Chewing gum, coming off a brutal year for retail sales, is back in demand as Americans start taking off their masks — and don’t always like what they smell.
As restrictions ease and vaccination rates rise, U.S. gum sales have recently started rising, data from NielsenIQ show. The nascent turnaround follows two straight years of declines for the 12-month periods ended in May, a signal consumer behavior is slowly returning to normal.
The pickup in gum spending is a welcome change for the likes of Trident-maker Mondelēz International Inc., Mars Inc.’s Wrigley and Tootsie Roll Industries Inc., the manufacturer of Dubble Bubble.
And it’s not just inflation driving the jump in total sales, although prices per unit are also up. The average pack of gum sold in May was $2.11, the data show, up from $2.05 at the start of the year. The number of packs sold is also up, with Americans purchasing nearly 15 million more packs of gum in May compared to January 2021 levels.
Gum demand pulled back during the pandemic for clear reasons: Americans weren’t frequently leaving the house or socializing, and required masking plus six-foot distancing meant consumers weren’t in need of minty freshness like in pre-pandemic times. The nascent rebound in recent weeks also reflects comparisons to the early weeks of the 2020 lockdowns, when demand for many non-essentials pulled back sharply, suggesting there’s still more room to grow.
In early May, Wrigley released a campaign celebrating the return to the outside world, with people running in the streets. “We all just need a dose of feeling good,” Rankin Carroll, Mars Wrigley’s global chief brand and content officer, told Ad Age when the Energy BBDO campaign debuted. In some global markets, he said, industry sales declined more than 50% during months of full lockdown.