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The Wrigley name dominates the global chewing gum industry. Family-controlled for more than 100 years, Wrigley had established a leading position in just about every country in the world by the early 2000s, with market share that ranged from 60% in the US to 80% or more in some European territories. Its brands, which include Extra, Doublemint, Juicy Fruit and Hubba Bubba bubblegum, are sold in more than 140 countries around the world. However the group began to face intense competition from several rivals, not least Cadbury, which had begun to piece together its own global footprint in the sector. As a result, Wrigley expanded its interests into other confectionery sectors, including breath mints and more traditional sugar confectionery. The results of that strategy were mixed, however, and instead Wrigley agreed in 2008 to surrender its independence to chocolate giant Mars, also privately owned, for a whopping $23bn. The company now operates as a standalone unit of Mars with responsibility for its own products as well as the Mars portfolio of sugar confectionery brands, such as Skittles and Starburst.
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Wrigley's main competitors in the chewing gum market are Mondelez worldwide and Lotte in Asia. Competitors in breath mints and related products include Perfetti. See Confectionery Sector index for other companies.
Mars announced plans to acquire Wrigley in April 2008. The price tag was around $23bn in cash, mostly funded out of its own resources, but supported by $5.7bn of debt finance from Goldman Sachs and $4.4bn from billionaire investor Warren Buffett. The latter's Berkshire Hathaway holding company acquired a 19% shareholding in the Wrigley division for around $2bn. The parties completed the deal at the end of 2008, at which point control of Mars' sugar confectionery brands, including Skittles and Starburst, transferred to Wrigley, which maintained a separate identity as well as its own headquarters in Chicago. Berkshire Hathaway's stake was later bought out by Mars.
Wrigley remains the world's leading manufacturer of chewing gum. The company has more than 20 factories worldwide: four in the US, and another seventeen around the globe. It is the clear leader in the US, China and Russia as well as in most European markets. However Wrigley began to come under intense pressure from competitor Cadbury (now Mondelez) after the British company acquired the Adams gum and mints business in 2002. Following its acquisition by Kraft it launched a series of new products. As a result, Wrigley's share has slipped from around 68% in early 2005 to a low of 57% in 2010. In 2011, according to SymphonyIRI data, Wrigley had reclaimed 58% share by value (to Kraft/Mondelez's 34%). However, in around 20 European countries, where Orbit or Extra is generally its leading brand, the company has a virtual monopoly with share of 80% or higher. The UK is Wrigley's biggest market outside the US. Extra is the lead brand by far with around 65% share of the market (Nielsen 2012) and overall value share is estimated at almost 91%. In 2012, Euromonitor estimated global sales of Orbit at $2.5bn, and Extra at $2.2bn.
Like its ownership structure, the nature of the worldwide gum business has also changed significantly in recent years, pressured by the rapid growth of the breath-freshening mint market. Wrigley launched several products to combat this threat during the 1990s and early 2000s and also hastened a transition of many of the brands from old-fashioned strips into coated pellets, hard candies and drops. In the US, its portfolio is still led by its traditional "stick gum" products of Doublemint (the company's most international brand, available in 140 countries), Juicy Fruit, Spearmint, cinnamon flavoured Big Red. However, their popularity has waned with the rise of sugar-free products, such as sector pioneer Freedent (originally launched in 1975 for denture-wearers) and more recent Extra, as well as breath-freshening specialists Winterfresh and Eclipse. Orbit, already the leading sugarfree gum across Europe, was launched in the US in 2001. The latest addition to the gum portfolio was sugar-free 5, launched in 2007. It claims to offer a "unique sensory experience", enhanced by unusual wallet packaging and out-of-the-ordinary flavours which include Zing, Solstice and Lush.
In the early 2000s the group also widened its footprint with a largely unsuccessful excursion was into "Wellness" products. The company launched Surpass antacid gum in the US in 2001, but it was discontinued in 2003 as a result of disappointing sales. Airwaves, a decongestant gum, proved more successful, and is now available in several flavours and formats, mainly in Europe. A version of Orbit was launched in a partnership with Procter & Gamble, with the additional ingredient of a tooth-whitening compound. In a particularly intriguing development, the group registered a patent in 2003 to produce a chewing gum containing sildenafil citrate, the main ingredient in Viagra, as a specific treatment for erectile dysfunction.
The group also markets the Hubba Bubba bubble gum brand (including sub-brands Bubble Tape and Sweet Roll), Big League Chew and Everest powerful mint gum. Outside the US, it has a number of regional brands including X-Cite, PK, Ice White, Cool Crunch, Big Boy and others.
In 2013, Wrigley began testing a new caffeinated gum brand in the US under the name Alert Energy. Each stick contained approximately the same amount of caffeine as a cup of coffee. However, the FDA expressed concerns over its possible effect on children, and the product was withdrawn after only a month on-sale.
