More Bad News For Chewing Gum

Chewing gum sales continue to stagnate post-pandemic.

Ever since we started wearing masks and eliminated close-talking from our social habits, our need for chewing gum has dropped significantly, along with our desire for it. The Associated Press reports that since the onset of COVID-19 in 2020, chewing gum sales have dropped by as much as a third—and even now, in 2024, they've barely seen any rebound. What does this mean for chewing gum's future?


Chewing gum sales are still lagging

U.S. chewing gum sales have been rising, just at a snail's pace. Unit sales went up by less than 1% last year, totaling about 1.2 billion units, which is still 32% less than the amount moved in 2018.

Sales in terms of dollar value are now back to pre-pandemic totals, but that's due in part to (you guessed it) inflation. Global chewing gum sales rose 5% to over $16 billion in business, but that number is still 10% below 2018's numbers.


Chewing gum has lost its appeal to many people

Chewing gum's reputation is in limbo right now, because more people are trying to do things like curb their sugar and carbohydrate intake, which means sugary bubble gum is out for them. And there are those who also avoid artificial sweeteners due to the belief that they're bad for you (see the Diet Coke controversy).


There's also the fact that people are more mindful about how gum contributes to littering these days. Singapore even banned chewing gum in 1992 due to the way it had caused a mess on public transit.

How chewing gum brands are approaching the problem

Some companies are simply selling off their chewing gum brands, such as Mondelez International, which in 2022 offloaded its cash register staples Chiclets, Bubblicious (a childhood favorite of mine), Dentyne, and Trident to Amsterdam-based company Perfetti Van Melle. Other companies are simply shuttering their chewing gum brands altogether, as we saw earlier this year when Ferrara Candy Company axed Fruit Stripe gum.


But it's not all doom and gloom. For some companies, it's simply a matter of rethinking marketing plans.

Mars Inc., which owns the Wrigley brand, is hoping to change our notion of gum as something we absentmindedly chew on to cure stinky breath and boredom. Instead, it's pushing the product into wellness territory—mental wellness, to be exact. It's touting chewing gum as a way for people to relieve stress, or to keep up their concentration. Come to think of it, I'm pretty sure I chewed gum while studying in college, so I suppose that approach isn't entirely out of left field. I've never personally thought of gum as a stress reliever, but some people in the process of quitting smoking use it this way.


Chewing gum as a category isn't going away; you just might see it positioned as something other than a breath enhancer going forward. Or it could take on more of a new-age healthy sort of vibe, touting different ingredients and flavor profiles. At this point, the major brands will try just about anything to make us reach for a pack of gum once again.