Perfetti Van Melle is aiming to make Mentos the second-biggest chewing gum player in the UK ahead of Cadbury.

The company said it wanted to "achieve a clear number two position" following a 110% year-on-year hike in sales of Mentos gum to £7.4m [Nielsen 52w/e 26 February 2011].

The £242m UK chewing gum market is dominated by Mars-owned Wrigley, which makes up almost 80% of the category. Its sub-brands have enjoyed mixed fortunes in the past year, with sales of Extra static at £138m, Airwaves up 5% to £33m, Orbit down 9.7% to £18m and Five rising 1.5% to £8.4m.

Second-biggest player Cadbury has seen sales of its Trident brand fall 35% over the past year to £11m, although its budget Trebor brand has grown 53% year-on-year to £6.4m.

"Establishing a long-term business in gum is a key focus for us," said Perfetti Van Melle marketing director Mark Stangroom. "Coming to a market with such a dominant player in the UK means it takes a long time to change habits. However, recent consumer tests revealed our gum outperforms both Wrigley Extra and Trebor in most flavours where we compete."

A combination of greater distribution for existing lines, NPD and increased marketing support would drive the brand, said Stangroom, who added that the company was already an established player in several overseas chewing gum markets. The company extended its Mentos Pure Fresh gum range in the UK last month with Mentos 3 Layers gum.

Perfetti Van Melle's ambitions "may not be outrageous", according to Don Williams, CEO of branding agency Pi Global. "Cadbury has by no means established itself as the second horse in a two-horse race," he said. "There is potential for a strong alternative in the UK gum market, but education on the brand, product innovation and pricing needs to be spot on they need damn good products to succeed," he said.

Perfetti Van Melle is supporting its Mentos gum portfolio with its biggest UK campaign to date, kicking off next month, including TV.