Earlier this year, Israeli start-up Sweet Victory announced the launch of its ‘crave-stifling’ chewing gum for adults.
Within two minutes of chewing the peppermint or ginger-lemon flavoured gum, the company claims its active ingredient – the ancient Indian botanical gymnema (Gymnema sylvestre) – blocks the sugar receptors on the tongue.
For up to a period of two hours, sweet food and drink will taste bland or even sour, and impulses for a sweets binge can be abated.
Now, Sweet Victory has teamed up with Swiss flavours and fragrances company Givaudan to develop a prototype of its ‘craving-crushing’ gum for children aged five years and above.
A ‘massive process’
The adult version of Sweet Victory’s gum is already on the market in France, Panama and Israel. But that does not mean readjusting the product for kids was a walk in the park.
Developing a children’s version of the product turned out to be a ‘massive process’, according to the start-up. Gymnema, which has been used for more than 2,000 years in Ayurvedic medicine, has a bitter taste, which needed to be masked.
Givaudan and Sweet Victory ‘took months’ to create a child-safe, tailored dosage of the active ingredient, and decided to first develop a tutti-frutti flavour – ranked amongst the top three favourite sweet flavours amongst kids.
“Givaudan created a taste solution for Sweet Victory’s dietary supplement for children to make it more palatable,” explained Kathleen Maksymec, Head of European Communications, Taste & Wellbeing, at Givaudan.
“The solution included a Tutti Frutti flavour with a masking technology to address the bitterness of the herbal ingredient in the product,” she told FoodNavigator.
This was undoubtedly the ‘biggest challenge’ in tailoring the product to the kids’ segment, suggested Sweet Victory co-founder Shimrit Lev. “In the gum designed for adults we used strong mint, but in the kid’s product we had to come up with other solutions.
“[The aim was to produce] a product so attractive to children that, regardless of its effect of blocking sweet taste, it can become a legitimate substitute for other sweets, simply because it’s delicious.”
Kicking the sugar habit
The product for kids is still in the prototype stage, but Sweet Victory expects to launch it before the end of the year.
Trials have already been conducted to estimate the impact of the gum on kids in Israel, France, and the US. According to the start-up, results demonstrated that children enjoyed the gum but could not eat confectionery after chewing it – for a period of up to two hours – due to the change in their receptors.
This suggests Sweet Victory’s gum could prove an effective tool in reducing sugar intake amongst children.
A recent study conducted in the UK, as part of a European Commission Horizon 2020 programme, indicates that not only are British children starting to consume free sugars at a very young age, but that many toddlers’ sugar intake exceeds the maximum recommended amount.
However, kicking the sugar habit is a ‘real struggle’, noted Lev. “As a mom of two, I have to take control of their diet, especially when it comes to sugar intake. Kids love candies, sweet foods, and soft drinks but too much can be a health hazard.”
Is a sweet gum, with a two-hour long effect, going to kick the sugar habit in the long-term?
Lev explained the company does not encourage ‘abstaining from sweets’. “But we do believe that Sweet Victory is a fun and easy way to have better control of the whole family’s sugar intake,” she told FoodNavigator.
“The effect is both for the short and long terms. For the short term – kids will enjoy the gum, but not any other sweets so immediately they won’t want to eat sweets.”
And for the long term, Lev stressed that much research has demonstrated that sugar is addictive. When you consume sugar, your brain will crave more, she explained.
“By limiting sugar consumption, the addictive cycle can break easier, and the more than that, eating sweets is usually a habit.
“The desire for sweets is usually linked to specific hours of the day, so by taking Sweet Victory at a specific time of the day, kids will eventually develop better eating habits and will not feel the need to have sweets in those moments.”