The condition of chewing gum acne is very easy to spot.  Usually seen in varying shades of grey, it spreads below your feet on pavements all around the world.  Except of course, in Singapore where it has been contained.   It’s self-inflicted, costs taxpayers thousands of pounds and most everyone has been a victim at some point in their life.

For a good part of my life I have enjoyed the mastication of sticks, bricks, and balls from plain old white to green to multi-coloured.  I’ve never really taken a moment to read the ingredients on the side of packet of chewing gum.  Since my meeting with Dan Shrimpton I’ve not bought any confectionery without reading the ingredients.  Dan is the co-founder of Peppersmith, a company offering a natural alternative to the mint and chewing gum market dominated by two players Wrigley (owned by Mars) and Cadbury (owned by Kraft).  These giants control a whopping 60% of the chewing gum market which is estimated to be worth $20 billion a year (£13 billion).

Did you know that the chewed piece of gum you dispose of once you’ve finished chewing makes up as little as 25% of the piece that you originally began chewing?  That means of course that 75% is all the other ingredients you eat, most of which are unpronounceable and once looking,I truly have no idea what I’m eating.   However, that said, I’m obliged to say that chewing gum sold here in the UK complies with the highest health standards set out by the Food Standards Agency and European Food Safety Authority it’s been demonstrated to be safe for the enjoyment of consumers.

The back-story is that Dan worked at Innocent (the smoothie, juice and snack pot manufacturer) for five years in its start-up phase.  It was here he met Mike and here they discovered that they were passionate about a lot of things from food to health to the environment.  Dan saw the company expanding, preferred the small company business model and teamed up with Mike to move off and try their hand in the confectionery market.  Why?  Dan tells me that the market has hardly evolved.  While there are more natural, healthier, better made alternatives that have transformed the chocolate, crisps and juice market, chewing gum still exists in the world of Sunny Delight (do they still sell that nuclear Orange drink?)

The eye opener for both Dan and Mike was an annual confectionery trade show, the place to see and be seen in the confectionery world.  There was a chocolate hall, opposite a sugar confectionery hall both were worlds apart. The chocolate section was buzzing with enthusiasm and the confectionery section was full of blokes trying to sell lots of high volume, low cost, cheap poor quality products.  Bearing in mind, these are the sweets consumed primarily by kids, were full of artificial ingredients and ultimately rot teeth this was the point, which reinforced the opportunity for them to forge ahead.

The all important natural mint flavour was key though to success.  They wanted to produce a natural variety of sourced mint and get to know the farmer growing it.  They visited flavour houses and were laughed out of them, why on earth bother sourcing freshly grow mint when you can have a cheaper, powder alternative?  Nobody got what the company was trying to achieve.

They found a farmer in Hampshire who now grows their Black Mitcham peppermint. The mint harvest is probably the simplest process in the whole production.  The tractor harvests the mint and drops it in a barn.  A hose is plugged into the container housing the mint and steam is introduced. Water is separated from the oil and hey presto you have your mint oil.  The mint mulch is taken out into the field the same day and becomes a winter coat for the plants.

The gum and mints are manufactured in Europe by a factory happy to make a natural, healthy alternative and once they had this in the bag, it was a masive turning point.  They were helped with the recipe, to source ingredients and that collaboration ended with a product and the tasting began.  Thousands of mints and gum tastings later the range is varied and just what they set out to offer.

While I’m no Violet Beauregarde, most of the gum I’ve chewed holds its flavour for quite a while.  It’s interesting to note that Peppersmith gum doesn’t last as long.  Immediately, this begs the question about what is being used in the other gum to prolong the intense minty taste.  The first thing you see when you open the Peppersmith box is that the nuggets aren’t bright white, they’ve let nature

There are no artificial preservatives, no artificial sweeteners and no animal-derived ingredients so both are suitable for vegans and vegetarians.  Instead of a synthetic petro-chemical gum base, Peppersmith is made with chicle, the sap from a sapodilla tree, which is sustainably harvested from Central America.

The mints are fabulous.  The Lemon and Peppermint are made with winter crop Sicilian lemons (Femminello and Monachello varieties) with a touch of cooling peppermint, again nothing artificial at all. They are brilliant to freshen up your breath instantly.  The Peppermint tastes exactly as it suggests on its pretty box.

They’ve even had their gum and mints tested by the British Dental Health Foundation who accredited them. Xylitol, a naturally derived sweetener from trees is used instead of cane sugar.  This helps reduce the formation of plaque and cavities.  It’s also claimed by dentists that xylitol may be the biggest advance against cavities since fluoride.

This is a company with a set of  values as long as your arm, so you’d expect that the packaging has been given major consideration.  It has.  It’s all card, using FSC accredited materials, quirky packets featuring a facial furniture wearing hero – Burt Reynolds or David Niven – to match their logo and there’s even a side pocket with paper wrappers to ball up your waste in.

Some may say a little on the expensive side at around £1.50 per pack, but you get what you pay for and if you want to have a chemical-free chew then it’s surely worth paying that little bit extra.

You’ll find the gum and mints in delis, whole food stores and cafes and coffee shops.  If you can’t find their gum or mints near you, don’t despair, get on their website, they offer free UK postage too.

Pictures courtesy of Peppersmith