By most accounts, the discovery of chewing gum was an accident. This penny-apiece accident, however, now generates $15 billion dollars a year in sales worldwide.
Now it's time to put gum to the test, research that is, and what company is better suited to lead the charge than Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co. Earlier this year, the 115-year-old company formed the Wrigley Science Institute (WSI). The reason? "Chewing gum tastes great and is a great way to freshen breath and improve oral health. In addition, there is promising research to suggest that chewing gum may offer some exciting additional health, wellness and lifestyle benefits," the company said in a press release. The ultimate goal of the WSI is to study whether chewing gum may help consumers as a tool in weight management, stress relief and increasing alertness and concentration.
Over the years, the company has listened to many anecdotal stories regarding the health benefits of gum from its consumers, which is what prompted it to delve deeper into the science of chewing gum.
According Wrigley, the WSI is the first organization of its kind to focus on advancing the research and understanding of the benefits of chewing gum. In 2006 alone, the WSI expects to support over 10 groundbreaking studies. This new research includes three to four studies in the U.S. and U.K. to investigate the potential role of chewing gum on appetite control and weight management, three studies in the U.K. to study the role chewing gum may have in increasing focus and concentration, and three studies in the U.S. and U.K. to assess how chewing gum may help reduce stress. WSI is hoping it will be able to report the results of some of these studies later this year.
But will this research effort pay off for the company? Will the science really stick with consumers? Back in 2003, Wrigley had to shut down a $10 million operation dedicated to a product called Surpass, an antacid gum. It was supposed to launch other such products, but due to poor sales of the flagship antacid gum the project was abandoned. These days the company is steering away from taking a "medicinal" approach to gum, and touting more of a "wellness" benefit. In fact, the current "functional" gums in its portfolio include items like Orbit White, which has been proven to whiten and remove stains from teeth. Overseas, the company sells a version of its Juicy Fruit gum laced with vitamin C. In addition, the company says it is always exploring new, innovative opportunities in this vein.
According to NPD Group Snack Track, in 2005, chewing gum was the number one snack choice among U.S. adults aged 18 to 54. And Wrigley believes results from these new studies may provide even more motivation for consumers to chew gum.