When Americans mix more after the bad days of the COVID-19 pandemic, they are also chewing more gum to keep their breath fresh, including 15 million more packages in May than in January.
Chewing gum, which comes out of a brutal year for retail sales, is back in demand when Americans start taking off their masks – and they don’t always like what they feel.
As easing restrictions and vaccination rates increase, rubber sales in the United States have recently begun to grow, NielsenIQ data show. The nascent revolution followed two straight years of declines for the 12-month periods ending in May, with consumer signal behavior slowly returning to normal.
The recovery in rubber spending is a welcome change for the likes of Trident-maker Mondelez International Inc., Mars Inc.’s Wrigley and Tootsie Roll Industries Inc., the maker of Dubble Bubble.
And it’s not just inflation that drives the jump in total sales, even if prices are rising by the unit they are also high. The average package of rubber sold in May was $ 2.11, data show, up from $ 2.05 at the beginning of the year. The number of packages sold has also increased, with Americans purchasing nearly 15 million more rubber packages in May compared to January 2021 levels.
The demand for rubber withdrew during the pandemic for obvious reasons: Americans did not often go home or socialize, and demanding masks more than six feet apart meant consumers did not need minty freshness as in pre-pandemic times. The nascent rebound in recent weeks also reflects comparisons with the first few weeks of the 2020 lockdowns, when demand for some non-essential items plummeted sharply, meaning there is even more room to grow.
Mondelez did return to pre-Covid levels of the “first priority” of rubber business, said Luca Zaramella, chief financial officer, at a conference last month. The rubber unit could be ripe for a sale if it is not picked up again. “We need to adjust the business and then potentially assess whether there are other ways for us to create more value for Mondelez’s shareholders.”
Mondelez, Mars and Tootsie Roll did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Last year’s limited consumer mobility particularly affected the category, as “75% of rubber consumption is on the road,” Dirk Van De Put, CEO of Mondelez, said in a conference at the end of 2020. “Whether you’re on public transport or in your car, at work, you’re out – it’s typically moments of rubber consumption. But we’ve also seen that in a crisis, there’s a lot more stress and anxiety and gum can be a relief ”.