Wrigley Goes into a New Category: Baked Snacks

Wm Wrigley Jr. Co. is the biggest gum company in the world, but it’s only in Russia, among the Top 10 markets, where it has the leading candy, Orbit, according to my colleagues at BusinessWeek. So how best to boost sales in Russia? Well, it could roll out new flavors of Orbit—and Wrigley is, like clockwork. Or it could try an entirely new product. It’s doing that too, it turns out.

Wrigley, now a subsidiary of Mars, has begun selling what it calls “croutons” in Russia. These are individually wrapped snacks that look like baked flat breads or crackers and come in a variety of flavors. And they may well mark the first time Wrigley has moved from sweets into the savory category.

You won’t see a mention of this on Wrigley’s own Web site, but one of its top executives talked about the new product at a conference sponsored by DePaul University’s Center for Creativity & Innovation. The exec, Erwin Hinteregger, Wrigley’s director of emerging business territories and formerly director of global consumer innovation, told me the croutons were created by Wrigley’s Russian unit to meet a company-wide challenge to find new revenue streams.

Like most new products, the snack cracker isn't a huge seller, he said. He added, though, that Wrigley accepts that, knowing from previous launches that new brands take time to catch on—even with Wrigley's big marketing machine and well-oiled distribution network behind them.

Hinteregger said Wrigley is unlikely to expand sales of croutons to other markets—Russians may be unique in liking this kind of treat—but he added that the company's in-country team in China is now trying to develop new products/revenue streams there, based on the early results of the Russian addition.

Russia seems to be a good lab for Wrigley. The company is selling its first chocolates there, too, under the A. Korkunov brand, which Wrigley acquired in 2007. You can learn a bit about that candy on the company's site. Meantime, answer me this: What new products would you like to see from Wrigley?

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