As an avid gum-chewer who is also health-conscious, Mathew Thalakotur was inspired to create the adaptogen-, botanical- and vitamin-infused Mighty Gum a functional and lifestyle solution to his struggle “to build a habit around taking vitamins, minerals and supplements.”
He explained that while he initially always was excited about taking a new supplement, after about two weeks, his interest would wane and an expensive bottle of pills, gummies or tinctures would sit forgotten on the shelf, where “they weren’t any help for my body, my mind or my health.”
Frustrated, Thalakotur began to look for a new way to access the benefits of supplements through an existing habit, rather than continuing to fight and fail to create a new one.
“Chewing gum was an obvious solution,” he said. “ I always have chewing gum in my backpack, at my desk at work, in my car – and I enjoy chewing it.”
Now, with the Feb. 4 launch of Mighty Gum’s Immunity gum, Thalakotur says his gum chewing habit can bring more than enjoyment – it can also bring nutrition and support for a healthy lifestyle that goes beyond symptomatic relief.
“There are a lot of factors that play into immunity, but one of them is not having the right nutrition,” he said. “So, we’re using organic vitamins sourced from fruits and mushrooms to support the body and help reduce stress that can compromise immunity.”
For example, he noted that Mighty Gum includes elderberry, which fights inflammation and infection, reishi mushroom, which activates the immune response, astragalus to balance the immune system and ashwagandha to manage stress and anxiety. It also includes six vitamins sourced from fruit.
In addition to addressing compliance issues with tablets and pills, infusing gum with vitamins enhances absorption of nutrients because the act of chewing primes the body to receive the added benefits of the product, Thalakotur said.
Because gum often is chewed throughout the day, the platform offers the added benefit of supplying multiple lower doses compared to a tablet that is only taken once daily – again allowing for better, continuous absorption, he said.
It is all about the base
As a self-funded entrepreneur, Thalakotur says he is taking a different approach to breaking out from the competition than he applied to brands he worked on while with Proctor & Gamble, Coca-Cola Co. and another startup in Southern California.
“I’m not looking to make a huge splash right out of the gate. I’m trying to reach out individually to people and build a community … that really understands what Mighty Gum is about, resonates with the product and are excited and really psyched to share it,” he explained.
He plans to do this through direct-to-consumer sales on mightygum.com, but not Amazon – at least at first even though many startups view the online retailer as pivotal in extending their reach.
“I’m not going to launch on Amazon, at least in the very near future, because once a product goes on Amazon, the company loses their connection with the consumer. They can no longer see who is buying the product and they are not able to build a relationship with them because [the consumer’s] relationship is with Amazon,” he explained.
Without the traffic that Amazon brings, Thalakotur acknowledges he will have to work to raise awareness of his ecommerce site. He plans to do this by working with influencers and tapping dedicated fans to represent his community.
Thalakotur also plans to build brand awareness through partnerships with experiential driven industry players, such as Pop-Up Grocer, which travels to different cities to host pop-up retail stores for three to four months and drives foot traffic by offering novel products and experiences that are hard to find elsewhere.
Transitioning to brick-and-mortar
Once Thalakotur has established a strong following with online sales, he says he will take his product – and those consumers – to retailers “from a position of confidence and comfort and knowing where I am and who I belong to.”
This strategy has emerged in recent years as a successful approach by brands, such as the plant-based creamer nutpods, to secure shelf space in brick-and-mortar stores without having to pay as high of shelving fees as they would if they did not already have substantial brand awareness and a strong consumer base.
Beyond building a community around Mighty Gum, Thalakotur says the next two to three years will be dedicated to developing additional products that address “a few other facets of wellness.”