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S-24 (6/26)

Before Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co. even created the Winterfresh brand, a Winterfresh line extension was selling like gangbusters.

It was the success of the Winterfresh flavor of the company's sugarless Extra brand that convinced Wrigley to introduce a sugared version.

"We pulled a reverse marketing maneuver," jokes Ron Cox, 56, group VP-marketing and now a two-time Marketing 100 honoree. "Usually when you introduce a new brand or flavor, you start with the big brand and spin off line extensions."

Introduced last fall with a "Icy cool flavor, icy fresh breath" pitch from BBDO in Chicago, the Winterfresh brand already commands a 4.4% share of the $1.4 billion total gum market. That surpasses the 3.7% share for Extra's Winterfresh flavor, which accounts for some 25% of the estimated $300 million-plus sales of Extra.

"We said, hey, maybe the consumer is trying to tell us something," Mr. Cox says. "The more we thought about it, the sugar part of the gum business is 58% of the total, and it just made sense to set [Winterfresh] up as a separate brand."

Mr. Cox won't say how much Wrigley spent on the Winterfresh introduction, but the company's annual media budget is $125 million.

"We always back new items big time," he says.

That's a good strategy, considering Winterfresh has boosted Wrigley's overall market share by three points, to 52%.

"It's hard to find a new niche or flavor position in the market. Everything is basically spearmint or peppermint," Mr. Cox says. "But it looks like we're carving that new niche."

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