If you’ve popped a piece of gum into your mouth today, then you’ve added to what medical researchers estimate to be 187 billion hours of gum-chewing that takes place globally each year. Given the popularity of the candy, it’s strange then that South Africa does not manufacture its own chewing gum – at least until now.
Local sweets manufacturer Richester Foods has just launched South Africa’s first locally manufactured chewing gum, Mintex, which aims to challenge the position of multinational gum giants. Individually wrapped for added hygiene and convenience, Mintex two-piece chewing gum sachets are a gamechanger for chewers looking for a quick breath freshener or to share with a friend.
At a price of between R18 and R20 per bag of 50 sachets (which contain two pieces of gum each) or less than 20 cents per gum, Mintex is up to 50% more affordable than other brands on store shelves. In addition to its trademark burst of flavour and fresh blast of cool air, this is a highly attractive selling point, which is quickly making the brand a favourite for South Africans of all ages, from children to adults – especially with pockets under severe pressure.
Richester Foods co-founder and Managing Director Dr Hussein Cassim notes that the reason other sweets companies have avoided investing in local chewing gum manufacturing facilities for so long is likely high barriers to entry.
“Producing chewing gum is an expensive, labour-intensive, and technology-sensitive process, even compared to bubble gum, so most other major brands choose to rather make it at a super-site somewhere else in the world, and then import and distribute the product to other countries,” he says.
In keeping with its South Africa-first strategy, Richester Foods has instead invested millions towards purchasing the specialised equipment needed from Europe, and set this technology up in its new chewing gum division at its sweets factory in Centurion near Gauteng. This has created 30 new jobs throughout the gum’s supply chain.
“Mintex is the most complex product we have. Chewing gum is different from bubble gum in that it goes through five additional steps in the production process. After extrusion, the gum is rolled and scored, and then rests before being coated several times with specialised ingredients to its desired thickness. It then rests again before being polished, and finally wrapped and packaged,” he explains. “It takes roughly 36 hours in total to make a single piece of gum, but our factory produces roughly 600 sachets a minute or three million single gums per week.”
Mintex comes in three flavour variants: the traditional Peppermint, the cool Spearmint, and the Extra Strong for an intense burst of cool air. The gum is also vegan, gelatine-free and halaal, appealing to a broad consumer base. “The Extra Strong taste seems to be the most popular among South Africans because it’s full of menthol crystals and mint oils which give you that soothing blast of cool air when you breathe in,” says Cassim.
“The Peppermint also has a soothing aftertaste, while the Spearmint has a slightly sweeter, subtler minty flavour that will appeal to people looking for something less intense.”
Since its soft launch in May, Richester Foods has already sold in excess of five million Mintex sachets to select wholesalers, Cash ‘n Carry’s, and informal traders. Preparation is now underway to launch the product nationwide, and Richester has already received extensive interest from retailers looking to stock the gum on their shelves.