Editor’s note: This article is part of our 2020 State of the Confectionery industry. Over the next few weeks we will post category breakdowns, looking at how they have fared over the last year, as well as what the coming year will bring. The introduction to this series will be updated with links to new articles as they are posted. 

Overall, the chewing gum category continues to see declines in both dollar sales and unit sales, but these drops could be exacerbated by consumers staying home during lockdowns prompted by the coronavirus pandemic.

According to data from IRI, a Chicago-based research firm, the whole gum category generated $2.88 billion in the year ending June 14, 2020, down 8.2 percent from a year ago. Unit sales dropped 14.6 percent to 1.52 billion over the same period.

The sugar gum category pulled in $421.7 million over the same time period, representing an 8.8 percent decrease from a year ago. Unit sales fell by 11.1 percent to 377.2 million.

Mars Wrigley leads the sugar gum category with 71 percent of the market share. Concord Confections, maker of the Dubble Bubble brand, follows with 10.5 percent. The Hershey Co. rounds out the Top 3 with 4.8 percent, representing 86 percent of the whole category.

Hershey CEO Michele Buck said on the company’s first-quarter earnings call that gum and mint sales had been significantly impacted by social distancing as a result of COVID-19.

“These categories are much more functional than emotional, and they've experienced declines of 40 percent to 50 percent over the past several weeks,” Buck said during the April 23 call.

Wrigley’s Doublemint brand topped the sugar gum category, generating $91.45 million in the year ending June 14. The company’s Juicy Fruit brand followed with $57.87 million, while the Dubble Bubble brand pulled in $40.27 million. Wrigley's Hubba Bubba tape and Spearmint gum rounded out the Top 5 brands tracked by IRI, earning $38.73 million and $29.42 million, respectively.

Ford Gum’s Big League Chew brand, along with Hubba Bubba tape and Hershey’s Bubble Yum brand, were the only three brands in the Top 10 to post gains in the year ending June 14. Earlier this year, Ford Gum announced Slammin’ Strawberry as the official flavor for its Big League Chew softball player pouch, launched in 2019.

“Last year’s release of the softball pouch was a grand slam for Big League Chew,” said Steve Greene, senior v.p., sales and marketing at Ford Gum. “After conducting thoughtful marketing research and listening to our customers and retailers, we were happy to find that there was a demand for Strawberry. To bring back a limited flavor and improve it exclusively for the softball pouch makes this extra special.”

The sugar-free gum sector, which represents 85 percent of the chewing gum category, generated $2.45 billion in the year ending June 14. That’s down 8.1 percent from a year ago. Unit sales also dropped by 15.7 percent.

Wrigley occupies 55.2 percent of the sugar-free gum market share, followed by Mondelez International with 20.72 percent and The Hershey Co. with 12.73 percent, representing nearly 89 percent of the total sugar-free gum market.

Wrigley’s Extra brand topped the category, earning $528 million in the year ending June 14. Hershey’s Ice Breakers brand took the second spot, generating $312.4 million. Mondelez’s Trident brand generated $308.65 million, followed by Wrigley’s Orbit with $265.23 million. Perfetti Van Melle’s Mentos Pure Fresh brand rounds out the Top 5 with $187.33 million.

All but two of the Top 10 sugar-free gum brands tracked by IRI saw declines over the last year. However, Wrigley’s Extra Refreshers product, which just missed the Top 10 by earning $49.7 million, saw 1,004 percent growth in the year ending June 14. 

Launched in April 2019, Extra Refreshers is the brand’s first soft-chew product. Bursting with intense freshness, Refreshers are available in three flavors: Spearmint, Polar Ice and Tropical Mist. 

"For almost 40 years, Extra gum has been committed to providing long lasting flavor that gum chewers crave,” said Justin Hollyn-Taub, marketing director for the Extra brand. “Given how fast soft chew is growing and with Extra as the No. 1 gum brand in the U.S., this new innovation is poised to become one of the most popular items in the confections aisle and a key driver for category growth.”

Trident Vibes was also one of the few products to post gains among the Top 20 brands IRI tracks. Available in Tropical Beat, Spearmint Rush, Peppermint Wave and Sour Berry Twist flavors, it pulled in $46.58 million in the 52 weeks ending June 14. That’s up 4.5 percent from a year ago.

Launched in 2018, the soft-chew gum also won a 2020 Product of the Year Award in the gum category.