CHICAGO — Gum makers are in a sticky situation. Segment sales have slid nearly 6% in the past year, according to research from the National Confectioners Association, and a decline of 9% is projected between 2013 and 2018.

Meanwhile, the mints category is climbing, suggesting a shift in consumer behavior that may have chewed into gum sales.

Efforts to refresh the $3.58 billion U.S. gum market were represented in recent innovation on display at the Sweets & Snacks Expo, held May 20-22 in Chicago. Product developers are aiming to appeal to consumer desires for unique flavors, natural ingredients, functional benefits and convenient packaging.


Kicking aspartame

Sugarless gum accounts for 84% of the total market, according to the N.C.A., but consumers increasingly are shunning food and beverage products that contain aspartame. Several brands at the show, such as Pur Gum, prominently labeled the artificial sweetener’s absence in products. In addition to kicking aspartame, Pur, a xylitol-sweetened line in six flavors, is certified vegan and gluten-, nut- and soy-free.

Vitaball, Inc. makes Vitamingum Fresh, another aspartame-free product that contains 12 essential vitamins in spearmint, peppermint and cinnamon flavors. The company recommends chewing for 5 to 10 minutes to ensure the release of nutrients. The product is sweetened with sorbitol, malitol and neotame.

Adding benefits

Vitaball also makes Vitamingum Sport, a bubblegum formulated for young athletes. The product is free of aspartame and contains 11 essential vitamins, plus electrolytes.

Quench Gum from Mueller Sports Medicine also targets active consumers with a thirst-quenching claim. The latest innovation from the brand is Quench X, a sugar- and aspartame-free gum made with xylitol. Like the sugared varieties, the product is designed to promote salivation during athletic activities.

Other products provide oral care benefits, such as a new grape variety of Orbit for Kids from Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co., a subsidiary of Mars, International. The packaging contains an American Dental Association seal of approval.

Formats and packaging

Wrigley is refreshing its Juicy Fruit brand with a shift away from the original stick format. Launching this summer, Juicy Fruit Bubble Gum will be available in original and strawberry varieties in 5-count packs. Another forthcoming product is Juicy Fruit Fruity Chews, sugar-free soft chew gums in original and strawberry flavors, packaged in cup holder-friendly bottle packs designed for easy sharing, the company said. With a suggested price of $3.49 per 40-count bottle, the product offers a value benefit, too.

Flavor innovation

Wrigley also unveiled at the show the newest flavor in its Extra Dessert Delights line: cinnamon roll. Positioned as a low-calorie alternative to a post-dinner indulgence, flavors in the Dessert Delights line have included apple pie, lemon square, peach cobbler, mint chocolate chip, and raspberry vanilla cupcake.

Mondelēz International has expanded its line of sugar-free Stride Sour Patch Kids gum with a new orange flavor. The product, which debuted in March with red berry and lime varieties, has a sour flavor that turns sweet, providing a unique experience for gum chewers.

Unconventional flavors drive innovation for Project 7, which offers six varieties of sugar-free gum, including birthday cake, coconut lime and mint julep. The brand also carries a social mission. Purchases benefit Project 7’s non-profit partners to help plant trees, provide emergency relief for the homeless in natural disasters, provide meals in U.S. communities and clean drinking water for those in need, deliver life-saving malaria treatments, and support education in developing nations and anti-bullying programs.

Bursting the bubble

The Hershey Co.’s answer to the category’s declines transforms gum into a disappearing act.

Launching in September, Ice Breakers Cool Blasts Chews are unwrapped and quick-dissolving, providing discreet freshness in public, the company said. The products will be available in peppermint and spearmint flavors and packaged in a slider pack.

In developing the product, Hershey noted consumers’ common gripes with gum and used proprietary technology to create a chewable mint that dissolves in moments, freshening the full mouth without the need for disposal.