An alcohol-industry watchdog says it's concerned that the candy conglomerate's new Mint Mojito Orbit -- currently being touted in new national ads -- is using the rum-based cocktail's flavor to appeal to children, and also that it will inspire more egregious imitators.
"It's something I'd call mildly reprehensible, and it'll almost certainly lead to others going further," said a spokesman for the Marin Institute, the watchdog group. "It's sad they need to name it like an alcoholic beverage to sell it."
In a statement a Wrigley spokesman argued that mojito flavor has transcended alcohol and become a wider phenomenon, used in sauces, salsas, marinades and even scented candles.
He compared the mojito to the pina colada, another cocktail flavor that's found a life outside the bar, used in gum, candy bars and jelly beans by Wrigley rivals Trident, Carefree, Hershey and Jelly Belly (which also offers a margarita flavor).
The spokesman didn't mention Chronic Candy, the marijuana-flavored lollipops that caused a stir after being imported from Europe in 2005.
"A number of well-respected confectionary products feature flavors that originated with exotic or tropical beverages but have passed into general use," the spokesman said. "I think the mojito has as well."
Needed a new mint name
He added, however, that there is a practical matter: Breath-freshening Orbit is running out of names for mint-based flavors. The current stable includes bubblemint, winter mint, peppermint, spearmint, cinnamint, sweet mint, citrus mint, raspberry mint -- and now mint mojito -- which perhaps has a better ring to it than "lime-sugar-and-rum mint."
The new spots for Mint Mojito Orbit, from Energy BBDO, Chicago, show a hapless man buried in sand, struggling with a mouthful of seaweed. At the point, Orbit's quirky British mascot, Vanessa, appears to offer gum: "Dirty mouth? Clean it up with new Orbit Mint Mojito."
Energy BBDO Chief Creative Officer Marty Orzio said neither the tone nor target of the spot differed much from the previous 20 spots the agency has shot for the client since 2001.
"We're aiming for [an audience in their] early 20s," he said. "This was never a teen brand."