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Introducing Milliways to DIFG: Creating a Super Natural Gum brand

Delicious Ideas Food Group are excited to introduce Milliways range of super natural gum to our growing product portfolio. Discover why these snacks are perfect for many businesses, especially gyms, hotels, cafés and more.

How plastic fuelled the Milliways Super Natural Gum origin story: Tom Raviv, Founder, Milliways

When I was a kid I always chewed gum whilst studying because I was convinced that it helped me remember the answers when I wrote exams. Then as a teen my pack of gum became a little confidence kit on a night out. One thing about me is you’ll never catch me without a pack of gum, that’s my thing and always has been. I love it. Before leaving the house my mental checklist is: phone, wallet, keys, gum (now replace “gum” with “Milliways”).

Milliways owes its beginning to the moment I stumbled on one of the biggest unspoken secrets in the food industry. What I had not known until that day, and millions of people still don’t know, is that every time I popped a piece of gum into my mouth, I was actually chewing on plastic, not food. In fact, each piece of gum I chewed contained as much plastic as a standard plastic drinking straw. That moment of realisation brought on a sense of shock that all the billions of pieces we get through each year, and all those unsightly and persistent blotches on pavements all over the world are in fact a chewy plastic-based product made using petroleum.

At the time, I was working at one of the big finance firms advising companies on their investment and financing strategies, and I realised that there was a fantastic opportunity for me to use that knowledge to build a business for good by creating a product that was plant-based, plastic-free and of course, delicious.

When I started to do my research in earnest I realised that the problem is even bigger than I first thought. Gum is the second most littered item on the planet (after cigarette butts)! It sticks to streets indefinitely, and if it’s eventually cleaned, that pressure-washing process breaks down the plastic gum into microplastics which flow into sewers, rivers, oceans and may even end up in our food chain.

The challenges of building a plant-based company from scratch: Tom Raviv, Founder, Milliways

Finding a solution to the gigantic problem was a little confusing at first. Until then I had never even considered what conventional gum was made from, let alone how to make it better. But little did I know that the natural solution had been around for hundreds, even thousands of years – chicle – made from the resin of the Sapodilla tree. It grows widely throughout Mexico and has been chewed by Mayans for centuries.

The first big challenge we faced came after I found and contacted our chicle supplier. I asked them to send me a block of raw chicle to my house – then it arrived and I sat in my kitchen scratching my head trying to figure out what to do with it! It may seem slightly comical now, but it was super important that the product quality was at least the same as what people have been used to chewing, but without the synthetic or plastic ingredients and using plant-based sources only. Luckily, we found a fantastic partner to work with us. We honed the ingredients, finalised the flavours, developed the brand and finally launched Milliways… right in the middle of the pandemic.

At this point there were hardly any feet on the streets or social gatherings for most of our first year, and chewing gum is obviously a high-impulse and socially-driven product. But that gave us time to build on our product and strategy, and it paid off in two fundamentally important ways.
Firstly, we built a solid foundation for the business leveraging online platforms, particularly our website and Amazon. In a short space of time we became Amazon UK’s best-selling and highest-rated natural gum brand. That showed us there was a strong demand for our product.

Secondly, the sales performance confirmed that our customers appreciated the work we had put into the quality of our gum, and this was underscored when Milliways won best confectionery product in the Grocer’s New Product Awards.

So that takes us to our biggest challenge, the status quo! It’s essential that we continue informing consumers and retailers about the urgent need for a plastic-free chewing gum. We’re up against century old, gigantic brands that make up over 90% of the market and have been very economical for store owners selling plastic-based gum. Now we’re the new kid on the block telling everyone that they’ve been chewing plastic and that there is finally a great alternative in Milliways. Chewing gum is a highly habitual product, and inertia is extremely powerful. No small feat for us, but we’re here and we’re doing it every day. We’re now in hundreds of stores across the UK and continuing to grow every month.

Are ‘Other Gum’ brands really making and selling a “single use plastic”?: Tom Raviv, Founder, Milliways

In our view yes, absolutely! And just in February we responded to the UK Government’s consultation on ‘commonly littered’ items, calling for plastic chewing gum to be treated as a single-use plastic just like carrier bags, coffee cups and drinking straws.

The consultation period ends later this year, and Milliways have called for three new policies to help raise awareness of what people are chewing, where it comes from and where it goes once discarded:

1. Plastic-based ingredients used in a product should be disclosed and labelled clearly on the packaging

2. 100% plastic-free alternatives to conventional chewing gum should be subject to zero-rated VAT in order to create more pricing parity between cheaper synthetic gum and plastic-free chewing gum that costs a premium to produce. Accessibility is key to making a widespread impact.

3. A single-use plastic levy on chewing gum products that are made from petroleum-derived plastics.

With or without these policies, we have countless reasons to keep telling our story and making plastic-free gum the norm for everyone, every day.

What the future holds for Milliways: Tom Raviv, Founder, Milliways

Mission Milliways: it’s a serious thing, but we never take ourselves too seriously. We love to have fun in everything we do – ultimately our brand is a reflection of ourselves, and we want more people to feel a part of the journey. Our ambition is to continue creating products that are delicious, innovative and beneficial to all when it comes to health and sustainability. Our products should move the world forward and demonstrate positive progress. And we intend to do this on an international scale.

We aim to transform and reignite the confectionery market with products of the future, rather than similar iterations of the past.

Our ultimate goal is to make Milliways a global household name. For us that means new products, exceptional quality and flavours, exciting marketing campaigns – and of course building out our excellent team to make all of this possible.

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