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Has chewing gum been beaten by Wechat?

(People's Daily Online)    08:48, March 07, 2019

Why do you chew gum? For fresh breath, to stop cavities, for its face-lifting effects, or just out of sheer boredom?

Carrying around chewing gum was once a common habit, but now you look, you may find that chewing gum has disappeared from your pocket and the pockets of those around you.

“Owing to WeChat, sales of chewing gum has decreased by 30 percent,” revealed Chinese TV show “Financial Lang Eye". With the popularity of smartphones and the rapid development of mobile payments, chewing gum sales have decreased rapidly.

Chewing gum on the supermarket shelves [Photo/Chinanews.com]

Being beaten by WeChat is not unreasonable

According to reports portal chinabaogao.com, the growth rate of China's chewing gum market began to slow down after 2010, and sales peaked in 2016 at about 11.3 billion Chinese yuan. After that, sales began to decline. Sales dropped to 10.9 billion yuan in 2017 and are expected to have fallen to 10.1 billion yuan in 2018.

Many people believe WeChat is behind chewing gum's fall from popularity.

A related survey report found that among people queuing for checkout, there is a 25 percent chance that they will buy goods from the shelves near the counter. Chewing gum, which is not a basic necessity, is most commonly an impulse purchase.

“With the rise of smartphones in recent years, ‘sombies’ (smartphone zombies) are spending their time browsing mobile phones while waiting at the checkout,” said one industry analyst. This change of focus has significantly reduced impulse spending at the tills.

A report released by the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC) on Feb. 28 showed that as of December last year, the number of Chinese netizens exceeded 800 million for the first time, reaching 829 million, while the number of mobile Internet users reached 817 million.

In 2018, the amount of time the average Internet user spent online continued to increase, with an average of 27.6 hours online time per person per week, 0.6 hours more when compared with 2017. Among them, instant messaging apps take up the most time, accounting for 15.6 percent. As the largest messaging app in China, WeChat takes up a lot of the average person's day.

In the 20th century, salesman William Rigley promoted chewing gum by giving it away with tins of baking soda. It was a huge success, and chewing gum quickly became the premium everyone wanted to buy. He went on to become the founder of Wrigley, the world's largest producer and distributor of chewing gum. Now chewing gum is in the same position as baking powder.

Chewing gum on the supermarket shelves [Photo/Chinanews.com]

What else beats gum?

Of course, WeChat is not the only reason for the sales decrease in chewing gum.

Another report from CNNIC indicated that after communication apps, online video, online music, short video, online radio, and online literature apps engage Chinese netizens most, accounting for 12.8 percent, 8.6 percent, 8.2 percent, 7.9 percent and 7.8 percent of total time online, respectively.

This shifting trend is not unique to China, either. In some other countries, chewing gum markets are also facing challenges.

In Japan, the size of the chewing gum market has been shrinking. According to a Japanese gum association, made up of 19 Japanese manufacturers, the chewing gum retail market peaked in 2004, with sales of 188.1 billion Japanese yen. Since 2005, sales have continued to decline, reaching as little as 100.5 billion yen in 2017, a fall of almost 40 percent since 2004.

According to the statistics from Euromonitor International, the US gum market has been declining since 2008, dropping 15 percent by 2016.

Some scholars noted that there had been no notable innovation in the chewing gum industry for years, and this may be another reason for the decrease in sales. As a traditional sweet substance, it is difficult for consumers to part with their cash without any clever marketing tactics.

When was the last time you chewed gum? What are your reasons for not buying it? 

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Sheng Chuyi, Bianji)

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