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New process for making non-sticky, biodegradable chewing gum developed

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(Nov. 8, 2011) — We find it on chairs, stuck under desks, on pavements or stuck to our shoes. Chewing gum is sticky -- and it does not degrade easily. This leads to increased cleaning costs for our local authorities. However, Professor Elke Arendt of University College Cork has developed a novel process for creating biodegradable chewing gum. She is looking for companies who might be interested in commercialising the product.

Chewing gum is made from synthetic rubber, softeners, sweeteners and flavourings. Synthetic rubbers are stretchy, have strong adhesive properties and are resistant to many chemicals used for cleaning. Reducing the stickiness of chewing gum requires a change in the chemical structure of its rubber base. However, the rubber base also determines commercially important features such as flavour, chewiness and shelf- life. The challenge for the food industry is to develop a non-sticky, chewy biodegradable gum with all the flavour of conventional gum.

Professor Arendt and her research team at the School of Food and Nutritional Sciences, University College Cork have responded to this challenge by providing the industry with a novel process for the development of biodegradable chewing gum, using cereal proteins as the main ingredients. These natural proteins are modified using technologies and ingredients that increase the elasticity of the cereal proteins so that they can be used as a base material for the production of chewing gum. The technology has been patented and UCC is looking for companies to commercialise the product. The work for this project was funded by the Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry under the FIRM program.

The original idea came from other research work of Professor Arendt in the area of gluten-free cereal products, where the wheat needs to be replaced by other proteins with visco-elastic properties.

Professor Arendt is a senior member of staff in the School of Food and Nutritional Sciences at UCC and her research is in the area of cereal and brewing science. She has been leading the field of gluten free research worldwide for the last 10 years. Currently Professor Arendt has a research team of 20 researchers and PhD students.

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The above story is reprinted from materials provided by University College Cork, via AlphaGalileo.

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