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CHICAGO-Breaking the silence of a long winter, Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co. is going national with Winterfresh, its first new sugared gum brand in nearly two decades.

Winterfresh, a spin-off of the flavor first introduced in Wrig-ley's Extra sugar-free line three years ago, rolls out in September with ad support from BBDO, Chicago, the agency for Wrigley's $125 million account.

Extra's Winterfresh flavor has rapidly grown to represent a disproportionate 20% of the No. 1 sugarless gum's sales, the company said. Extra has six flavors.

Despite the success of Extra and other artificially sweetened gums, 52% of gum chewers buy only sugared gum, said William Piet, Wrigley VP-corporate affairs. Roughly 60% of Wrigley's sales come from sugared gum; its last new brand was Big Red, introduced in 1976.

Winterfresh, like Wrigley's other brands, sells for 25 cents a five-stick pack. Kemper Securities analyst Richard Elam said Wrigley has lowered its costs to make the pricing strategy work.

Wrigley said it's creating a new flavor category with Winterfresh. Yet, the new brand will compete not only with Extra Winterfresh, but with Warner-Lambert Co.'s Trident Freshmint.

"It might take 0.1% from [Wrigley standards] Spearmint and Doublemint, but I think it will create some new gum chewers," Mr. Elam said.

Gum sales in food, drug and mass merchandise stores for the 52 weeks ended May 22 totaled $1 billion, according to Information Resources Inc., Chicago. Wrigley held 44.5% of the market.

Termed by analysts a "cautious but steady company," Wrigley has continued to ring up healthy sales. Worldwide '93 sales rose 7.6% to $1.4 billion. International, accounting for roughly half of '93 sales, is now key to Wrigley's future.

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