Forward-thinking breath freshener brands combine inviting packaging concepts with innovative flavor profiles at affordable price points to meet the impulse desires of mobile Americans.

Today’s breath fresheners are “fresh and exciting,” to quote Kool & the Gang, from the way they taste to the way they look. The product category also has withstood the difficulties of a down economy, posting modest growth in 2009, according to a February 2010 report from Chicago-based market researcher Mintel.

The sustainability of breath fresheners at retail stems largely from “desirable” price points that encourage consumers “to buy them without feeling like they are greatly impacting the family budget,” Mintel notes. Breath fresheners remain an impulse purchase, but one that won’t break the bank. Mintel predicts that sales of gum, mints and breath fresheners as a whole will continue to grow through 2014, topping $1.5 billion in 2013.

Innovative varieties and packaging also have contributed to successful sales in all distribution channels, from supermarkets to convenience stores.

“What may have once been considered an exotic flavor is now moving into the mainstream of gum and mint categories,” Mintel reports, adding that emerging trends include Latin and Asian flavors as well as superfruits such as pomegranate, lychee, acaí berry and guava, among others. More durable, portable, functional containers for U.S. consumers’ always on-the-go lifestyles also are leading the way.

Fresh Flavors

Altoids Curiously Strong Mintsfrom The Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co. are top-of-mind when one thinks of fresh breath. This month,Altoids Smalls Simply Mint makes its debut, joining Peppermint, Wintergreen and Cinnamon as the fourth flavor of Altoids Smalls, which offers 50 mints in a 0.37-oz. tin that is smaller and more portable than the traditional product.

Other recently introduced flavors from Altoids push the envelope toward more trendsetting tastes, particularly its Cool Honey offering, “a sweetly unconventional alternative to breath freshening,” according to Wrigley.

Altoids has a history of pioneering distinctive flavors,” the company explains, “and new Cool Honey is one of the first in the category to capture the emerging trend of herbal, spice and botanical flavor choices, while providing the strong, fresh flavor consumers expect from Altoids.”

Another well-known breath freshener, Ferreros USA’s Tic Tac brand now comes in two flavors that address both classic and increasingly popular fruit flavors: Tic Tac Powermint and Tic Tac Green Apple. Orange, Cherry Passion and Melon Mango are other Tic Tac varieties that reflect interest in non-mint breath fresheners.

Cinnamon is yet another sought-after profile that manufacturers such as Wrench Mints have embraced. The company currently offers its novel product, which comes in a wrench-shaped tin that appeals to manly sensibilities, in three flavors: Spearmint, Cinnamon and Candy Cane.

“When I developed the flavors, I wanted to make sure they appealed to mainstream America,” Wrench Mints co-founder and ceo Eddy Rubin noted in the February issue of Candy Industry.

Mainstream America certainly is broadening its acceptance of non-mint breath fresheners, particularly fruit, which is all the rage.

New offerings from Big Sky Brands are “fresh as a summer breeze,” as Kool sings. Just ask Steve Yacht, principal and director of sales & marketing for the company.

“There has been a movement in the chewing gum category away from over-the-top intense peppermint, wintergreen and cinnamon flavors toward a wide variety of fruit flavors offering a more pleasantly refreshing taste,” Yacht notes. “Sugar-free has also effectively taken over the market.”

To that end, the Toronto-based company formed an exclusive licensing agreement with Sunkist Growers, Inc. to create the Sunkist Citrus Burst line, a sugar-free formulation made with 100% natural flavors.

“We are the only brand in the gum and mint category that can make this claim,” Yacht asserts.

Flavors for the line were inspired by Sunkist’s specialty citrus varietals, including Valencia Orange, Ruby Red Grapefruit, Eureka Lemon and Key Lime. A proprietary blend of ingredients makes for a light cooling effect, resulting in a refreshing alternative to typical breath mints. The product is packed in sleek metallic containers with colorful, eye-catching designs.

Exciting Aesthetics

Speaking of packaging, what makes today’s breath fresheners so exciting is not just flavor, but appearance. In addition to the convenience ofAltoids Smalls, the shapeliness of Wrench Mintsand the sleek colors ofSunkist Citrus Burst, new products bring a sense of humor as well as social and environmental responsibility to the mix.

Brother Can You Spare a Mint? asks The Unemployed Philosophers Guild, whose thusly named breath freshener is aimed at Americans affected by the “Great Recession,” says company co-owner Dave Shaw. Another introduction, Obamamints (“Yes, we candy”), follows those same lines.

“Our mints are all about the names and concepts in the packaging,” Shaw explains, adding that “the target consumer is educated, with a sense of humor.”

When asked to comment on changes in the breath freshener category, Shaw responds in good humor: “The only trends we address are political ones.” Other breath fresheners from the satirical company include Anti-Establish Mints (“Liberté, Fraternité & Minty Freshness”) and Atonemints (“For each of your sins”).

According to, “Although we still contemplate truth and justice, it is our enduring goal to fulfill the materialistic desires of the funny and sophisticated everywhere!”

In addition, the company donates a significant portion of its profits ($50,000 last year, according to the Web) to non-profit, progressive organizations such as The Center for Justice and Accountability, Women for Afghan Women, Kids for a Better Future, Doctors Without Borders and New Yorkers Against Gun Violence.

Corporate responsibility to both social causes and environmental concerns is a growing trend in all confectionery categories, including this one.

Case in point: Consumers who wish to refresh and recycle can turn toTic Tac, which recently underwent a “minty makeover” with the introduction of new packaging made from polypropylene - a flexible, recyclable plastic that reduces the product’s carbon footprint.

As always, Tic Tac will come in the transparent package for which it’s known, and the signature mints will still rattle when the box is shaken, “but with a softer, more muted sound,” according to By changing the packaging polystyrene (Resin ID Code 6) to polypropylene (Resin ID Code 5) in the U.S. market, the Tic Tac brand will improve recyclability, reduce plastic use by 296 tons per year, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 44% and energy use by 34%. 

“No plastic is too small to recycle or repurpose,” company literature states. “Every little bit can add up to a big impact on the environment.” 

Tic Tac reminds consumers to be green and recycle through its Web site, which even offers a means to locate local recycling centers and suggestions for repurposing empty Tic Tac containers.

Tic Tac also has added an improved hermetic closure to its flip-top lid for even greater product freshness, a subtle but no less exciting move in this “Kool” category.