LONDON (Reuters) - Chocolate-flavoured gum is the latest product the world's largest confectionery group Cadbury Plc has dreamed up in Britain to keep chewing into the near-stranglehold arch-rival Wrigley once had on the market.
The London-based confectioner will launch its Trident Sweet Kicks next month as a chocolate product for "indulgence without the guilt" as it hopes to build on the 10 percent gum market share it has carved out in Britain over the last 18 months.
Cadbury introduced Trident to British gum chewers in January 2007 in a market 98 percent controlled by Wrigley and helped drive Britain's 280 million pound ($545 million) gum market up 16 percent in the year and put Wrigley on the backfoot.
Now Cadbury is using its two biggest businesses - chocolate and gum - to produce a mint gum with a liquid-filled chocolate-flavoured centre that will hit shops in Britain along with other new Trident flavours on July 14.
"The product gives a chocolate hit at the start then a long lasting mint flavour thereafter," Trevor Bond, head of Cadbury's Britain and Ireland region, told Reuters ahead of the launch.
Bond added the new gum will be sugarless like other Trident products and have a similar 5 calories per pellet as other Trident gums such as its top-selling Strawberry & Lime.
Cadbury is cautious about predicting further market share gains for chewing gum which now accounts for 35 percent total sales at Cadbury, better known for its Dairy Milk chocolate.
"We are clearly ambitious and would like to do more after we have turned the category into growth in Britain," said Matt Shattock, head of Cadbury's region covering Britain, Ireland, the Middle East and Africa.
The British gum market fell 4 percent in 2006 before Cadbury entered, but the success of Trident the following year helped it become the world's top gum brand ahead of Wrigley's Orbit.
Growth has slowed to 7.5 percent in the 12 months to June, but Cadbury says all that growth has come from itself despite new Wrigley products, while the British group sees more growth as gum accounts for just 7 percent of the confectionery market compared to 10 percent in the United States and Australia.
Cadbury is spending 10 million pounds this year behind Trident which includes the chocolate-flavoured launch and three other Trident Fresh peppermint, spearmint and lemon flavours.
Last month, Cadbury reported a strong start to 2008 and predicted its worldwide sales will top its 4 to 6 percent target range helped by continued strong growth in gum worldwide.
Competitive pressures on Cadbury are set to increase after privately-owned Mars agreed to buy Wrigley for $23 billion in April in a deal that will join together the world's biggest chocolate and gum makers and knock Cadbury off the top spot in world confectionery when the deal closes.
(Reporting by David Jones; Editing by David Cowell)