Mars Wrigley Confectionery Enters Energy Category With Unique New Product

New release gives adult consumers a simple, portable alternative to other caffeinated offerings
Mars Wrigley Confectionery Alert Caffeine Gum

Chicago-based Mars Wrigley Confectionery unveiled its Alert Caffeine Gum on Wednesday at the NACS Show in Chicago. The gum, first released in 2013 and later brought back in-house for further development, contains 40 mg of caffeine, the equivalent of half a cup of coffee.     

“[Alert] is targeting the consumer that is looking for a quality way to get better control of their caffeine in a more approachable, portable format,” said Tim LeBel, president of sales for Mars Wrigley Confectionery, in an exclusive interview with CSP. “We know the caffeinated market is big and it’s growing. … We know the consumer is looking for an easier, more controllable platform to enjoy caffeine. Alert Caffeine Gum fits that niche very well.”

Designed to give the consumer an immediate caffeine boost as needed, Alert Caffeine Gum comes in two flavors: Mint and Fruit. And much like coffee, the gum has a bitter flavor to signal it has caffeine.

“We think, from consumer research, that the folks that will try it initially will be people that are energy-drink users,” said Steve Johnson, vice president of marketing, gum and mints for Mars Wrigley Confectionery for Mars Wrigley Confectionery. “But [core users] will be those who have rejected energy drinks in the past.”

To further differentiate Alert Caffeine Gum from other offerings, it comes in unique packages that contain eight blister-packed pieces, and each piece is in the shape of hexagon. With an SRP of $2.49, the gum is rolling out in a national, full-scale launch.

“We think that the c-store shopper is one of the best for the product and concept,” Johnson said.

“The timing is really, really perfect to launch Alert Caffeine Gum,” LeBel said. “The gum category is a very big, important category within convenience … and convenience is a leader in gum. We have a responsibility to drive that category and we want to do that through meaningful, transformational innovation. We feel like Alert lives up to those standards and that it will be highly incremental to the category.”

Marketing has been a key component in the research and development of the product. The marketing push will commence immediately, ramping up in 2018 across all platforms: online, social media, paid media, etc. But beyond advertising the new product, much effort has gone into communicating a responsible message.

“The marketing channels are really working deliberately on how we can educate c-store owners on how the product works, with user-friendly information,” Johnson said.

Packaging and marketing will clearly state that Alert is not intended for children under 18, pregnant and nursing women and consumers with caffeine sensitivity, and the Mars Wrigley Confectionery sales team will work with retailers to guide how the product appears in store and on associated promotional materials.

The product will ideally be merchandised at the checkout next to the energy products. If not there, the second most ideal location for merchandising, LeBel said, would be in-aisle at the energy category, or finally, in an existing gum location.

At the base of this launch is the potential and opportunity a functional gum product could offer the entire category. And Mars Wrigley Confectionery plans to expand that base of innovation as a platform to bring a halo effect to overall gum sales.

“It’s something we take very seriously and [we] are proud to take a critical role to bring consumers back to the gum category,” LeBel said. "It’s what the category is looking for. This is a unique innovation and has been so well received from a c-store standpoint. … That’s the role Alert Caffeine Gum will play on the category—a halo effect that will benefit our customers and our business partners.”