Although subsidiary company Amurol acquired breathmint brand Velamints in the US in 2001, the group's first big move into sugar confectionery came three years later. In 2004 Wrigley paid around $227m to acquire the worldwide confectionery businesses of Spain's Joyco Group, including Boomer bubble gum, Pim Pom lollipops and Solano candy. The group's portfolio was substantially enhanced towards the end of the year with the acquisition for around $1.5bn of Kraft's sugar confectionery business, which included Altoids and LifeSavers (and Creme Savers) in the US, and several European and Asian brands such as Trolli and chewy candy Sugus. Originally developed in London in the late 1700s as a stomach medicine, Altoids retained that positioning for several hundreds of years. The "curiously strong" tag was first used in the 1920s. However, their biggest success came in the 1990s, under Kraft's ownership, from a quirky marketing campaign which made them the best-selling mint in the US, supporting Life Savers, well-established as the country's best-selling sugar confectionery product.
However the most significant development in Wrigley's sugar portfolio came from the acquisition by Mars. As a result, the latter's Starburst and Skittles brands were transferred to the Wrigley operating division. Wrigley had already been looking for some time for ways to enter the worldwide chocolate market. In 2002 it came close to acquiring US giant Hershey until that company's controlling trust submitted to pressure from its workforce to stay independent.
In 2007, its last year as an independent company Wrigley reported revenues of $5.4bn, up 15%. Net earnings rose by 19% to $632m. Europe was the group's biggest region, contributing 49% of sales in 2007 and the largest share of operating income. The UK, France, Germany, Spain, Poland and Russia are all among Wrigley's 10 biggest markets. North America accounted for 33% of revenues. Wrigley's weakest region is Latin America, where Cadbury's Adams is the leading gum marketer.
In another break with its heritage, Wrigley quit its historic headquarters in the Wrigley Building in Chicago, and transferred all staff to the Wrigley Global Innovation Center on Goose Island on the Chicago river.
Bill Wrigley Jr, great-grandson of the company's founder, remained chairman of the company following its acquisition, but stepped down quietly at the beginning of 2010. Bill Perez, previously CEO, left the company at the end of 2008. Dushan "Duke" Petrovich succeeded him as de facto head of the company, becoming president. However, he retired in 2011 and was replaced by current president Martin Radvan. In 2016, Radvan was named as president of the merged Mars & Wrigley global confectionery division. Kenneth "Casey" Keller was promoted to president, global Wrigley.
Orla Mitchell is VP & global chief marketing officer, supported by John Starkey (VP, US gum & mints), Melanie Domer (VP, customer marketing & instore experience), Jami Guthrie (VP, global consumer & market intelligence & integrated marketing), John Kelly (senior marketing director & head of US confections), Matt Montei (senior marketing director, US confections), Shari Matras (marketing director, enjoyment platform & new products), Tyler Simpson (marketing director, Altoids, LifeSavers), Jean Carey (director, media & interactive) and Caroline Sherman (manager, US marketing communications).
The modern history of chewing gum dates back to the mid-19th century (although it was reportedly the ancient Greeks who first invented the habit). American colonists had learnt from the Indians how to carve spruce resin from the trees and chew it as a relaxant. By 1850, spruce gum had been superseded by commercially manufactured sweetened paraffin wax. This in turn was replaced by chicle, a milky latex derived from sapodilla trees grown in central and south America. By the early 1900s, chicle chewing gums were big business, with around 16 different companies marketing their own brands.
William Wrigley Jr was the son of a soap manufacturer who set up in business in Chicago, selling his father's brand of Wrigley Scouring Soap to stores, and offering gifts on bulk orders. When one gift, baking powder, went down particularly well, Wrigley dropped the soap to concentrate on that instead. But the next premium gift he supplied - two packs of chewing gum for every can of baking powder - did even better. Wrigley changed track again, and in 1892 started marketing the gum under his own name, as Wrigley's Lotta and Vassar brands. The following year, he introduced two new flavoured brands, Juicy Fruit and Spearmint.
Wrigley worked hard to develop the business, travelling throughout the United States to visit retailers in person. Competition got even tougher when six rival chewing gum companies merged in 1899 to form the so-called "chewing gum trust", American Chicle (later part of Warner-Lambert). Wrigley retaliated by becoming one of the first American companies to use advertising to appeal directly to consumers. In 1906, Wrigley put a big push behind one of his slowest sellers, the Spearmint brand. A local campaign in three American cities was a huge success, so Wrigley rolled out the advertising into other areas, quickly establishing Spearmint Gum as America's leading brand. Doublemint was introduced in 1914, and eventually surpassed sales of Spearmint. In 1910, Wrigley took his first steps outside the US, opening a factory in Canada. This was followed by Australia (1915), Great Britain (1927) and New Zealand (1939). The company went public in 1923, and moved into the historic Wrigley building in Chicago the following year. Also in 1924, the family became the principal shareholders (until 1981) in the Chicago Cubs baseball team, which still plays at the Wrigley Field stadium.
