Like many New Yorkers, Caron Proschan was one to grab a pack of gum near the register when out running errands. However, it was around 2013 when she realized that the gum she was chewing was full of artificial ingredients.
“I’d always been into natural products, and that had been the case with my personal care, my beauty products, my cleaning products, and so forth,” said Proschan. “I realized one that the gum I was chewing was completely artificial. That stark contrast really became evident to me — I had come from a workout and eating a healthy lunch. I took a piece of conventional gum out of my bad and I was like, wait a minute, I’m adopting all these healthy activities in every aspect of my life but my gum seems to be artificial?”
Proschan dove into some research to learn more about what goes into conventional chewing gum and was surprised to find that most gum on the market uses a base that has plastic in it, usually called “gum base” on the labels. She also found that the FDA allows gums to have several artificial ingredients like aspartame, plus artificial flavors and colors as well.
She tried to find a cleaner, more natural alternative but was coming up empty. Proschan started to mess around with the formula in her New York City kitchen, and what came out of her experimentation was Simply Gum.
“I think I have always had an entrepreneurial kind of personality, but I never had the courage to go off on my own direction. It sort of felt like this idea had come to me and was worth exploring,” said Proschan. “So once I came up with the formula, which took a long time, I decided to make the leap and create a real company around it.”
Simply Gum aims to create simple, high-quality confections that customers will love. The gum uses chicle, a tree sap found in Central America, as the base, and incorporates natural flavors into the gum such as peppermint, ginger, cinnamon and maple. The gum also contains organic cane sugar instead of aspartame as well as essential oils for some of the flavors.
For Proschan, it was also just as important to have simple, clean packaging for the products that they sell.
“What we were trying to strive for is a package that really stood for what the company is all about, which is simplicity. It’s hard to do minimalism really well, so it took a lot of time to figure out a design that was clear, clean and minimal, and still beautiful and accessible,” said Proschan. “We wanted a design that could sit at a gas station or at the mini-bar at the Four Seasons hotel, and we were able to successfully do that. I should add that it’s so different from what is on the gum aisle. You see a lot of bright colors, there’s a lot going on. And the white simplicity really stands out on a shelf, which is one of our goals.”
Proschan began shopping Simply Gum around to stores in 2014, with one of the company’s first accounts being Columbus Circle’s Whole Foods Market. The company was soon able to expand and started a factory right in Brooklyn to produce the gum, creating jobs for locals, and soon Simply Gum started to expand to stores across the country.
Simply Gum continued to grow and added mints to their offerings. However, like many businesses, Simply Gum found itself hit hard by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Gum was hit harder than other food categories. There was an increased need for other food products as people were stockpiling, and gum was the opposite,” said Proschan. “The reasons for that is, one, the case use disappeared. People were staying inside, wearing masks, social distancing — there wasn’t a need for breath freshening. Secondly, because gum is mostly an impulse item sold at registers, what that meant when people were shopping, they were in and out, sticking to their list and not browsing. A lot of those impulse items were negatively impacted.”
Proschan and the team at Simply Gum decided to shift gears and start to focus on selling their products online during the pandemic, knowing that their customers were likely shopping online. They also used the opportunity to accelerate plans to expand the company’s offerings.
Now, when you look at Simply Gum’s products, you won’t just find gum and mints; you’ll also find options such as smoothie bites, candy bars and fruit gummies.
“When I started the company, I thought it could eventually be more than gum. Gum was the first product, our hero product, but I wanted to create a brand. That’s why I chose ‘Simply,’ because it could expand to other categories,” said Proschan. “It was something we started working on a few years back, and COVID accelerated a lot of those plans. We saw success in gum and mints, which is sort of a close cousin to gum and thought, you know what, this is a brand that stands for simple high-quality ingredients and beautiful packaging and we think there’s a need for that in other confections as well. So that’s what drove that decision and we felt we had a license with our customers to launch those other items in other categories and become a player up and down the candy aisle.”
As time has gone by amid the pandemic, Simply Gum has found success in stores and online. Proschan hopes that Simply Gum can continue to grow, not just in expanding its own product offerings even more but also to create more employment opportunities for New Yorkers.
“We really do now want to see ourselves expand beyond gum and mints. We’re developing a pipeline of really amazing innovative products that people will love,” said Proschan. “If we can do that well, the company will grow. Then we’ll be able to create more jobs, we’re proud to have created manufacturing jobs in Brooklyn at the gum factory and that’s the kind of thing we hope we can continue to do as we grow.”
For more information about Simply Gum or to order online, visit simplygum.com.