New DTC toolkit   //   December 19, 2023  ■  4 min read

Why Simply Gum is focusing on online sales

Simply, a better-for-you gum brand, is turning to e-commerce to help sales stick.

While Simply is now sold in some 14,000 retail locations (including Whole Foods, Target, CVS and Erewhon), digital remains a key focus for the brand. Since it launched in 2014, Simply has introduced its products online via its website and Amazon before bringing them to stores. Doing so allows the brand to collect customer feedback, founder and CEO Caron Proschan told Modern Retail, but it also gives Simply more freedom to experiment with flavors. Today, Simply’s gum variety packs are its most popular products online, thanks to their unique flavors like coffee, fennel, maple and ginger — which are not sold in stores.

This strategy helped the company grow its digital sales by 47% this year compared to the year before; e-commerce sales also jumped more than 70% from Cyber Weekend 2022 to Cyber Weekend 2023.

Today, 20% of Simply’s business comes from digital, about 80% of which comes from Amazon and 20% comes from its website. Although fewer of Simply’s customers buy the product online, the brand is working to keep shoppers coming back, not only through digital exclusives but also through coupons and merchandise like T-shirts, Jeannie Kim, vice president of marketing at Simply, told Modern Retail. Earlier this summer, Simply gifted influencers and its most loyal customers a summer vacation pack with gum and sunscreen. It also sends free samples of new products and surveys to customers to collect feedback. “Having users who are committed to us and who are loyal, it’s been really helpful to hear what they have to say with all of our new launches,” Kim explained.

As Simply enters its tenth year as a company, “we would love to continue expanding our online presence,” Proschan said. “The goal is to become as big as we can.”

Simply has gained a solid following among health-minded consumers for its aspartame-free and preservative-free gum. Over the years, Simply expanded into other categories, including mints in 2017 and chocolate and gummies in 2022. Gum is still Simply’s staple product — its top flavor is peppermint — and its Amazon conversion rate now sits at 40% to 50% for certain flavors. “Some of our highest users will buy literally thousands of dollars worth of gum a year,” Proschan said.

The outlook hasn’t always been so bubbly for gum, however. In fact, gum suffered during the pandemic, and sales fell 8.2% from June 2019 to June 2020, according to data from IRI. One reason for the slump was that people stopped going to in-person meetings or other face-to-face gatherings, Dan Sadler, principal of client insights for Circana, told Modern Retail. In addition, people spent less time in grocery store checkout lines, places where gum and candy are frequently stocked, Sadler pointed out. Self-checkout registers, which became popular during Covid, tend to carry a smaller quantity of gum as well. “It’s not nearly what you would see at a regular checkout aisle,” Sadler said.

Today, dollar sales of chewing gum have largely recovered since 2020, while volume of gum sold is still below pre-pandemic levels, according to Circana research. At the same time, gum sales online are up 22%, which Sadler primarily attributes to people continuing their pandemic-era buying habits. Gum sales in general jumped 16% in the 52 weeks ending Nov. 5, 2023, according to Circana.

Gum is a small product, and one often considered an impulse purchase. For that reason, it can be difficult to market the product online, as Modern Retail has previously reported. Today, more DTC brands like Mighty Gum, Neuro Gum and Quip are trying to rebrand gum as a high-end product worthy of buying on its own.

Some brands, like Pur and Simply, have also found success by marketing their products as healthier alternatives to existing gum brands that use synthetic ingredients like plastic. Both in stores and online, Simply caters to a customer interested in wellness, someone “who didn’t mind paying a premium for something that was natural,” Proschan said. (A 15-stick pack of Simply Gum retails for $2.99 at Target, and Simply sells packs in bulk via its website and Whole Foods.)

Going forward, Simply said it will continue to use its online channel as a testing ground for new flavors and new products. In fact, Simply’s newest gum flavor, bubblegum, recently launched in Whole Foods after it became a best-seller on Amazon and Simply’s website. “Online, you can have an unlimited number of SKUs… and I think that will continue to be the place where we experiment.” Proschan said.

Kim added that e-commerce helps Simply give its products a more personal touch. “Just having a very wide variety of things that they can’t find it in store, and then making sure we really foster those online relationships with our consumers, has been what’s driven a lot of our success over the past year,” she said.