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Chew on this -- gum sales are plunging

Why are Americans sick of chewing gum? U.S. gum sales have plunged 11 percent over the last four years, and no one can really figure out why.

There are all kinds of theories. Maybe health-conscious consumers don't see any real value in gum, even though sugarless gum does help prevent cavities. There doesn't seem to be a must-have gum anymore, either. Remember the "kiss a little longer" song from Big Red or Wrigley's Doublemint twins? That kind of marketing juice is gone.

One popular hypothesis is that there are too many alternatives now in the form of designer mints and fruit chews, The Associated Press reports. And there are an overwhelming number of gum varieties, like "radiant pineapple blend" from 5Gum or raspberry vanilla cupcake from Extra.

It's all just a little much. And then there's the price tag, too, with some packs going for $2 or more.

"I think there's been a decrease among consumers for two reasons: The price of gum has gone up because of the sweeteners and formulas used, and the amount of advertising money spent on gum has declined, certainly compared to a few years ago," George Stege, president of Ford Gum & Machine, told the Candy Industry trade publication.

The drop in gum sales poses a problem for Mars, which owns Wrigley and is the market leader. Mars says the people that are most turned off by gum are 25 and younger, AP reports.

Gum makers are desperate to reverse the trend. Mars is testing illuminated racks in stores to draw attention to its gum. The maker of Trident is running an online campaign urging people to remember their "phone, keys, gum" before leaving the house.

They're working on new products as well. Hershey is developing a new version of its Ice Breakers gum that promises to chew like a gum, but then dissolve in the mouth.

There's just one other problem. Gum has a bit of an image problem because it's just, well, not that attractive. "My grandmother used to tell me, 'You look like a cow chewing cud,'" Lizzie Post, a descendant of etiquette queen Emily Post, told AP.

Twitter users seemed to agree. "Have you ever seen yourself while chewing gum?" asked one. "Could it be why chewing gum sales are on the decline in America?"
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