Chemical Free Gum: Can It Live up to the Hype? A Review of Simply Gum
My ex once told me that, according to his grandmother, real ladies don't chew gum.
Not only did I laugh and almost spit my gum in his face (totally by accident, of course), but as I chewed on my favourite Cinnamon-flavored gum, a store bought brand found at virtually every supermarket, I began wondering what was in my stick of gum and what made it so darn chewy and delicious.
Most gums you see littering the shelves of convenience stores, vending machines and supermarkets are packed to the gills with chemicals, artificial sweeteners and, even more disturbingly, plastic. Yes, plastic. Several brands of our coveted chewing gum contain ingredients like synthetic rubbers, something I'm sure many of us would absolutely frown upon putting in our mouths. When we discover what's really lurking in our gum, we typically search high and low for a better alternative, looking arduously for a gum that's both natural and rubber-free. One brand has cleverly cornered the market on that: Simply Gum.
Still believing, somehow, that Goop actually means well and isn't totally out to get me with false-positives about how juice cleansing will change my life (it won't, FYI), I gave their brief article on Simply Gum a read when stumbling through the internet to find out more about the natural gum producer. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Goop's Dr. Jean reviewed the gum as being "Life changing for the person who simply must chew something," marketing it almost as a beauty product rather than what is actually is: gum.
Deciding to take a leap of faith and give Simply Gum a shot, I took a peek through the brand's website and ordered a One-Time purchase of their 6-pack gum. Though you can find Simply Gum in most Whole Foods supermarkets, I don't live close enough to one to be able to purchase the product in-person. Thus, I paid $33 (total) for six boxes of Simply Gum's Cinnamon gum. It arrived within three days (from New York to Toronto) - a pretty impressive ship time.
Upon arrival, I was surprised to open one of the small, square boxes to find that the gum came in tiny, bite-size pieces that were unwrapped. Reminiscent of horse-food pellets - you know, the small, circular stuff you might feed to livestock? - each piece is simply unwrapped, ready to be popped into your mouth. Interesting is the fact that each box comes with a small sleeve of wrappers so you can dispose of the gum after you're done chewing it. So, rather than wrap the pieces individually, you're supplied with a few small wrappers for disposal. They call them "Post-Chew Wraps" and, personally, I find them to be pointless and wasteful.
I wasn't able to get a good shot of what the gum and wraps look like, but Pepper & Rye did a good job of showcasing both (see below).
Simply Gum: The Review
When you order directly from their website, Simply Gum offers you the option of a One-Time purchase, in which you receive 6 boxes of the same flavor or an assortment of all 6 flavors. They offer a Subscription service which I chose to forego so as to actually give the gum a try before I buy a month's or more supply. I gave a box to my mother for her to keep in her briefcase, and one to my friend. That left me with four boxes, enough to last me a month (if not more).
Simply Gum offers 6 different flavors: Mint, Ginger, Cinnamon, Coffee, Fennel, and Maple. I chose Cinnamon because it's my favorite gum flavor, but something tells me the Mint and Coffee flavors would be just as enjoyable.
If you can't purchase a box of Simply Gum from your local Whole Foods or other natural food retailers, you have no choice but to order from the brand's website in quantities of six. My order cost approximately $33 (that includes shipping) and arrived in 3 business days. For gum, $33 seems like a hefty price to pay, but I tried to keep in mind that it's all natural, and thus worthwhile to try.
Each flavour is made using only 5 ingredients, with the brand claiming that the gum is Non GMO certified and Kosher friendly. One ingredient I was particularly wary of is the Organic Vegetable Glycerin. There is no information available from Simply Gum which offers details as to where their glycerin* comes from, however, vegetable glycerin is often derived from soy - an infamous monoculture.
I found it odd that the imagery on the brand's website shows the boxes of gum stating they are "100% Natural" and yet, my boxes of gum do not contain the term "100%," leading me to wonder if the gum I received really is 100% Natural, or if their branding on their boxes has simply changed. Either way, I appreciate the limited ingredient list and like the fact that each ingredient is one I can actually pronounce, and am knowledgeable about.
