Gum Base: The Mysteries and the Alternatives

Chewing gum is one of those products that we’ve grabbed for since childhood. But have you ever stopped to think about what goes into it?

The alarming nature of chewing gum is that its ingredient list may dupe even the most conscious of consumers. And that’s primarily because of an ingredient called “gum base.”

Gum base is an FDA approved, catchall term that is made up of as many as 80 artificial substances including aspartame, plastic and BHT. In the best case scenario, these ingredients are undesirable, and in the worst case, many are said to potentially cause cancer. Consumers are often repulsed when they find out that “gum base” isn’t as benign as it sounds. Many will tell you that for those reasons, they haven’t touched gum in years. Even if they are unaware of the specifics, neon coloring serves as a big red (or should we say neon green? Bright blue?) flag.

It’s clear that consumer trends are shifting away from foods that include artificial and synthetic substances. While other CPG sectors have seen an array of natural products to address this shift in consumer preferences, the gum industry seems stuck in its ways leading to a 3% decline in gum sales over the past few years.

It is possible to make a better chew, however, with an all-natural gum that has no plastic or toxins. Instead of the ambiguous gum base, companies can use all-natural chicle to give gum a bouncy elasticity.  Because chicle comes from the sap of a tree, it is all natural and has an inherent subtle sweetness.

One example is Simply Gum. The concept for our company was born one afternoon as Caron Proschan was finishing a healthy lunch and reached for a stick of gum.  Its neon blue color seemed discordant with her healthy lifestyle choices, and she decided to research what was actually in the gum she had been chewing.

“We’ve found that consumers are disillusioned with the synthetic ingredients in regular gum and a lack of innovation in the market,” says Proschan.  “We've seen healthier, premium options emerge in almost every single consumer category – from chocolate to beverages to cleaning products.  Chewing gum is unique in that no one has attempted to disrupt the industry – until now.”  Mars (the parent company of Wrigley’s) owns 55% of the market, and Modelez has 31% market share.

The result of this innovation is a lightly sweetened, premium and totally natural gum that seeks to inspire people to live simply.  Because in an age of over-processed food and complex schedules, what could we need more then less?

simply gumAdeena Cohen works at Simply Gum on the Marketing team.  Prior to joining the Simply Gum team, she received her MBA from New York University and worked on the Marketing team at KIND Healthy Snacks.

Posted one WholeFoods Magazine Online, 7/6/15