By Martha Irvine
The Associated Press
CHICAGO - So you're an executive at the Wrigley Co. and you've got this gum called Juicy Fruit that - with its familiar yellow wrapper and name - has been a top seller for more than 100 years.
But is a 19th century product hip enough for the 21st?
To find out, executives at the Chicago-based chewing gum company turned to a group of consumers that, more than ever, has corporate America's attention.
They're not boomers - they're "skippies," a market research label for schoolkids with income and purchasing power.
Last year, American teens spent $170 billion in 2002 on products for themselves or their family households, up from $155 billion in 2000, according to a survey conducted by Teenage Research Unlimited, a suburban Chicago firm that tracks youth trends.
So, these days, when producers of about everything remake, repackage and remarket their products, they often look for advice from college students, teens and "tweens": preteens as young as age 8.
"They're a lot smarter than we ever gave them credit for," says Paul Chibe, director of U.S. consumer marketing at Wrigley, a company once known for sticking with tradition. Now, based on teen feedback, it's trying something new.
Wrigley is introducing a new kind of Juicy Fruit in two flavors: "strappleberry" and "grapermelon." It's shaped in candy-coated pellets instead of the traditional sticks (which will still be available). Its package - while still yellow - is flatter and wider with an inner case that slides out.
"It's coooooool," said Kiejuan Coffie, 8, when shown the new Juicy Fruit package. And that was before he even tried the gum.
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