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Kraft seeks ‘radical and inventive’ solution to environmentally-friendly gum base challenge

By Elaine Watson , 10-Jul-2012
Last updated on 10-Jul-2012 at 15:43 GMT2012-07-10T15:43:01Z

Kraft Foods is inviting potential partners to pitch “ingredients, formulations or technologies" that could help it create an environmentally-friendly chewing gum base that will degrade after disposal.

In a posting on its open innovation site at kfcollaborationkitchen.com , the firm says it is looking for “ingredients, formulations or technologies that could provide a like for like replacement for current chewing gum formulations with an environmentally friendly and/or sustainability advantage”.

It adds: “One of the challenges for the chewing gum business is to uncover a route to deliver the same consumer experience with a lower impact on the environment.

“Specifically there is an interest in achieving a gum that has the ability to degrade once disposed.

Radical and inventive external solutions are sought

Solutions could include novel ingredients, processing methods or technologies that can help deliver a degradable gum whilst maintaining equivalent texture, elasticity, chew time and flavor release characteristics to current chewing gum formulations, says Kraft.

“Kraft Foods continues to make significant progress in this area, so radical and inventive external solutions are sought to tackle this challenging area of research.”

The world’s number two gum manufacturer behind Mars/Wrigley, Kraft gum brands include Trident, Hollywood (the leading chewing gum in France), Stimorol (the market leading gum brand in Northern Europe), Bubbaloo (the first bubble gum with a liquid center) and Dentyne (introduced in New York in 1899 as the first gum to aid in oral hygiene).

Novel Foods approval

The quest for a degradable gum has been gathering pace in recent years, with the latest developments coming from Kraft’s UK-based subsidiary Reading Scientific Services Limited (RSSL) - an R&D firm it acquired via the acquisition of Cadbury.

According to our sister title ConfectioneryNews.com , RSSL looks set to gain EU novel foods approval for a degradable synthetic chewing gum base comprising polyvinyl methyl ether maleic anhydride copolymer, later this year.

RSSL has not sought to patent protect the process for the gum base and it’s unclear whether the co-polymer will be available to the industry as a whole or exclusively to Kraft.

Revolymer - another UK-based firm - has also gained EU Novel Foods approval for its gum base, Rev7, which can degrade over two to three months in drains and in less than two years on pavements. (Click here for details.)

Our ‘sole disappointment remains gum and candy’

Speaking on a recent earnings call to discuss Kraft’s first quarter results, chief executive Irene Rosenfeld said the firm had got off to a “terrific start” but was disappointed with its performance in gums and candy.

“Our sole disappointment remains gum & candy, which was up only 1%”, said Rosenfeld.

“Frankly, it's taken us longer to change gum's trajectory than we had anticipated, largely due to the sluggishness of the macro-environment.”

However, bosses are planning an “exciting gum innovation in the second half, supported by a very creative marketing plan”, she revealed.

How open innovation works at Kraft

Firms that respond to briefs posted on kfcollaborationkitchen.com will be informed within eight weeks if Kraft is not interested in their solution.

If bosses are interested, a dialogue can begin - and a written confidentiality agreement may follow, says the firm, which is preparing to split into two publicly traded companies (global snacks ‘Mondelez’ and North American grocery) before the year-end.

“If this is a breakthrough idea or a really new innovation, we may be ready to start talking about a development or licensing agreement.”

Click here to access Kraft’s open innovation website.

Click here to read more about Kraft’s R&D activities.

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