Oral health is a key driver in a segment which still invokes anger for its sticky residue. But gum manufacturers are starting to clean up their act all round, reports Gaelle Walker

The UK chewing and bubble gum market is worth more than £340m and is positively fit to burst.
This year value sales of gum have ballooned by a jaw-dropping 27.7%, and now constitute more than 9% of the total confectionery market, according to TNS figures (52 w/e June 19, 2005).
This despite growing anger against gum manufacturers for the mess their products leave behind. Chewing gum is notoriously difficult to clean up, requiring specialist equipment. For this very reason, Liverpool City Council is considering the introduction of a chewing gum tax that could see brands having to charge more for their products.
Under the proposals, the council hopes to raise £100,000 a year to pay for the removal of gum from the city’s streets, which could mean a 1p increase on a packet.
This year the Chewing Gum Action Group launched three pilots - in Preston, Manchester
and Maidstone - to tackle the problem and raise awareness of proper gum disposal with the slogan: ‘Thanks for binning your gum when you’re done’.
Alex MacHutchon, communications manager at number one gum brand Wrigley, says the industry is starting to clean up its image. As well as encouraging consumers to bin their gum responsibly, the stretchy stuff is shedding its sugar-sweet image. Many products are being successfully diversified into the sugar-free and oral health categories, attracting new buyers, she says.
Wrigley recently launched a number of products to bolster the Extra and Orbit portfolios, including Orbit White Tabs, a sugar-free product in mini stick format, with teeth whitening powers.
Oral health and fresh breath are key drivers in the gum sector and, collectively, breath strips and gum are hugely successful, complementing each other incredibly well.
“Extra Thin Ice was the first breath strip in the UK and represents 66% of all sales in this format,” says MacHutchon. “The success of both breath strips and chewing gum demonstrates that there is a loyal consumer following in both sectors.”
Innovation is another strong driver and of particular importance within the kids and teens sector. Hubba Bubba has just launched Hubba Bubba colours.
The limited edition product combines the winning mix of excitement and novelty by colouring the chewer’s tongue a bright shade of blue or green.