Breath Fresheners

Estimated U.S. Retail Market Size

$5.3 billion
Source: Mintel, a market research firm in Chicago

Category Climate
Marketers can smile over the breath freshener category, but not too widely. The $5.3 billion gum, mints and breath freshener market grew 19 percent between 2001 and 2006, but in constant dollars, this represents only 4 percent, according to Mintel. The latest category report from the company reveals that the slow market movement may stem from the fact that new concepts, which major manufacturers continue to develop at high-speed rates, tend to cannibalize share, rather than expand it.
Mints aren’t in the “mint condition” they were a few years ago. Sales, by themselves, showed some strength, but breath fresheners of all forms declined. Apparently, there is a blurring of the lines between plain mints and breath mints, which will inevitably merge the two and reduce shelf space, especially since many products do double-duty as breath fresheners and candy. Mints are still seen as an “old-fashioned” sub-segment; the chewing gum sector is viewed as more dynamic, appealing to a younger audience.
Target Audience
Historically, the category has certainly favored youth. Typically, the 18-34-year-old-set is the prime target of most manufacturers in the category, thank to this age group’s willingness to try new items frequently. But the market may have to rethink that as Boomers move into their senior years and “functional” and reduced-sugar products become part of the equation. This doesn’t mean the younger set should be ignored, by any means—just greatly expanded.
Product Innovation/Packaging
New product and packaging ideas are rampant in the category. Clearly, this can be a strength and a weakness. Functional and fortified option are still expected to take the segment to levels it has not yet seen, with at least one new player from the dental industry claiming its product will attack the root causes of bad breath.
“Power” mints and gum containing value-added ingredients such as caffeine, guarana and ginseng, are still expected to help grow sales, as are “energy” products that build on the excitement of the energy drink category. Low-sugar options across the category will continue to attract an older crowd and women consumers.
In packaging for mints, on-the-go clips and dual-openings (utilizing a traditional flip-top, as well as a sliding door for easier access) are expected to keep younger consumers interested.
Merchandising/Seasonal Opportunities
Fresh breath is socially desirable for any age group/any demographic. Yet retailers are not taking full advantage of the many cross-merchandising opportunities that the category is perfect for, especially given the small space ancillary displays take up. High-traffic locations, typically around the perimeter of the store—near the dairy case, in the produce section, at the pharmacy counter, adjacent to the bakery—are obvious choices to capture consumers. The category has to move beyond the checkout aisles now that self-checkouts (typically without candy and gum selections) are gaining popularity.
The oral fixators such as dieters and smokers could be targeted more intentionally, resulting in more incremental sales. Experts say the mint and chewing gum market could receive a definite boost as smoking bans come into effect across the country. It makes sense to offer an extra-heavy selection of mints and gum alongside tobacco displays and diet foods. The chewing gum and mint market witness a sales spike each year during the first four weeks of Lent as people give up smoking and chocolate. Additional sales peaks are also seen around the New Year when folks are dieting. These two “holidays” are the perfect time for special promotions and outposts. Smokers and dieters are increasingly looking for alternatives to cigarettes and snacks, especially at work or in public places.
From now until 2011, Mintel expects total U.S. retail sales of gum, mints, and breath fresheners to grow at an annual average rate of 3.6% in current terms and increase 0.3% in constant terms. However, the potential for increasing health issues suffered by an aging population could bode well for functional gum or mint products. There may also be opportunities for non-medical interventions such as OTC gum or mints that hydrate the mouth or provide antioxidants, minerals or vitamins.
Quick Bites
• There is growth in the overall market, but it has slowed.

• Breath fresheners favor the young with constant innovation.

• Functional and fortified options are starting to attract a more senior consumer.

• Smokers and dieters should be singled-out and cross-merchandised to.

• Stay tuned for more non-medical “health” interventions.