We’re making a rash prediction: Instead of gum, you have mints in your purse.Are we correct?According to new research, probably. The $4 billion gum business has dropped 10 percent in sales in the past five years, while mints are up twice as much.
So, why is the gum bubble bursting? Blame our health-conscious ways. Analysts say that mint makers have done a bang-up job marketing not just fresh breath, but also oral hygiene and natural ingredients into every menthol morsel. But gum isn’t out for the count. There is still hope that we might stay a nation of chewers. A new generation of gum companies are touting natural sweeteners over artificial ones such as aspartame, and breaking the mold when it comes to flavor profile, packaging and—yes—oral health benefits.
The fact of the matter is, chewing gum is actually good for your teeth. Popping in a piece of sugar-free gum after a meal produces saliva that helps wash enamel-eroding acid and cavity-promoting sugar off your chompers. Glee Gum, Epic Dental, Pur and Spry, among others, make gum sweetened with xylitol, a natural sugar alcohol that tastes sweet, but doesn’t give the damaging bacteria in your mouth any fuel for their dirty work. (Xylitol can, however, have a laxative effect if you eat too much.)
Enterprising small brands such as Orange County, California-based Project 7 are pushing the envelope with sugar-free flavors like Birthday Cake and Coconut Lime, the latter of which beat out big guys like Wrigley’s and Orbit for 2014’s gum of the year. Founder Tyler Merrick says that while it’s pretty much impossible to make a piece of gum taste like Duncan Hines without using some aspartame (and it really, really does taste like cake—think Willy Wonka, IRL), you would have to chew 42 pieces to equal the artificial sweetener if one can of diet soda.
We think Project 7 is particularly cool, not just for their inventive flavors, but also because they come in purse-friendly resealable baggies, and a portion of each pack goes to one of seven important causes, including anti-bullying, housing and clean water programs. Doing good for others while doing good for your teeth? We can get behind that. But above all, it’s just the kind of thinking the gum industry needs to keep from getting spit out for good. Says Merrick, “We’re making gum fun again.”
MORE: 8 Bad Brushing Habits That Harm Your Teeth