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Mystery Indian firm to supply chewing gum cooling agent WS-23

By Oliver Nieburg+

06-Aug-2013

Cooling agent WS-23 partially replaces menthol in gum to alleviate some of the bitterness
Cooling agent WS-23 partially replaces menthol in gum to alleviate some of the bitterness

An unnamed Indian company will soon rival a string of Chinese firms by supplying WS-23, a cooling agent that minimizes the bitterness of menthol in gum, according to the firm’s global distributors.

Jim Currie, CEO of Currie Marketing UK, the global seller and distributor for the Indian firm, told ConfectioneryNews that he couldn’t reveal the name of the company until a pilot run had been completed and intellectual property rights were secured.

He claimed the new offering would be cheaper and purer than the WS-23 currently on the market, which is mainly supplied by Chinese companies.

“Ours is an improvement on the process," he said.

Reduces bitterness of Mentol

Menthol is well-known to leave a bitter aftertaste in chewing gum. WS-23 alleviates some of that bitterness.

It cannot fully replace mentol, but can be used in combination to produce a cooling effect.

“You add more cooling notes. It gives you an intake of sharp breath coolness without imparting bitterness," said Currie.

More expensive than menthol

However, that cooling effect comes at a price.

According to Currie, while mentol costs just $20 per kilo, WS-23 is around $70 per kilo.

“It must justify it to get the flavor you want. Wrigley will spend $1m to get 10 seconds of flavor enhancement,” he said.

Wrigley & Mondelez: WS-23 wars

WS-23 was developed by Wilkinson’s Sword in the 1970s when the company was looking for an alternative cooling effect to menthol in shaving foams that didn't cause irritation if it came into contact with the eyes.

Wrigley and Mondelez have recently been warring over patents for WS-23 in chewing gum.

Under the current state of play, no chewing gum manufacturer holds a patent for a process to manufacture gum with WS-23.

Legal wrangle

Mondelez-owned Cadbury does hold, a 1989 US patent for a gum manufacturing process using a similar cooling agent called WS-3 in combination with menthol.

Wrigley had also tried to file a US patent for a menthol/WS-23 combo in chewing gum in 2000. But when it started using WS-23 (supplied by UK firm Rhodia) in its products, Cadbury accused Wrigley of infringing its 1989 patent.

The parties both initiated legal action and last year a US appeal court ruled that Wrigley’s patent was invalid and that Cadbury could not extend its WS-3 patent to WS-23 either.

Therefore both companies can make WS-23 gum.

Wrigley, however, may be looking at other solutions having recently filed a patent to give a cooling effect in gum using a compound called Gly-OiPr.

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