Candy and Snack TODAY — September/October 2011
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Breath Mints Offering Confidence, Convenience

Consumers want breath mints that offer the assurance their breath will be fresh in any situation. And while traditional flavors dominate, fruit is a player getting more attention from shoppers.

CONVENIENCE AND CONFIDENCE are two dominating themes in the breath mint segment, and both are apparent in the products from the three companies that represent approximately 89 percent of sales in the $450 million sector.

Consumers, these segment leaders tell Candy & Snack TODAY, want packs to be handy and durable while also reflecting the fun and flavor of the products.

For Ferrero USA, the packaging and pillshaped mints are all part of the Tic Tac brand, says J. Noah Szporn, category manager of Tic Tac. The brand leads the segment with $110.5 million in sales for the 52 weeks ending July 10, a 7.6 percent increase from the year prior, according to SymphonyIRI Group, Inc.

“The packaging is as inherent as the product,” Szporn notes. A key driver for breath mint purchases is convenience, and he says Tic Tac meets that demand because packs fit easily into pockets and purses. Also, the plastic, fliptop containers are sturdy enough not to get crushed during regular use.

The clear packs also help reinforce the flavors and add on-shelf impact, Szporn says.

While marketers use packaging to help develop and freshen a brand’s image, respondents to Mintel Group, Ltd.’s custom consumer survey took a more pragmatic approach. When asked what the biggest improvement is that they would like to see with regard to packaging, nearly half cited packaging that recloses better or is easier to open.

Recognizing this demand, Jeff Beckman, director of corporate communications for The Hershey Co., explains Ice Breakers packaging, called pucks, snap shut to maintain the product’s freshness. “Also, the puck is a good shape to keep in your purse or pocket,” he adds, which plays into the convenience factor. The design is also a distinguishing feature, helping it grab attention on shelves.

Ice Breakers rank second in the segment, earning $90.9 million in sales for the year ending July 10, a 7.3 percent increase from the year prior, according to SymphonyIRI.

“Consumers want the convenience of having mints available at a moment’s notice,” Jennifer Jackson-Luth, Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co., senior manager, marketing communications, says, adding: “As a result, it’s key to provide our products in durable packaging such as tins or plastic to maintain their integrity.”

Elaborating, Jackson-Luth says Life Savers Mints Bottles, which contain 2.7 ounces of mints in plastic containers with a pour spout, are designed to fit in car cup holders and sit on desks and tables. She says the packaging protects the mints from damage.

Jackson-Luth claims any product form or packaging that is portable and easy to grab and go is popular.

Further, she says offering a selection of Life Savers packaging is beneficial, giving consumers options for different occasions. “For example, some consumers enjoy peg bags because they can keep it in a drawer and then grab a few for a purse or pocket when they are on the go,” she says. Also, standup bags contain more product appeal to those looking to purchase in bulk and for candy dishes.

Breath mint packaging primarily needs to communicate taste and freshness, depending on the proposition of function, flavor or taste experience, Jackson-Luth says. For the company’s Altoids brand, she says consumers appreciate the durability of the tin as well as the look and nostalgia.

Arthur Pratz, vice-president of sales for C. Howard Co., asserts nostalgic items are increasingly appealing — “and Violet fits into that,” he says of the company’s Violet mints, which have a floral flavor and fragrance, and come in foil packs with vintage graphics. “It’s a love or hate item,” he claims, but notes it appeals to a broad consumer base.

It also draws shoppers looking for a different taste profile — “People see the violet flavor and wonder what it tastes like,” Pratz says.

Taste Factors In Mint Purchases
Flavor is critical, Ferrero’s Szporn says, though more on the fruit side than the mint side. He says mint consumers are more willing to switch flavors because mints are about freshening breath, but consumers are more particular when it comes to other varieties.

Szporn says flavor blends and fusions are increasingly important to the segment, and notes Ferrero’s Fruit Adventure and Peach Fusion Tic Tac varieties are doing well.

Further, most flavor innovation is happening on the fruit side, while the mint side is focusing on functionality and efficacy. For example, the company’s Power Mint is more about breath freshening strength than flavor.

The flavor strength of Ice Breakers Frost, according to Hershey’s Beckman, appeals to a broad consumer group, and stretches to those ages 35 and older, while the brand’s Sours most often attract a younger demographic. “Ice Breakers Sours consumers tend to be young adults who want a more ‘entertaining’ mouth experience,” he says, adding the item helps expand the brand footprint, offering an option for another purchasing occasion.

Beckman says newer flavors tend to be more fruit-focused, “and consumers see that as a great alternative to the traditional mint flavors.” He reveals the company will introduce fruitflavored Ice Breakers next year. “We’ve tested these with consumers and they’ve given these new products rave reviews,” he claims.

Mintel notes what might have once been considered exotic flavors are now moving into the mainstream of gum and mint categories. “Consumers have shown the ability and willingness to quickly adopt new flavor profiles as they are snapping up new fruit flavors and experimenting with interesting combinations in the gum and mint world,” the researcher says.

