STANDARDS

NGSS: Core Idea: ETS1.A    

CCSS: Reading Informational Text: 1    

TEKS: 6.5C, 7.6A, 8.3D, C.3D

Chewing on Plastic?!

One woman’s quest to get the “gross” out of gum

ROOS KOOLE/MOMENT/GETTY IMAGES

AS YOU READ, THINK ABOUT some of the steps people need to follow to successfully create a new product.

Caron Proschan finished a salad for lunch. She felt good about her healthy choice . . . until she went to pop a piece of gum into her mouth. Proschan read the package’s label and realized she couldn’t identify most of the ingredients. “I immediately noticed the contrast between what I’d just eaten and the artificial product I was holding in my hand,” she says.

Proschan, who worked in finance and real estate in New York City, did some digging to find out more. She learned that gum usually contains many synthetic compounds, like artificial sweeteners and flavors, made to mimic natural substances. Most gum also shares a surprising—and unappetizing—main ingredient: plastic.

Carron Proschan had just finished a salad for lunch. She felt good about her healthy choice. But then she went to pop a piece of gum into her mouth. Proschan read the package’s label. She didn’t know what most of the ingredients were. “I immediately noticed the contrast between what I’d just eaten and the artificial product I was holding in my hand,” she says.

Proschan, who worked in finance and real estate in New York City, wanted to know more. So she did some digging. She learned that gum usually contains many synthetic compounds. These chemicals imitate natural substances. Some are artificial sweeteners and flavors. But the main ingredient in most gum seems surprising—and unpleasant. It’s plastic.

JEREMY KIRBY PHOTOGRAPHY/COURTESY OF SIMPLY GUM

AT-HOME INVENTOR: Caron Proschan developed the recipe for Simply Gum in her kitchen.

WHAT’S IN GUM?

BIANCA ALEXIS

Proschan thought that other people probably didn’t realize they’d been chewing on hunks of flavored plastic either. Or that tossing their used gum was creating plastic pollution that would stick around for a long time. And if they did know, they might want a better option. So Proschan decided to make one.

“I started by researching the conventional ingredients in gum and then looked for natural alternatives to replace them,” says Proschan. She learned that before the 1950s, instead of plastic, gum was made from chicle (CHI-klee). This sticky substance comes from certain trees. Proschan decided to use this biodegradable material, which breaks down easily in the environment, as her gum base. Next, she chose to replace artificial sweeteners with sugar, and artificial flavorings with natural oils and extracts (see Gum Gets Real).

Proschan didn’t know she’d been chewing on hunks of flavored plastic. She thought that other people probably didn’t know that either. Or that their used gum created plastic pollution, and that it would stick around for a long time. And if they did know, they might want a better choice. So Proschan decided to make one.

“I started by researching the conventional ingredients in gum and then looked for natural alternatives to replace them,” says Proschan. She learned that gum wasn’t made of plastic before the 1950s. Instead, it was made from chicle (CHI-klee). This sticky substance comes from certain trees. It’s a biodegradable material that breaks down easily in the environment. Proschan decided to use it as her gum base. Next, she replaced artificial sweeteners with sugar. And she replaced artificial flavorings with natural oils and extracts (see Gum Gets Real).

STICKY SOLUTION

Proschan picked a few other ingredients to add to her product so it would have a consistency similar to that of traditional gum. “I ordered everything online,” she says, “and then started tinkering in my kitchen.” Proschan tested various recipes with different amounts of ingredients. She found that adding too much flavoring, for example, made the gum slippery and soft. Too much chicle, on the other hand, made the gum too dense and hard.

After a lot of trial and error, Proschan came up with a mixture that worked. But when she made larger batches, the gum’s texture didn’t turn out right. She had to go back to the drawing board. It took her about a year to figure out the right proportions of ingredients to make larger amounts. Proschan began selling her product, called Simply Gum, to local grocery stores and then expanded to shops across the country.

Proschan recently had to move production out of her home kitchen and into a factory in New York City to keep up with demand for her product. “Until now, there has been very little innovation in the gum industry,” she says. “I saw Simply Gum as an opportunity to do something exciting and new.”

Proschan wanted her product to have a feel like that of traditional gum. So she picked a few other ingredients to add. “I ordered everything online,” she says, “and then started tinkering in my kitchen.” Proschan tested different mixtures with different amounts of ingredients. For example, she found that too much flavoring wasn’t good. It made the gum slippery and soft. But too much chicle made the gum too dense and hard.

Proschan went through a lot of trial and error. Finally, she made a mixture that worked. But when she made larger batches, the gum didn’t have the right feel. She had to go back to the drawing board. She tried to figure out the right amounts of ingredients for larger batches. That took her about a year. Proschan called her product Simply Gum. First, she began selling it to local grocery stores, and then to shops across the country.

Proschan couldn’t keep up with demand for her product. So she recently moved production out of her home kitchen and into a factory in New York City. “Until now, there has been very little innovation in the gum industry,” she says. “I saw Simply Gum as an opportunity to do something exciting and new.”

RELATED CONTENT

Back to top
Skills Sheets (3)
Skills Sheets (3)
Skills Sheets (3)
Lesson Plan (2)
Lesson Plan (2)