Sam Bompass, partner, Bompass & Parr told FoodNavigator.com his firm created two prototype flavour-changing gums in its labs late last year, both based on colloidosome flavour encapsulation technology.
One gum enables the chewer to experience strawberry then chocolate flavours, while the other makes the switch from passion fruit to foie gras.
“We spoke to Professor Dave Hart at the Institute of Food Research in Norwich about doing it theoretically, and we sourced some gum base last year and started work,” said Bompass.
“There’s been a lot of industry interest – from large gum manufacturers to supermarkets – and we are looking to produce a product either under our own brand or for someone else.”
Asked how soon such a potentially game-changing product could hit the shelves, Bompass added: “Within the year, by 2012 perhaps. When you think about it chewing gum changes flavour anyway, when it loses its flavour, so this is quite a natural progression.”
Sticking points with gum
Hart himself said the “first big obstacle” to creating Wonka’s famous three-course dinner gum – tomato soup, roast beef and baked potato, blueberry pie and ice cream – was controlling the delayed release of individual flavours.
Nanotechnology, used by Bompass & Parr, held out a more promising future for flavour-changing gum than simple flavour encapsulation techniques, Hart said, where the former involve hollow spheres called colloidosomes – each fabricated from a shell composed of colloids (ultra-microscopic particles) – that could encapsulate active ingredients such as flavours.
Said Hart: “Keeping it simple, colloidosomes are made by putting particles (in our case flavourings) inside water droplets, and then suspending the droplets in oil containing the colloid particles.
“The colloid particles absorb onto the surface of the water droplet and are locked together. The newly formed colloidosomes, particles of flavour in a colloid shell, are then removed from the oil.”
Saliva soluble colloidosomes
Hart said the nature of colloidosomes could be changed so that some broke up on contact with saliva, or were made with varying levels of elasticity, meaning that they ruptured at a certain shear stress.
He added that it would be possible to make saliva-soluble colloidosomes with a tomato soup flavour, some with a medium structural strength containing beef and potato flavour and some high strength with blueberry and ice cream.
Nonetheless, it seems some subtle masticatory gymnastics are in order to enjoy such a gum: a gentle chew for the tomato soup flavour, a medium work-out for roast beef and potato, and a hard chew for the dessert.
“This is only an idea and it would need a lot of further development,” said Hart. “For example, it would be difficult to eat…and if the colloidosomes were too small you might not actually manage to bite them.”