.S. marketing details were not available.

"The American consumer has responded to the health message and functionality of gum," said Brian Morgan, a Euromonitor analyst.  Still, he said, marketers must tread lightly. "I'm not sure they're ready to take the leap beyond things that are intuitively associated with chewing and dental health to more herbal products."

Perfetti Van Melle USA's Mentos Pure Fresh Gum won't promote green tea's germ- killing aspects in the new product's advertising. "`Irresistibly fresh' is the tagline that captures the essence of our brand promise," said Dan Marquardt, Mentos USA marketing director. "Green tea extract is a feature that helps set our product apart from the crowd, but is not emphasized because we think consumers care more about the end benefit than any supporting evidence."

Likewise, Wrigley steers clear of spotlighting Eclipse's magnolia bark. The gum, instead, is marketed as "Advanced fresh breath, seriously."