At a time when many consumers are turning to preventative care in effort to save money, sales of chewing gums that promise dental benefits are on the climb. Armed with novel ingredients and/or a seal of approval from the American Dental Association (ADA), several gums do more than just offer a pleasant chewing experience. They are part of an evolving oral care category that features gum as a key component in the fight against cavities, whitening teeth and killing the germs that cause bad breath.
In a recent report on the oral care market, research firm Packaged Facts summed up consumers' increased reliance on sugarless gum: "As long as the deep economic recession lasts, millions of Americans will think of saving money on postponed visits to the dentist, every time they select a chewing gum."
Packaged Facts also confirmed that sales of gums with oral health claims are expected to grow by 40% over the next five years.
According to Information Resources Inc., sales of sugarless gums grew to more than $2.2 billion, representing a 6% jump from last year. Sales of sugarless gum have also eclipsed sales of traditional gums: about 80% of gum currently sold is sugarless gum, compared with 48% in 1998.
Those gums bearing a seal from the ADA essentially confirm to consumers that the physical action of chewing the gum 20 minutes after food consumption will stimulate saliva flow, which "helps to prevent cavities by reducing plaque acids and strengthening teeth." Saliva contains naturally-occurring calcium and phosphate, which strengthen tooth enamel.
"The oral care segment is the largest segment of the gum category, and its growth is outpacing the category," said Kathy Beyer Di Benedetto, manager, corporate communication USA, Cadbury North America, Parsippany, NJ, who added that her company's Trident Xtra Care gums are among the types of products that "tap into the 'make it healthy'/ wellness trend, which experts generally agree will continue to drive consumer behavior in the future."
Trident Xtra Care made headlines when it was launched last year because it was the first chewing gum to contain Recaldent, a patented form of milk-derived calcium that helps to actively rebuild, strengthen and protect teeth.The calcium in Recaldent, while it provides no dietary value, was specially designed to be absorbed directly into tooth enamel, unlike regular calcium, which must be consumed."Recaldent helps replace minerals to weakened tooth enamel, where cavities can begin to form," said Ms. Di Benedetto. "Chewing Trident Xtra Care leaves teeth more resistant to plaque acids because it contains Recaldent."
Trident Xtra Care isn't the only gum touting a unique, tooth-friendly ingredient. Wrigley's Eclipse gum contains magnolia bark extract (MBE), a natural ingredient said to help kill the germs that cause bad breath without affecting taste. The germ-killing benefits of MBE, which has origins in traditional Chinese medicine, were revealed by a 2007 Wrigley study. Two compounds, called "magnolol" and "honokiol," which occur naturally in MBE, are responsible for the ingredient's germ-killing properties.
In lab tests, MBE killed virtually all oral bacteria, including two types that cause bad breath and a third that causes cavities. Volunteers who had gum or breath mints containing MBE after a meal showed a greater reduction in bad-breath bacteria than those who were given regular gum or mints.
Though MBE and Recaldent are two ingredients with different mechanisms for oral health, they've been at the center of a claim war pitting Wrigley against Cadbury, which culminated with both companies filing challenges with the National Advertising Division (NAD) of the Better Business Bureau (BBB) last year. At issue is Eclipse's MBE germ killing claim, which the advertising panel ruled should be "discontinued or modified to indicate that there is emerging evidence as to MBE's germ-killing capability without expressly or by implication communicating that there is credible scientific evidence that the gum has been proven to kill the germs that cause bad breath." Wrigley filed an appeal, the status of which the company declined to comment on.
The action against Cadbury's advertising claim that its Trident Xtra Care gum builds tooth enamel is also unresolved, having been routed to the FTC. An official ruling has not yet been issued and Cadbury declined to comment on the status of the proceedings.
Growing Gum Sales
Bickering aside, Cadbury's Ms. Di Benedetto said the biggest opportunity for gum growth relies upon educating more consumers about the benefits of sugar free gum as part of their daily oral care regimen. "The current target is consumers 18-54 and those who are more aware of and seek products with these types of benefits," she said. "The future target over time is much bigger-the rest of the world, especially developing markets where we're seeing tremendous growth. "
Ms. Di Benedetto also highlighted the importance of her company's professional program in disseminating that information. Cadbury's program "leverages the dental community (hygienists and dentists) and educates them on the functional benefits of chewing Trident sugar free gum," she said. "Part of this program includes participating in association meetings such as the American Dental Association, the International Association of Dental Research, among others."
This month some 4 million sample packs of Trident Xtra Care gum will be distributed to dental patients in an effort to boost the brand's cache as a potent oral care companion to tooth brushing and flossing in the war against cavities.