The Vegetarian Resource Group Blog

Hershey’s® Bubble Yum® and Ice Breakers® Ice Cubes® Gum: Vegan? Gum Bases and Gum Softeners By Jeanne Yacoubou, MS

Posted on December 22, 2015 by The VRG Blog Editor



It’s common to see “gum base” and “gum softeners” on chewing gum wrappers. These general labeling phrases disguise the fact that each term usually represents a mixture of several different chemicals of plant, animal and/or synthetic (i.e., petrochemical) origin.

According to the United States Food and Drug Administration’s (U.S. FDA) Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 21CFR172.615, gum base is a “non-nutritive masticatory substance.”
( The following animal-derived ingredients are specifically approved for use in chewing gum:

lanolin (always animal-derived)

sodium and potassium stearates (could be plant- or animal-derived)

stearic acid (could be plant- or animal-derived)

Also approved for use in chewing gum bases and softeners (see paragraph “b” of previous link) but not listed in the FDA document cited above are all generally recognized as safe (GRAS) ingredients some of which could be of animal origin. (See end of page under “Regulations” for four links to lists of GRAS ingredients.) Possibly animal-derived GRAS ingredients which The VRG has seen listed on websites and in books about chewing gum base include glycerin and glyceryl monostearate.

Identifying Ingredients in Gum Bases and Softeners

Identifying ingredients used in gum bases and softeners is challenging for two reasons. First, ingredients listed in 21CFR172.615 and all GRAS ingredients do not have to be labeled by their common names on chewing gum wrappers but may appear as contained under terms such as “gum base” or “gum softeners.” Second we have found it difficult to get information on ingredients used in gum bases and gum softeners because companies are unwilling to divulge information.
For example, we see how these gum base descriptions by trade organizations do not list even one common gum base ingredient but only name general chemical or ingredient categories:
Neither organization nor several similar groups responded to our numerous requests for ingredient information.
According to what little company and product trade group information The Vegetarian Resource Group could locate, many conventional gum bases and softeners contain synthetic (i.e., petroleum-based) chemicals such as: polyisobutylene, polyvinyl acetate, styrene-butadiene rubber, butyl rubber, and paraffin. Hydrogenated vegetable oils and lecithin (typically derived from vegetable oil) are also common.

The insoluble (i.e., non-dissolvable in water) gum base comprises “…most often about 20 to about 35 percent by weight of the gum.” (See the 18th paragraph of the section titled “Detailed Description of the Drawings and Preferred Embodiments of the Invention.” This source also stated that tallow or lard or their components could be used in gum base or softeners.

For more background information on gum:

Gum Base Ingredients in Hershey’s Products

The Vegetarian Resource Group wished to determine if animal fat-derived stearic acid in particular or any of its many stearate derivatives were present in the bases or softeners of gums sold today. Here is a summary of what we’ve learned from The Hershey Company during October-December 2015.

Hershey’s customer service representatives told us that the gum base in Bubble Yum and Ice Breakers Ice Cubes Gum is the same. It consists of the following:

synthetic food grade rubber, resin, wax, softeners, fillers, and BHT. (Note: BHT is petroleum-derived butylated hydroxytoluene.)

Knowing that “resin” could refer to insect-derived lac resin, tree resin or synthetic resin, The VRG asked for more information.

In two separate calls customer service representatives Gina and Cindy told The VRG that a search for more information about “resin” in their database described “resin” as “shellac.” They also mentioned resinous glaze and confectioner’s glaze in their explanations of what they were viewing from their computer screens about resin.

“Confectioner’s glaze” and “resinous glaze” are commonly understood as synonymous terms for the insect secretion lac resin from which the term “shellac” derives. Confused by Hershey’s information because confectioner’s or resinous glaze is usually applied on the surface of confections to make them shiny, The VRG wondered if Hershey’s “resin” found blended with other gum base components inside of each piece of gum was really a tree resin or a synthetic resin as listed in 21CFR172.615 (see above).

On Hershey’s website we found a page dealing with its glazes: Hershey’s states on that page:

In the United States, The Hershey Company uses the term “resinous glaze” in the ingredient statement on products that contain a glaze made with shellac. “Confectioner’s glaze” is not labeled in the United States, but is included on the ingredient statement by its component ingredients.

In Canada, The Hershey Company uses the term “confectioner’s glaze” for both shellac and non-shellac based glazes.

Based on our past research, Hershey’s distinction between resinous and confectioner’s glazes is not commonly made in the confections industry. Furthermore, since nothing is mentioned on Hershey’s page about resinous or confectioner’s glazes in their gum products although Hershey’s consumer representatives and later a supervisor at the call center used the term “shellac” when defining the resin ingredient in their gum base we wanted to get a clearer explanation so we called again.

The VRG spoke with supervisor Steven at Hershey’s about the resin in the gum base. He told us that when he uses his database to search for “resin,” the word “shellac” immediately appears on his screen. Information on “resinous glaze” and “confectioner’s glaze” also appears. Steven read to us what he was viewing. He said “I would think [from the information in the database] that the resin in the gum base is from the lac beetle. I’ll check and get back to you.”

When we spoke to him again, he said that “…just last week our database was updated. Resin in the gum base is not derived from the lac beetle. The resin is a natural wax product.” The VRG found this statement vague since shellac may also be described as a natural wax product. For that matter, beeswax is a natural wax product and according to the gum base patent cited above could be a component of gum base or gum softeners. Steven was not able to elaborate further on this point.

The VRG also asked about the fillers and softeners listed as ingredients in the Bubble Yum and Ice Breakers gums. Steven said they are “synthetic, not animal-derived.”

The Vegetarian Resource Group will provide information on other gum brands in future articles.

The contents of this posting, our website, and our other publications, including Vegetarian Journal, are not intended to provide personal medical advice. Medical advice should be obtained from a qualified health professional. We often depend on product and ingredient information from company statements. It is impossible to be 100% sure about a statement, info can change, people have different views, and mistakes can be made. Please use your best judgment about whether a product is suitable for you. To be sure, do further research or confirmation on your own.

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1 to “Hershey’s® Bubble Yum® and Ice Breakers® Ice Cubes® Gum: Vegan? Gum Bases and Gum Softeners By Jeanne Yacoubou, MS”

  1. Andrea says:

    the only gum I know is actually vegan is called PUR. they have a lot of different flavors. and it is really good.

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