P&G and Wrigley will collaborate to develop functional chewing gums. The new gum range, with dental benefits such as removing plaque and whitening teeth, will be sold under P&G’s established Crest dental health brand name. As a result, it should be in a strong position in the growing functional confectionary market. The only major obstacle for the venture could be the number of consumers reluctant to switch brands.

US consumer goods giants Procter & Gamble and Wrigley on Tuesday announced that they are working together to develop functional chewing gums, due for launch next year under P&G’s Crest brand. Wrigley will manufacture the gum, while distribution will be split between the two – Wrigley will deliver to supermarkets and convenience stores while P&G will focus on drugstores and pharmacies.

The deal should benefit both companies. P&G has been seeking to leverage the strength of the Crest brand, which is already used across toothbrushes, toothpaste and whitening strips. The new deal will extend the brand’s power while at the same time retaining its core associations with cleaning teeth. Wrigley, meanwhile, will use the Crest brand to tap into the growth potential of functional confectionery, which it hopes will make up for a relatively stagnant global chewing gum market.

While the new gum is still in development, its benefits are reported to focus on freshening breath, removing plaque and whitening teeth – incorporating a breath freshener, a toothpaste and a whitener in one.

Several other companies have tried to leverage dental benefit claims for chewing gum and market performance has been mixed. P&G itself experimented in Austria and Germany with Blend-A-Gum in 1996 but disappointing sales led to the product being discontinued. Church & Dwight has been selling Arm & Hammer Dental Care Gum for three years, while Pfizer has been selling Trident Advantage for over a year. Last year, GlaxoSmithKline introduced Aquafresh Dental Gum. During the last 12 months, those latter three brands have reportedly sold just over $20 million, which is a considerable portion of the chewing gum market.

The concept of multiple benefits appears a good way to entice differing user groups. The two companies certainly have the brand strength and marketing know-how to put together a top set of products with high performance marketing. The key unknown is just how many consumers will be willing to switch from their existing chewing gum or toothpaste brands.

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