World gum leader Wrigley has started 2004 with strong sales and volume growth across the globe. With plans ramping up for a product launch in Singapore later this year, all eyes will be on the campaign Wrigley puts forward to encourage socially responsible gum use and disposal.

This week, Wrigley announced the results of a strong first quarter. Global sales rose 21% to US$812m and quarterly net income rose 14% from Q1 2003. The world’s largest chewing gum maker managed volume growth in all of its major regions, and benefited from the weak dollar as well as new product introductions.

North America saw a 4% unit volume increase, the combined Europe, Middle East, Africa and India (EMEAI) unit had volume gains of 20%, while Asia saw a 9% volume gain. New non-gum initiatives such as breath strips, mints and dental candies also contributed to sales growth in EMEAI and represent an opportunity for further growth throughout 2004.

With growing momentum in China and Vietnam, Wrigley’s next challenge will be to penetrate the untapped market of Singapore. For twelve years, Singapore has outlawed chewing gum but after signing a free-trade agreement with the US last year it is partially lifting the ban to allow “healthy” gum to enter the country.

As a result, Wrigley’s Orbit and Orbit White gum, which are sugar-free, freshen breath and whiten teeth, will enter the market in mid-2004. The only problem facing Wrigley’s big launch in Singapore is that gum is to be sold “subject to the condition that the buyers’ particulars are recorded” and fines for littering with gum are to be particularly steep.

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Being one of the first entrants into this market, along with Pfizer‘s Nicorette, will be both a blessing and a burden. To be associated with a successful socially responsible program of gum disposal will be crucial for both the company, and the Singapore government.

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