Similarly, Pratz says as the Hispanic population in the U.S. grows, so does the availability of fruit-flavored mints. The company introduced Guava for winter 2009/2010, which straddles the line between candy and mint, he admits. “It doesn’t have a peppermint background, but it can fall into the mint category,” he clarifies.

Function, Confidence Are Critical
While flavor is a significant element in mint purchasing decisions, Hershey’s Beckman claims: “For a large percentage of consumers, functional benefits such as eliminating or reducing bad breath are the only reason they buy mints, therefore it is key to have products in the line, such as BreathSaver and Ice Breakers Frost, which meet that need,” he concludes.

The company’s Frost line features flavor and cooling crystals. “This is our technological advantage over our competition and will be part of any innovation we launch for Ice Breakers,” Beckman says.

Consumers are looking for confidence, Ferrero’s Szporn says, and that comes from knowing that in social situations, mints are close at hand to freshen breath. “It gives the security that you can be at your best and confident in any situation,” he explains.

Jackson-Luth says most consumers are inclined to purchase mints when they feel they need breath freshening, with usage occasions such as after meals, prior to meetings or before dates — “anytime they anticipate they will be in close proximity to other people,” she notes.

Jacqui Rosshandler, president of Jacquii, LLC, offers Eatwhatever mints, a two-part system of gel caps filled with organic peppermint that are meant to be swallowed and a more traditional breath mint. The product targets young, single consumers who eat out often, date, travel, and want to make sure they have fresh breath, she says, adding consumers in professions that put them in close contact with clients are a particular target.

In addition to security and fresh breath, Szporn says Tic Tac also offers fun, which he claims is a distinguishing factor among competitors in the segment. “We have different fun flavors, the pills are visually fun and the way they shake in the packs is fun. It’s all about enjoyment,” he says.

The company reinforces these elements through its advertising. He says: “The whole insight for us is mouth entertainment,” and notes the brand’s ad campaign, running since 2005, shows people juggling Tic Tacs into their mouths. “It’s been a nice way to add energy to the brand,” he says of the international campaign.

Ferrara Pan Candy Co., Inc. is offering Great Bite, mints that come in packs with great white shark graphics on flip-top containers that appear to have bites taken out of them. Brand Manager Andrew Paulson says packs deliver strong shelf impact. Further, the same design is featured on the pill-shaped mints, which look as if a bite has been taken out of each (see our Ferrara Pan News Exclusive, page 44).

“It’s a very unique package and piece design,” says Paulson.

Mark Callahan, vice-president of sales and marketing for Amusemints, LLC, says the company makes mints that come in novelty tins for seasonal and everyday purchases. “From our perspective, we’re gifts and collectibles,” Callahan says, noting product packs highlight all the Las Vegas hotels and license Garfield, Betty Boop and Elvis, and some are packed in tins that resemble shopping bags.

Amusemints also offers mints in tins that double as games, such as in its puzzle line, which features tin tops with metal balls that can be manipulated into divots. This item helped the company get placement in Toys R’ Us and other retailers.

Callahan says some consumers buy the tins because they think the packs are cute and pick them up as a gift.

It’s mostly women between the ages of 20 and 35 making the purchases, and Callahan notes income and education don’t factor in because the price point — between $2.99 and $3.99 — is affordable even with low disposable income.

Focusing on value, Great Bite one-ounce packs have a SRP of 79 cents. Paulson says: “Great Bite breath mints enable all retailers throughout the supply chain to carry a brand that can help in lowering their market basket price as well as offering consumers a great choice and a great value in the segment.”

Broad Media Push Reaches Targets
The target demographic for breath mints is consumers ages 18 to 35, according to Ferrero. Millennials are a critical growing segment of the population and they engage in media differently than previous generations, Szporn says. “These consumers have the mindset of always being connected,” he reveals, adding: “Brands that effectively understand that and reach them outside traditional means will be successful.”

Social media is an important element in breath mint advertising, he says. “It engages consumers in ways other media can’t,” and notes the Shake & Share campaign is promoted through Facebook. “The reality is consumers want to gain something from coming and sharing with you,” and offers coupons, contests and giveaways as examples.

Altoids consumers are typically adults looking for strong mint flavor, and while Altoids advertising reaches the brand’s target audience through social media, Wrigley finds consumers can also be reached through traditional print ads.

Beckman says while demographics vary by product, Ice Breakers skew toward the 18-to-34- year-old crowd with an even balance between men and women.

Forecasting Future Growth
Despite the tough economic climate, Mintel found gum, mints and breath fresheners have shown modest growth, remaining fairly recession-resistant because of their low price point.

That lower price point means inflation is less of a factor, the researcher claims. “These products still have a desirable price point that encourages consumers to buy them without feeling like they are greatly impacting the family budget,” Mintel says.

According to the researcher’s predictions, the sector will continue to enjoy modest growth through 2014, with sales expected to top $1.5 billion by 2013.