Philip K Wrigley, William's son, became president in 1925. He found that newer markets tended to prefer coated tablet chewing gums instead of the flat sticks sold back home. As a result, he introduced the PK pellet brand, named after his initials. During the Second World War, chewing gum became standard issue for US soldiers because it kept them alert and reduced tension. Because supplies of the gum base were limited, Wrigley suspended production of gum for civilians and channelled all its Spearmint, Juicy Fruit and Doublemint gum to the American army. Instead, the company launched an inferior brand for American consumers, while mounting an ad campaign featuring an empty Wrigley's wrapper, above the slogan "Remember This Wrapper". The advertising kept the brand in front of the public until 1946, when Wrigley's resumed domestic production. Following the war, the company began a global expansion strategy that led to factories in the Philippines, France, Kenya and Taiwan.
Wrigley acquired bubblegum maker Amurol Confections, makers of Hubba Bubba, in 1958. Philip Wrigley remained President of the company until 1961, when he handed control to his own son, William Jr. He introduced a number of new chewing gum brands in the 1970s, including non-sticky Freedent for denture-wearers and Big Red cinnamon gum. In 1984, the company launched Extra sugarfree gum, based on the PK design. In 1994, the company launched Winterfresh in the US. In 1996, Extra chewing gum for children was launched in Germany, with a rollout across Europe over the following two years. In 1998, Amurol launched Stay Alert, a bubblegum containing as much caffeine as two cups of coffee.
Kraft's phenomenally successful relaunch of Altoids mints early in 1999 caused sales of chewing gums to plummet, especially in the US. Altoids' quirky advertising campaign was a major factor in pushing the gum market, already flat, into negative growth. All manufacturers were affected, but Wrigley was particularly hard-hit. Unlike competitors such as Warner Lambert, Wrigley had no mints in its portfolio. Instead the company reacted with the launch of new brand Eclipse. Produced in hard-coated tablets already tested in Europe, the gum had a similarly strong flavour to Altoids and other mints. By the end of the year, sales had recovered. The group launched a medicated gum brand Alpine in Canada to compete against traditional cough sweets. Also that year, William Jr died, just one day after appointing his son, the second William Wrigley Jr, as the company's new president.
Following the experiment with Alpine, the group took a further step in this new direction in 2000, launching the Wrigley Healthcare Division to develop and market other gums that provide health benefits. The first US product, Surpass Antacid Gum, launched in 2001. Also that year the group announced a tie-up with Procter & Gamble to develop dental care chewing gums. Orbit, launched in Europe in the late 1990s, was also introduced into the US in 2001. Another key arena for the company was Russia. Chewing gum had been prohibited in Russia until 1980, when the government allowed the first imports to coincide with the Moscow Olympics. The product was seized upon by Russians as one of the few symbols of western lifestyle that almost anyone could afford. Wrigley began marketing in the country in 1991, setting up a local manufacturing base shortly afterwards. By 2000 Wrigley and Scandinavian rival Stimorol had become two of the country's biggest advertisers, spending more between them on advertising than even Pepsi and Coke.
In 2002 the group began testing new brand X.Cite in the UK, with the claim that the product, described as a cross between a mint and chewing gum. In the US it launched Eclipse Flash Strips, a new fresh breath mint strip, and later updated the packaging of its main products for the first time in many years. Shortly afterwards an adapted version of these Flash Strips began testing in the UK as Wrigley's Extra Thin Ice. However the most intriguing new development in Wrigley's corporate stance was an aggressive $12.5bn bid to acquire confectionery giant Hershey Foods. The approach came close to succeeding. But at the last hurdle the trust controlling Hershey decided to withdraw the business from sale as a result of outcry from Hershey's employees. Nevertheless it demonstrated a new side to CEO William Wrigley Jr. Previously the company had avoided making any acquisitions outside its core market. A $12bn bid for a chocolate maker marked quite a new corporate style. It was followed by two smaller purchases, of Spain's Joyco and of Kraft's sugar confectionery portfolio, including former nemesis Altoids.
In 2005, Wrigley faced increasing pressure from local government in the UK to contribute to the cost of cleaning up after chewing gum users. Local councils are estimated to spend around £150m a year attempting to remove dried, discarded chewing gum from streets and pavements. Bodies in London and Liverpool attempted to force Wrigley to add 1p to the price of packs to pay for this work.
Bill Wrigley passed the role of Wrigley CEO to non-family member Bill Perez in October 2006. Perez, previously CEO of SC Johnson and briefly Nike, was the first non-family member in Wrigley's history to become CEO. Upon news of the acquisition by Mars, it was announced that Wrigley's management team, including Wrigley himself, would remain in place. However, several senior leaders, including Perez, left the business quietly in 2009.
Last full revision 15th April 2017
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