"It has been a bumpy ride with lots of challenges, but we have had a lot of fun times and now it’s all worth it."
Many councils across the globe have invested in campaigns to stop people dropping, spitting and sticking gum where they shouldn’t. These campaigns highlight the need for manufacturers to take more imaginative approaches to developing environmentally-friendly biodegradable gum. Not many people know this, but traditional chewing gum is made with a synthetic rubber base – a base that contains many of the same ingredients found in tyres, plastic bottles, and glue! Not only that, many of them also contain animal fat, artificial flavouring and sweeteners, and more. However, a recently-formed Danish start-up is putting an end to all of that. True Gum produces an all-natural chewing gum, which is 100% biodegradable, vegan friendly, contains no plastic and no added sugar.
Here, co-founder Jacob Sand Motzfeldt talks to Liz Gyekye, senior content manager at Bio-Based World News to unpick its story.
Liz Gyekye (LG): Welcome to 5 Minutes With... ! Can you begin with a description about True Gum and what it is the company does?
Jacob Sand Motzfeldt (JSM) : This all started in autumn 2016. My colleagues Morten Ebdrup and Peter Regnersgaard were having a meal with organic food. After the meal, Peter passed Morten some cherry-flavoured chewing gum. When Morton chewed the gum, he instantly compared the synthetic feeling of the gum to the organic meal which he had just had. The contrast was just so huge. So, he asked himself ‘What is this chewing gum actually made of?’. They then went on their mobile phones to find out the answer. They found that chewing gum was made out of ingredients that are used to produce plastic bottles and glues, among other things. Essentially, a lot of plastic components make up what we are actually eating. It then began to make sense why traditional chewing gum never degraded on the pavements because of the plastic components in it.
Morten and Peter then presented the idea to me to form a chewing gum company. When they told me about the idea I was hooked immediately and I quit my day job one week later. We then started importing gum to make our biodegradable chewing gum. There was lot of trial and error involved. At the same time, we got our fourth team member on board – co-founder Zabrina Ziegler. We all quit our day jobs and put our savings into the company, and eventually set up a chewing gum factory.
All our ingredients originate from plants or trees. If you throw our chewing gum on the pavements it will degrade naturally. This can take between six to twelve months. Whereas, some traditional chewing gums can take around twenty or even fifty years to degrade.
LG: Before co-founding the company, what did you do?
JSM: Morten, Peter and I were all consultants. We specialised in helping large companies to become more entrepreneurial in their relevant sectors. It was not completely alien for us to set up our own company because we had been advising companies to do the same.
LG: What has been the biggest challenge in growing the company?
JSM: From day one, we wanted to make a chewing gum that was free of chemicals and free of plastics. That’s been a big challenge. But we also wanted to make a chewing gum with a good taste, we didn’t just want to make a chewing gum without plastics. We wanted to make natural chewing gum that was relevant to everybody. That made the challenge even bigger. None of us had any experience in chewing gum production and we had a lot of trial and errors to overcome to get to where we are today.
In addition to the challenge of coming up with good recipes, we also had the hurdle of building a chewing gum factory, as we wanted to produce our own gum to achieve the quality we aimed for. Our knowledge was limited on how to do this, and we also needed to build it with a high capacity. That’s been very challenging, but now we have a good factory up and running.
LG: What’s coming up next for True Gum?
JSM: We look forward to bringing our chewing gum to new markets and expanding in Denmark. We are available in supermarkets and 7-Eleven stores in Denmark, but we are also sold in other European markets.
LG: What advice would you give to someone else looking to launch their own company/product in this space?
JSM: We built up a network of people who knew about chewing gum sales and production. We experimented a lot in the kitchen to perfect our recipes, while we met with a lot of people within this industry to get their advice. After two years in the kitchen, we now know a lot about chewing gum development.
If I knew about all the challenges that we were going to face, perhaps I wouldn’t have started it to be honest. It has been a bumpy ride with lots of challenges, but we have had a lot of fun times and now it’s all worth it. I would advise that people tackle the challenges they face in starting a business, even though they may have limited experience in the area they are trying to start a business in. We have been lucky in that there have been a lot of people who have been able to help us on our journey.
There have even been people who have retired a long time ago from chewing gum companies, who are willing to respond to the e-mails we send them. They are willing to share their knowledge and that is so beneficial for us. I would ask people to reach out and form new networks.
LG: What’s your favourite sustainable/bio-based product?
JSM: I like to think that small changes can make a big difference. For instance, I like my thermal cup for my coffee, which means I do not have to purchase a cup with plastic lining when I have my coffee. It annoys me when I see all the single-use plastics being used out there. For example, plastic bags, plastic cups and plastic cutlery, among other items.
LG: Thanks for being so generous with your time, Jacob.
If you would like to feature in the feature that every week puts a face to the brand and provides established businesses and start-ups the crucial advice they need in this industry, please e-mail email@example.com
Read the last 5 minutes with… Neville Hargreaves from Velocys.