Iceland launches plastic-free chewing gum in UK first

Frozen food giant Iceland has today (August 1) launched a range of plastic-free chewing gum, making it the first supermarket in the UK to offer a biodegradable alternative.

While the majority of chewing gums are made from synthetic rubber, the new Iceland product, called Simply Gum, is made from the sap of the sapodilla tree, which is called chicle and was the original base for most gum products before the switch.

Iceland claims that the Simply Gum is completely biodegradable, and hopes the switch to chicle will help reduce the £60m which local councils spend annually on removing littered chewing gum from pavements.

The supermarket’s executive chairman, Malcolm Walker, said he was “delighted” to make the new product available in Iceland’s UK stores and on its website, as he believes the move will offer consumersa real choice about what they are consuming and the impact they make on the environment”.

“I absolutely detest the mess that discarded plastic chewing gum creates on our streets, and the fortune that is wasted by councils trying to clear it up,” Walker added.

“For decades, regular gum makers have hidden their synthetic ingredients behind the catch-all term of ‘gum base’ which is consistently used as an ingredient on pack – but Simply Gum uses the original, natural gum base of chicle and is fully biodegradable.”

The rollout of the gum, which comes in mint, maple and ginger flavours, comes after an Iceland survey revealed that 85% of its customers were not aware that such products typically contain plastic – and that two-thirds of people who chew gum opt for products without synthetic ingredients.

Plastics pledge

The launch of Simply Gum forms part of Iceland’s commitment to remove all single-use plastic packaging from its own-brand products by 2023 – an unprecedented pledge within the supermarket sector.

Since then, the chain has adopted a new “plastic-free” mark designed to help consumers make informed choices on plastic packaging, trialled reverse vending machines in its stores and publicly shown support for a nationwide deposit return scheme for plastic bottles.

It is also currently trialling paper alternatives to plastic bags in its Merseyside stores as the chain researches whether customers are willing to pay for plastic-free carriers. The eight-week trial has seen paper bags, which Iceland claims are widely-recycled and degradable, offered to shoppers for a 10p charge, with a view to a wider rollout.

Iceland’s own label & packaging manager, Ian Schofield, recently claimed that customer demand for big-name brands to phase out single-use plastics means the supermarket industry must be “fearless” in pursuing “ambitious” plastic goals in the wake of the January 2018 release of the Government’s 25-Year Environment Plan – which pledged to eliminate all “avoidable” plastics waste by 2042.

Sarah George 

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