Chewing gum makes a comeback as masks come off in the USA

July 5, 2021

Chewing gum, coming off a brutal year for retail sales, is back in demand as American start taking off their masks, Crain’s Chicago Business reports.

As restrictions ease and vaccination rates rise, U.S. gum sales have recently started rising, data from NielsenIQ show. The pickup in gum spending is a welcome change for the likes of Chicago-based Trident-maker Mondelez International; Virginia-based Mars’ Wrigley; and Chicago-based Tootsie Roll Industries, the manufacturer of Dubble Bubble.

And it’s not just inflation driving the jump in total sales, although prices are up per unit are also up. The average pack of gum sold in May was $2.11, the data show—up from $2.05 at the start of the year. The number of packs sold is also up, with Americans purchasing nearly 15 million more packs of gum in May compared to January 2021 levels.

Gum demand pulled back during the pandemic for clear reasons: Americans weren’t frequently leaving the house or socializing, and required masking plus six-foot distancing meant consumers weren’t in need of minty freshness like in pre-pandemic times. The nascent rebound in recent weeks also reflects comparisons to the early weeks of the 2020 lockdowns, when demand for many non-essentials pulled back sharply, meaning there’s still more room to grow.

Chicago-based Mondelez has made returning near pre-COVID levels the gum business’s “number one priority,” Chief Financial Officer Luca Zaramella said at a conference last month. The gum unit could be ripe for a sale if it doesn’t recover further. “We have to fix the business and then potentially assess whether there are other avenues for us to create more value for Mondelez’s shareholders.”

Mondelez, Mars, and Tootsie Roll didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

Research contact: @CrainsChicago

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