The race to market power mints is fueling talks of a shakeout in the category.
"When you get a category growing like this, everyone jumps in, and then eventually the top four or five stay on," said Mark Redrick, Central region manager at Shuster Marketing, Milwaukee. Shuster distributes Blitz, which introduced a new double-action Power Mint with a mint shell containing a mint liquid center. "We're trying to get into as many major supermarket chains as fast as we can."
Matthew Fenton, brand manager for Frisk at Van Melle USA, also foresees a shakeout due to the intense competition. "Retailers don't have room for more than a couple of strong mints."
The Erlanger, Ky., mint maker is buffered somewhat from the strong segment by distributing Mentos, a more mild mint, and Air Heads, a chewy kids' candy. "Supermarkets are key because mint sales are so strong in them," Fenton said.
Usher Distribution, San Antonio, is getting around the competition for premium checkout space by focusing on private-label sales.
"Retailers can always find space for products with their own names on them, so you don't have to pay for positioning," Al Sorenson, Usher account executive, said. "We go direct to them, so it's a better deal."
Supermarkets are seen as key to surviving in the breath-freshener market by all manufacturers. Indeed, the scope of this segment seemed almost daunting to Al Campanaro, vice president of Ricola USA, the Morris Plains, N.J., distributor of Ricola Pearls.
"Supermarkets are an important part of our business strategy. But our Swiss parent can only make so much product to soothe world demand," Campanaro said. "We can't get enough product into the United States to make a strong blast right now, so we're having a controlled growth."
Retailers and manufacturers alike considered the front end as the place to sell these high-velocity products.
"The front end has the highest turns," said Jeffri Epps, product manager for Smint at Chupa Chups USA, Atlanta.
Nabisco is attempting to move sales to the aisles instead of the front end by offering its new Ice Breakers gum in a gondola. "We're a 100-year-old brand, but we're brand new to gondolas," said John Barrows, a spokesman. Mostly, though, sales of the gum filled with tiny mint capsules are through the front end.
Floor-shipper fixtures are being tried by Gerrit J. Verburg Co., Fenton, Mich., as a way to move its Fresch products.
Matthew Pye, marketing manager for the Fleer Confections unit of the Marvel Entertainment Group, Mount Laurel, N.J., said Arctic Chews will be available next month.