It isn't unusual to see jaws chewing during meetings at The Wrigley Company. Gum is big business. Each year, the firm uses mint from fields equivalent to 30,550 football pitches in size — so mouths are bound to be fresh. The UK subsidiary of the American firm was set up in 1911 and now makes profits of £62.9m a year. There are 673 staff, working at a manufacturing and commercial services plant in Plymouth, an office for Irish sales in Dublin and an accounts operation in Reading.
Four-fifths of the latex-based products they make — including Wrigley's Extra, Airwaves, Juicy Fruit, Wrigley's Spearmint and Hubba Bubba gum — are sold in Britain, and a few brands are imported.
Now marketed partly on its benefits to oral health, chewing gum was first used as a thirst suppressor — which was the reason the native Americans of New England chewed the gummy resin of spruce trees. Soon American colonists began to market lumps of spruce gum.
Just like their loyal consumers, staff are attached to the company. Almost half of the "associates" have been there for more than 10 years. Hardly anyone would leave tomorrow for another job, because people love working for Wrigley (both questions scored 75% positive, the latter ranking the company in the top 40). Gharry Eccles, managing director, signs everyone's birthday card, and gives a national conference twice a year. Directors aim to spend a quarter of their time on staff development, and people say senior managers really live the values of the firm (76%). Staff have a great deal of faith in Eccles personally (securing him a 79% positive score, and another top 40 placing).
Every two years Wrigley surveys employees and as a result of such feedback more flexible benefits were introduced. Now people can buy five days of extra holiday, and choose between childcare vouchers, gym subsidies, dental, critical illness and life assurance cover. Quirkier offerings include the purchase of bicycles, wine club membership and the use of accountants to fill out their tax returns. Everyone has a final-salary pension. Staff feel that they make a valuable contribution to the firm's success (75%).
There is a canteen, and £144 per person is spent annually on massage and other treatments. A dietician also helps Plymouth staff stay healthy. People can choose gum over fatty snacks, with a free box of 20 sticks (or mints) a month.
Eight training day awards of £500 each are given out, as are nine annual awards of £250. Staff assess managers and colleagues, as well as themselves, and there are online courses and a "leadership academy". The company's vision statement is to see "Wrigley brands woven into the fabric of everyday life around the world" — not literally. And it does work with other organisations to persuade people to bin litter. Staff are excited about where the company is going (the 76% score here ranks Wrigley in the top 50).
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