The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish

February 26, 2017

Glee Chewing Gum Goes Plastic-Free!

Glee plastic-free chewing gumI first wrote about plastic in chewing gum in January of 2010. At that time, there really was no brand of gum available that didn’t either contain plastic in the packaging or in the gum itself. And as I wrote back then, even Glee Gum, one of the most natural brands in town, was combining plastic with the natural chicle in its gum base.

Company owner Deborah Schimberg told me that she really wanted to get the plastic out of the gum base, but that it was difficult to find a natural substitute.  She hoped to find an alternative later that year.  Well, it’s taken longer than she expected, but finally, in 2015, Glee was able to offer plastic-free chewing gum in its original sugar-sweetened flavors and more recently in its sugar-free flavors as well.  The company sent me a few packs to try out, and while I’m not much of a gum chewer, Michael thinks it’s great!

Challenges of Developing a Plastic-Free Chewing Gum Base

I asked Deborah about the challenges of creating a completely plastic-free gum base.  Here’s her response:

We had always wanted the indigestible part of our gum – the gum base – to be as natural as the rest of our gum. And, we wanted to keep making it with chicle, a sustainably harvested rainforest tree sap.

Traditional method of preparing chicle for Glee plastic-free chewing gum

This, however, proved to be a big challenge. We could come up with various recipes that would work with small batches, made by hand, in our home kitchens. But because we sell millions of boxes of gum a year, our gum is made at a big production facility. We couldn’t come up with a recipe that would work on that scale.

Mixing gum base with rice syrup, sugar, flavors for plastic-free chewing gum

What finally enabled us to make the transition to a new, 100% natural, chicle gum base was finding and hiring the right food chemist. This was no mean feat because we needed someone who was both knowledgeable in gum formulation – a relatively niche market – and was familiar with the use of chicle – a highly specialized ingredient. With his help, and a good deal of trial and error, we were able to realise our dream. Our new gum base is made predominantly of chicle, with just three additional, natural ingredients: calcium carbonate, candelilla wax, and a pinch of dehydrated citrus peels.

Glee Plastic-Free chewing gum ingredients

Sugar-free peppermint Glee Gum contains Xylitol, Gum Base (Chicle, Calcium Carbonate, Candelilla Wax, Dehydrated Citrus Peels), Gum Arabic, Gycerine, Natural Flavor (Peppermint), Sunflower Lecithin, Resinous Glaze, Beeswax, and Carnauba Wax. It is plastic-free and Non-GMO Project verified.

 

Researching and transitioning to a new gum base recipe required a significant investment of time, energy, and funds. After we pinpointed the right recipe, we then needed to change all of our packaging to reflect the new ingredients. Using more chicle in our gum base than we had before also necessitated our learning how to deal with all the variations that can occur from harvest to harvest and batch to batch. Natural ingredients like chicle can be affected by moisture, temperature, and more; synthetic materials are usually designed to be immune to such factors.

(You can view an interactive slideshow showing the entire production process from extraction of the natural chicle through packaging of the finished gum.)

Secretiveness of the Plastics Industry

One reason Glee wanted to change its formula was to be able to be completely transparent about its ingredients.  Their old website FAQ had this description of the gum base:  Our gum base is a mix of chicle (see above), natural gums, rubbers, resins, and waxes. The exact formula is (unfortunately!) confidential. It is safe to chew, but, like all chewing gum, we don’t recommend that you swallow!

I’ve written many times on this site and in my book about how secretive the plastics industry is regarding its proprietary formulae.  It’s nearly impossible to find out what chemicals are used in any particular plastic product, which is why it’s so hard to know if any particular plastic product is actually safe or not.  Gum base is just one more example.  Deborah wrote:

A major part of what fueled us on this mission was appreciation for our customers. We have always strived to be transparent with them. So, we have always wanted to list the exact contents of our gum base on our labels. That was never going to be possible with a conventional gum base purchased from a big gum base supplier – even when that gum base was made partially with chicle, like the gum base we used to use. Manufacturers consider gum base recipes to be proprietary. We’re so happy and proud to be able to list the ingredients in our gum base on our labels now, to show that they are plastic-free and natural, unlike almost all other gum on the market today.

Glee Customers Drove This Change!

Molly Lederer, Glee Director of Communications & Marketing, shared with me that after all these years, the company is still getting calls and emails from My Plastic-Free Life readers asking about plastic in the gum base.  (Don’t worry — I have now updated my 2010 post!)  It’s true that Glee has wanted to eliminate synthetic ingredients for a very long time, but I’m sure that hearing from customers has helped drive this change.  Our communications with companies matter!

Why not contact Glee to thank them for going plastic-free?

Purchasing Glee Gum

Glee is offering My Plastic-Free Life readers a 15% discount off everything at GleeGum.com.
Coupon code: PLASTICFREE
(Enter coupon code in the lower left of your shopping cart on GleeGum.com & hit “apply coupon.” One time only. Offer ends 12/31/17 at 11:59 pm ET.)

You can also purchase Glee gum from local merchants, and it’s available on Amazon, but I’m not sure whether Amazon is carrying the new formulation.  It looks to me like several listings are still showing the old packaging.  This is what the new packaging looks like:

Flavors of Glee plastic-free chewing gum

Also, be aware that in addition to its completely plastic-free cardboard packaging, Glee also offers gum in plastic bags, so be careful when ordering.

Win a Box of Glee Sugar-Free Gum

If you’ve read this far, you could be in for a treat!  I’m giving away four boxes of Glee sugar-free gum:  two peppermint flavor and two wild watermelon flavor.  Leave a comment below letting me know which flavor you’d like.  I’ll choose four random winners in two weeks.