Here's where things get a bit tricky, though.
Each box came with its own set of Post-Chew Wraps; small, thin pieces of paper meant to be used as disposal wraps for when you're done chewing the gum. These are, I'm sure, very helpful if you're traveling or on the go and have no way of putting your gum in a garbage bin or disposing of it without littering. I, however, found them to be quite wasteful and unnecessary. There also are not enough Post-Chew Wraps for every piece of gum, so I assume you're meant to chew a few pieces at a time and use the Wraps sparingly.
Again, kind of unnecessary.
The packaging, small, white and quite chic, is just as easy to carry around with you as other packages of gum are, though perhaps Simply Gum's boxes of unwrapped gum pellets are a tad more fancy and editorial than a box of Trident. It seems as though the packaging does most of the "talking" (chewing?) for the gum, specifically the small white box design, which looks a bit like a makeup-palette-turned-cigarette-case. Despite knowing that packaging is part of a clever marketing strategy, I still find myself attracted to the cute little white boxes.
Could these be the Tiffany-blue boxes of the gum industry?
As you can see, our neighbour's cat, Jackson, didn't mind the gum one bit. He actually hopped right on up to the table and seemed to enjoy the cinnamon scent.
I, on the other hand, was slightly less impressed. The flavour, likely due to being natural, didn't seem to last long. And, as I write this and chew the gum simultaneously, the flavor has already left the gum after just 10 minutes of chewing it. I've found myself chewing on 3-4 pieces at once, trying in vain to get as much flavor out of each piece as possible. Though the flavor is quite apparent and nice, the staying power leaves something to be desired.
So, the flavor is there and the packaging is chic. But is the gum all it's been hyped up to be?
When it comes to the ingredients, the brand pushes the fact that their gum is made without artificial flavors, preservatives and synthetics. They claim to focus on organic ingredients, saying each of their ingredients is "natural and sourced from the highest quality suppliers across the globe." They get brownie points for manufacturing their product right in NYC, choosing not to source out production to some random third-world country or sweatshop. But the lack of transparency regarding their ingredients is concerning.
Nowhere does it say, for example, where those natural ingredients come from, or where these high-quality suppliers are based around the globe. There is no information on their website available which tells consumers how each ingredient is sourced, and whether the suppliers supplying the ingredients have safe and fair working conditions + wages for the people working to make those ingredients available. So though the brand doesn't claim in any respect to be an ethical or fair-trade company, the organic ingredients must come from somewhere, and that information is not readily available.
All ethics and ingredients aside, Simply Gum appears to have created a healthier, chemical-free alternative to the chewing gums we so flippantly purchase from local grocery and convenience stores without a second thought. Their packaging appeals to a wide audience of people who are conscious of what they put into their bodies or, at the very least, those who like prettily-packaged food goods. Goop hyped the gum up as a "beauty-product-esque" box of chic chewing gum, no doubt adding to the brand's minimalist and cultish aesthetic. The gum tastes good, has a far better and more natural ingredient list than its unnatural competitors, and has become popular enough to be - for all intents and purposes - a mainstream chewing gum, with a bit of a chic flair.
But the lack of transparency surrounding their ingredients, the lacklustre staying power of the gum's flavor, and the wasteful Post-Chew Wraps leave a slightly sour taste in my mouth. Would I buy Simply Gum again? Probably not. After all, finding natural breath mints made with similarly small ingredient lists is just as simple as buying a pack of Simply Gum, just perhaps less expensive. We have to ask ourselves if we're willing to pay $30+ for packs of gum, especially if that gum can't tell you where its ingredients come from.
Is Simply Gum making a good start in the market of chemical-free chewing gum? Absolutely. And if it's good enough for Goop and Gwen-Pal, it must be good enough for us.
*Update: A representative from Simply Gum has confirmed where their vegetable glycerin is derived from: corn.
~ All imagery in this post is courtesy of yours truly (me), with the exception of Pepper & Rye's image (image #1).