M&M/Mars Looks to Refresh Skittles by Adding Mints Line

$1B Mint Segment Has Been a Fast Growth Category

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M&M/Mars hopes to freshen its Skittles brand with the launch in January of Mint Skittles, backed by an estimated $15 million in advertising.

The move marks the Masterfoods USA unit's first foray into the nearly $1 billion mint segment, which in 2000 outpaced growth of other chocolate and sugar segments, with sales up 9%, according to M&M/Mars research.

However, more recent data shows the power-mint frenzy of previous years may be waning. In food, drug and mass outlets (not including the candy-filled convenience store channel) Kraft Foods' leading $100 million Altoids brand grew less than 1% for the 52 weeks ended Oct. 7, and Kraft's $56 million LifeSavers mints and Van Melle's $18 million Mentos both fell a steep 10%, according to Information Resources Inc.

Of the many newer entries that emerged during the recent fervor, though, some are still seeing double-digit growth. BreathSavers Ice Breakers brand, purchased recently by Hershey Foods, grew 81% to $17 million while Mentos' new Cool Chews grew 33% to $7 million for the same time period, per IRI.

Although M&M/Mars' VP Marketing-Sugar Mike Tolkowsky acknowledged the steep competition from newer brands, he said "the Skittles brand is the No. 1 `favorite sugar brand' across all age groups, so we have a great deal of equity among consumers."

Skittles' sales saw near double-digit growth last year, and M&M/Mars hopes to drive further growth for the typically younger-skewing franchise by appealing to 18-to-34 year-olds with the new Peppermint and Spearmint varieties, which come in small plastic tubes with flip-top lids.

TV ads breaking in March will reflect the Skittles base campaign by maintaining the falling candy motif and the "Taste the Rainbow" tagline, but will target the more mature demographic with an added romantic element that beseeches consumers to "Feel the Kiss." In one spot, a man visiting a waterfall bites into a Mint Skittle and five beautiful sirens appear, one leaning in to kiss him as the voice-over suggests, "Refresh your mouth with an enchanting kiss of five mint flavors." Another features a maiden at a well who is visited and kissed by a Celtic Warrior after biting into a Mint Skittle.

The TV spots and two print ads that liken the Mint Skittles to snowflakes were developed by Bcom3 Group's D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles, St. Louis. Sampling, public relations, coupon inserts and in-store efforts will also support the launch.

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