ROCKVILLE, MD. — The market research company Packaged Facts estimated that chewing gum sales rose slightly in 2018 to $4.1 billion and that sales made up 11% of the total U.S. retail candy category. Leading companies include Mars Inc., Mondelez International, Inc. and The Hershey Co.

Trends driving the category included snacking and consumer interest in better-for-you options, which accounted for approximately 85% of dollar sales, according to the company.

“Gum marketers are developing fun and flavorful products and are innovating with non-caloric sweeteners, as well as stressing the potential benefits of dental and nutrition-bearing gums,” said David Sprinkle, research director for Packaged Facts.

Dirk Van de Put, chairman and chief executive officer of Mondelez International, called the global gum market “challenging” during the company’s Sept. 8 investor day conference and said Mondelez’s business was underperforming.

“Gum represents 8% of our total business and has above-average margins,” he said. “In recent months, we have seen a stabilization and even some growth in the gum market. While gum as a segment is challenging, the consumers’ need for refreshment is very important. So, I would say that instead of a gum problem, we believe we have a refreshment opportunity.”

One way the company is seeking to unlock that opportunity is to view its gum and mints businesses as one and extend mint brands like Halls into the gum category and gum brands like Stride and Hollywood into the mint segment.

“By doing so we will capture a bigger share of the refreshment segment,” Mr. Van de Put said.

Emerging markets also are viewed as regions of opportunity at Mondelez.

“In several of our emerging markets like Mexico, Brazil and China, gum provides critical mass,” Mr. Van de Put said. “It is one of our bigger categories and growing. We will invest in these markets to keep the growth momentum. In the rest of the markets, we will manage the business with selective investment, innovation and renovation while driving our overall refreshment strategy.”

Gum innovation introduced by the company during the past year includes Trident Vibes, a gum the company claims features “an extra pop of flavor as you chew.” The new product is available in three flavors, including spearmint, lemon and “tropical beat.”