Have you already tried Glee’s plastic-free gum?  Which flavor did you try and what did you think of it?

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43 Comments on "Glee Chewing Gum Goes Plastic-Free!"

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This is exciting to me. Thanks for doing the research. I chew gum constantly as a left over from ditching cigarettes. I didn’t even know there was plastic in gum but am trying to find it without aspartame. Good old Glee is the way to go. If you draw my name I love peppermint the best. Thanks for all the work you all do.

I chew gum after lunch every day at work, and is aware of Aspartame/Plastic. Now that I decided to actually take the time to research which gum is the best, this blog has been very useful! If drawing still up in the air – I would love to try the peppermint! Thank you!

Great news! I can’t wait to get some for gifts for my family

I am a gum chewers, i even have an old fashioned metal and glass gumball machine on my desk. I am stoked about this post. Thanks for doing all the leg work, it is very much appreciated

Tangerine sounds delightful, but we would be grateful to try any plastic-free flavors!

Thanks for the informative post. I plan to say no to any gum that doesn’t assure me it is plastic-free.

This is encouraging! I’ve already been forwarding the article link to my friends and family, some of whom are huge gum-chewers. Thank you so much for sharing this information, I’m excited to try the different flavors and introduce them to my coworkers.

I have never tried the gum, but regularly chew Extra gum (buy at Costco). I highly recommend it for our Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, and Press Secretary Sean Spicer (he swallows gum whole!).

Would like to try the peppermint! Thanks for sharing!

Because they used to call me “Ellen Ellen Watermelon” back in the day, I’d like to try the Wild Watermelon flavor!

Oh this is so exciting! I chew gum to keep from biting my nails/skin and it mostly works, but I’d love to have gum that is plastic-free. I’m happy with either peppermint or watermelon flavor.

Thanks once again for making my plastic free life adventure easier and more satisfying! I would love to try the peppermint Glee plastic free gum. Shhh…its for my husband. He chews gum after meals because he read somewhere that it aids in digestion. This dear man won’t eat greens, so I do my best to get any non-green good stuff into him to hopefully give his body a fighting chance! To cut out the plastic gum would be terrific. Thanks Beth!

Thank you for sharing this. I love chewing gum but I prevent myself from doing it because it is not plastic free. Now I can finally chew some gum!

Peppermint sounds good!

I would love peppermint! Amazing product and can’t wait to try it.

Awesome news!! I have given up all gum for years because of the plastic, which has been very hard!! I’m very glad to hear Glee Gum has worked so hard to create plastic-free gum, in part because I’m trying to quit smoking (I know, I know!) cold-turkey and I will need lots of gum!! I will be sure to thank them profusely! I’d be willing to try any flavor!

Thanks so much for the update!!

As Jennifer said, “Would like either one, you pick whatever is left after everyone else picks. :) I like both flavors, thanks for doing this!”

Hi! First of all, thanks so much for all the info! I’m a big gum chewer and I recently started to look for info and alternatives to lead a more sustainable life so I found your blog when looking for natural chewing gum and I’m already in love with it! Regarding the contest, I’m from Europe so not sure if it applies to me but anyway I’d like any flavor so whatever is left would be fine by me:)

Wild watermelon!

Cinnamon and peppermint are my favorite. Glad to know there are companies like Glee that make plastic free products such as gum!

I’d love the peppermint. I’m looking forward to trying the new formulation!

I would love to try the peppermint gum. Thanks!!!

We love the peppermint. It’s the only gum I will let my 4 year old daughter have.

I quit chewing gum when I found out that it had plastic in it a few years back! Quite obvious once I thought about it. It’d be great to try the peppermint flavour, so I can get back into chewing when I feel like it. The plastic free packaging is a huge bonus, too!!

Would like either one, you pick what ever is left after everyone else picks…:)
like both flavors, thanks for doing this, awesome!

This gum sounds great to try. I would like to try the Peppermint Flavor first.

I would be wild about the watermelon!

Peppermint is my favorite.

Love glee gum and how it’s plastic free! Peppermint! :)

Peppermint FTW!

Would love to try the peppermint!

I would love to try the peppermint. Thanks for the wonderful update on this company!

I want to try Wild Watermelon Glee Gum!

Glad to see a company moving toward trying to be respectful of the environment and people’s dietary concerns!

Yay! I’m so happy to come across this article! I’ve missed chewing gum. I’d love some peppermint, please!

Watermelon would be awesome. Thanks for all your hard work.

Peppermint please! And keep up the great work!

We love Glee! It’s the only gum I buy for my kids- we made the switch after I started reading the labels on other gum brands and realized how many harmful chemicals were in them. My 6 year old loves peppermint and asks me to buy her some every week. It’s good to know Glee is now plastic-free, though honestly, I didn’t realize ANY gum contained plastic-yuck!

Gross! I had no idea gum had plastic in it. I’d love to try either flavor, but if I had to choose I’d opt for watermelon.

This is huge news and a great way to eliminate more plastics from both our diet and waste stream! Keep up the great work! I’m interested in trying that watermelon gum!

Thanks for this post! It was very interesting. I had no idea there was plastic in gum base. Wow. That’s disturbing. Glee is paving the way! I’ll send a not to thank them. Hopefully they find a lot of support and other gum manufacturers will take notice. I’m in Canada so I’m not sure the contest applies to me but id be happy to try either of the flavours!

Thanks Beth and Glee Gum! I’m a fan of peppermint but would be happy with any flavor!

It’s so nice to see that people can make a change happen.

Peppermint!

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