Big interview: Jay Klein, founder & CEO, Action Candy Company (PÜR Gum)

Kicking aspartame? The rise and rise of PÜR Gum

By Elaine WATSON

- Last updated on GMT

Kicking aspartame? The rise and rise of PÜR Gum

Related tags: Chewing gum

You don’t launch a new brand in the gum category by calling the buyer at Walmart and asking nicely for some shelf-space at the checkout between Juicy Fruit and Trident, observes the founder of aspartame-free PÜR Gum. 

You start small, says Action Candy Company CEO Jay Klein, create a product that really hits the mark, and play the long game: “We had a slow process, like running for mayor in a small town, and we were very patient. We don’t compete where we can’t win. You have to be creative and resourceful, so we came up with marketing campaigns like 'Kick aspartame'.

Meteoric growth

And the figures speak for themselves, he says.

From a standing start in May 2010, when Klein first started knocking on doors at local stores in Toronto, retail sales of xylitol-sweetened PÜR Gum are now approaching $10m, and it’s stocked in almost 10,000 stores in 12 countries, from the US to the UK, Germany, Australia and the Philippines.

We don’t compete where we can’t win

Pur-Gum-pomegranate

If current trends continue - SPINS data shows PÜR is clocking truly meteoric growth rates while sales growth for the category’s biggest guns is going backwards - he’s hoping to be in 50,000 outlets and 30-40 countries in the next two to three years.

Not bad going considering he entered one of the most competitive categories in grocery dominated by two CPG monsters Wrigley (Mars) and Cadbury (Kraft), which has also found itself in a bit of a funk of late.

And while the initial focus was on independent stores and natural channel specialists such as Whole Foods and Sprouts (instead of gas stations, c-stores and mass market grocery chains), more mainstream retailers are now waking up to the opportunity given the kind of growth that PÜR Gum is chalking up, he says.

We’re at all the front-end checkout lanes at Meijer now. We’re not at the Walmart checkout yet, but if the buyer is reading this and wants to give me a call … We’ve also done really well with Amazon.”

Jay-Klein-CEO-pur-gum
Jay Klein: 'We’re not at the Walmart checkout yet, but if the buyer is reading this and wants to give me a call … '

As for new products, he’s keeping his cards close to his chest, but confirms that he’s looking beyond gum.

We didn’t want to settle for a mediocre product with nice packaging 

So what’s so special about PÜR?

Despite the premium feel, the focus on xylitol (each 1.4g pellet contains 1g of xylitol from non-GMO corn) instead of aspartame as a sweetener and the clean-label credentials (no artificial colors or flavors ), PÜR Gum sells because it delivers, he says.

The core flavors - spearmint, peppermint, wintergreen and pomegranate mint - keep their flavor and freshen breath, and the product (which is manufactured in Switzerland) comes with an affordable price tag.

Pur-Gum-graphic

Unlike some other recent entrants to the premium end of the gum market, for example, he did not use chicle (sap from Sapodilla trees) as a gum base - despite its all-natural credentials and great story - because it creates technical headaches and does not deliver on a sensory front, he claims.

“We didn’t want to settle for a mediocre product with nice packaging.”

I want people to say PÜR Gum is my brand

As a result of all the hard work spent on getting the product right, people that buy PÜR Gum for the first time come back and buy it again, says Klein, who set up his first business (a marketing company called Drivertise International he still runs today) at college.

When people find a brand of gum they like, they stick with it, he says. “I want people to say PÜR Gum is my brand.”

Pur-Gum-Kicks-Aspartame

But growth is not just coming from people switching their allegiance, he says. “We’re bringing in new people to the gum category.”

So who’s buying it?

Health-conscious women, pregnant women that are avoiding aspartame, diabetics (xylitol does not raise blood sugar), parents, anyone avoiding ‘chemicals’ - and well, people that like gum, he says.

In some cases it’s stocked at the checkout, in others it’s in the natural section alongside nutrition bars and health foods, he says.

“It all depends on the retailer, but in some stores we’d rather be in the section that health-conscious people are shopping than competing to get one 20th​ of the gum fixture at the checkout.”

Germany-PUR-GUM
PÜR Gum has been a big hit in Germany

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3 comments

aspartame's methanol becomes formaldehyde inside human cells

Posted by Rich Murray,

Aspartame is 11% methanol (wood alcohol) -- since 2007 we have robust evidence that in humans only, it is made into formaldehyde right inside the cells of 20 tissues with high levels of ADH1 enzyme --

Prof. Woodrow C. Monte, Food Science and Nutrition, Arizona State University, retired 2004, gives a free online archive of 786 full text medical research references at his site -- Google "WhileScienceSleeps"--

Many pregnant women drink one 12-oz can aspartame diet drink daily, with 200 mg aspartame that gives 11% methanol, 22 mg, which is just under the new July 2013 California OEHHA limit of 23 mg daily.

The smoke from 10 cigarettes gives 20 mg methanol, the same as from 3 full size fresh tomatoes, or 4 cans of unfresh green beans.

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I love this gum!

Posted by Ashley K,

This gum is incredible. It tastes great, and I love how there is no aspartame in it - it makes such a great difference knowing you're putting good ingredients into your body. Spearmint is my favourite.

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Better, but still not edible

Posted by Steph,

Despite its natural flavors and cleaner label, Pür gum is nonetheless built upon a synthetic plastic gum base. Until it is replaced with a natural ingredient, this is not a product I would want to put in my mouth.

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