Heated Gum Battle Breaks Out

Blitz wants to take on Jolt, Mad Croc, other energy gums; 7-Eleven to roll out XLR8

Published in CSP Daily News

MILWAUKEE -- Following on the success of energy drinks such as Red Bull, the confection industry is unveiling an array of products that promise an energy boost, reported The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Milwaukee-based Schuster Marketing, the maker of Blitz Power Mints, is hoping to get a piece of the caffeinated action with a new gum product. It unveiled Blitz Energy Gum at the All Candy Expo trade show in Chicago earlier this month. The company is aiming Blitz Energy Gum at people who want to stay awake without using caffeinated drinks that prompt frequent [image-nocss] trips to the bathroom.

Schuster developed the new gum to revitalize sales, which have suffered in recent years as consumers turned from breath mints to breath strips to freshen up after a spicy meal, said the report.

There is a big opportunity for the new category, the newspaper said, citing statistics from The NPD Group, a Port Washington, N.Y., research firm. A recent report listed chewing gum as the No. 1 snack for adult men and women. "I expect that marketers will continue to look to provide adults with new offerings of gum and candy as these are the most popular snack," said NPD vice president Harry Balzer.

According to the newspaper, the sugar-free chewing gum segment has been one of the fastest growing confection categories in the past three years, based on data from Information Resources Inc. (IRI), Chicago. In the last 12 months, sugarless gum sales have jumped 10%, said IRI.

Blitz Energy Gum, as well as an earlier product, Blitz Power Gum, is sweetened with Splenda, an artificial sweetener.

Energy drinks such as Red Bull also are gaining fast, according to IRI statistics, the report said.

The challenge for Schuster is to get its gum into stores, and to compete against Jolt Caffeine Energy Gum, a similar product that was introduced two years ago and achieved national distribution last year, the report said. Convenience and specialty stores are the venue of choice for both gum-makers.

Jolt gum's head start makes it tougher for Schuster's Blitz Energy Gum, said the report, but co-owner Steve Schuster is hoping his cold compression manufacturing process will give his product an edge. The process, which is the same as that used to make prescription drugs, compresses the caffeine into the gum, rather than in the coating. This allows the caffeine dosage to be uniform throughout the product, Schuster said. "With compression technology, 80% to 90% of the ingredients are released," he told the paper.

Blitz Energy Gum will launch at 7-Eleven stores nationwide on September 5, Richard Hadland, corporate procurement manager for the chain, told the Journal Sentinel.

7-Eleven put caffeinated gum into its stores for the first time last year with the introduction of Mad Croc, named to play off the chain's Mad Croc energy drink, it said. Mad Croc is the result of a collaboration between 7-Eleven and Nutravail Technologies Inc. Advantage Sales & Marketing Convenience has been appointed to represent Mad Croc Energy Gum. Two pieces of Mad Croc gum deliver the boost of an 8-oz. energy drink, the company said, with a 35-cent-per-serving cost versus a $2-per-serving cost for an energy drink. It comes in three flavors: Power Peppermint, Cinnamon Kick and Spiked Spearmint.

The energy gums appeals to both male and female consumers from 18 to 35, Hadland said. There are two selling points: Gum is cheaper than energy drinks, andusers will not need to stop what they aredoing and find a bathroom. "You're going to see more and more of these functional items," Hadland said.

In October, 7-Eleven will add a new energy candy, XLR8, that is similar to a Starburst candy but contains caffeine and B vitamins, the report added. XLR8 will be marketed to NASCAR fans, with a photo of Dale Earnhardt Jr. on the package.