If you frequent Whole Foods, you’ve probably noticed by now these simply designed white square boxes sitting pretty on the displays as you wait by the register. Other health food stores carry them too, but the difference in frequency of appearance is notable.
To be clear, we aren’t gum people. Not even close, really. We’re also not too keen on ingesting glycerin (an ingredient used here to retain moisture), as its antibacterial properties are not welcome in our digestive systems, and neither is its blocking of mineral absorption welcome in our mouths or on our teeth. But considering this is what seems to be the best gum out there so far, we made an exception in the name of research.
Simply Gum, as its name suggests, is an attempt to create a quality chewing gum with as little junk as possible. At first glance, its ingredients might not seem particularly special, and they shouldn’t: organic dried cane juice, all natural chicle*, all natural flavour/s**, organic vegetable glycerin, organic sunflower lecithin, and organic rice flour. That’s really all you need. If you check out the ingredient lists of most other popular gums, however, you’ll find a roster of cryptic components. Chief and most problematic among these is the mysterious ‘gum base’. Where Simply Gum uses chicle (a more traditional base made from several trees of the Manilkara genus), most producers hide beneath the term things such as paraffin wax (most commonly derived from refined petroleum), polyvinyl acetate (literally Elmer’s glue), and hydrogenated vegetable oils (only a molecule away from plastic), to name a few.
You can probably gather that in terms of ingredients, Simply has little to no competition.
Once those ingredients are set aside though, the stakes are much higher. Other than their natural colouring (or lack thereof – however you want to look at it), the pellet shaped pieces they come in are not particularly attractive. The flavoural experience (whether it’s Ginger, Fennel Licorice, Cinnamon, or, we would guess, any of their other three) is also distinctively brief, disappearing almost entirely after about 30 seconds. The bulk of it after about 5. It’s mild while it’s there too, never giving that mouthfilling bigness of flavour (think: Big Red or Winterfresh) that some desire. In a way, its soft-spoken nature is refreshing – it feels honest. The texture is amazing, and by far serves as the most pleasurable part of the experience. A really excellent super-smooth chew that doesn’t overwork your jaw or wind up getting compacted into an unfortunate squishy rock-like substance.
WARNING: Do not attempt to use as bubblegum. Big enough bubbles are sure to pop, and will stick to whatever surface they happen to meet like a motherfucker. Individuals with facial hair of any kind should be especially wary.
On an individual basis, the three flavours we sampled showed substantial variation in quality.
We started with Ginger, which surprised us from the moment we opened its package with the unmistakable scent (and later, taste) of cigarette smoke of all things. It seemed as though it was coming from the darker, duller part of the root – much like some powdered gingers, as opposed to the bright, spicy part we were expecting. Kind of interesting; ultimately, not what we’re looking for in a gum – certainly not breath freshening. Fennel Licorice provided welcome contrast with its happily realistic portrayal of the eponymous ingredients. Almost tangible in its complexity and subtle shading, conjuring up a sense of both traditional licorice chews and fresh-picked fennel, this is by far the most refreshing and our definite favourite. And in Cinnamon, despite being formulated from actual cassia, Simply still ends up leaning on the familiar artificial profile (overly spicy, one-dimensional), albeit a toned down version; sitting somewhere in the potpourri department, hovering between nice and air freshener. Unlike the other two though, cinnamon does indeed build intensity over time. Granted, it is a short period of time, and the max is far from max, but it does so more than the others, which is something.
Overall, Simply Gum’s flavour just doesn’t keep up with its chew. Fennel Licorice does a pretty damn good job, but even that dissipates too quickly. For a gum, their ingredients are fantastic, and though we have some minor quibbles with their packaging (which we aren’t going into) they have a great look that really sets them apart from their competition as much on the outside as their formulas do on the inside. We hope they’ll continue to work on their product, as there is still plenty of room for improvement in the flavour department. Anyone for whom chewability is a high priority though, will most certainly not be disappointed, and at the end of the day, it is chewing gum after all. The flavour is just a fun temporary bonus.
We certainly aren’t going to be purchasing any more of these for reasons we’ve already mentioned, but for folks who just can’t go without their gum, Simply does get our recommendation.
*We’re assuming chicle is one of those difficult to certify ingredients, mostly due to its source. Likely a non-issue.
**Natural flavourants are easy to source organically, so we’re a bit puzzled as to why they cut this little corner.