Meet the Winners of 2021: Chicza chewing gum
Learn more about this sustainable chewing gum from the rainforest of Mexico!
Chewing gum with a purpose: meet Chicza, a winner in ‘Best in Confectionery and Snacks’ 2021
Founded in Mexico in 1993, Chicza's mission is to produce chewing gum in harmony with nature, while supporting the regional economy and strengthening local communities. In doing so, they rely on core values such as respect, solidarity, commitment, teamwork, and honesty. Their customers appreciate that the products are sustainably produced, organic, vegan, gluten-free, kosher, and biodegradable. Chicza products are available in organic stores throughout the European Union and Latin America.
We interviewed Miguel Aldrete, Commercial Manager at Chicza, to learn how their Chicza chewing gum is produced and the ways in which their work model strengthens local communities.
What’s the story behind your winning product?
In recent decades, deforestation and wildfires have contributed significantly to CO2 emissions and global warming. In this context, it is important to reflect on the positive impacts generated by the extraction, accumulation, and processing of the Chicozapote latex in southeastern Mexico. Chicle is a product that ensures the enhancement and preservation of the forest, as it can be produced without the use of wood. Chicle, (= Xik ya á in Maya, Tzictli in Nahuatl), is the raw material used for the production of chewing gum. It is a natural latex extracted from the chicozapote tree (official name: manilkara zapota) that grows in southeastern Mexico, Guatemala, and Belize, a large jungle region that includes the Gran Peten, a natural forest of great value to the earth. Chicozapote sap is extracted from 30-meter-tall trees by making shallow, Z-shaped cuts in the bark as the sap slowly zigzags down to a bag at the base. This chicory method does not harm the trees as they rest for the next 6-7 years and recover from the scratches within 5 years. The trees produce sap for up to 120 years and can live up to 300 years.
What makes Chicza different from other chewing gums?
Our Chicza chewing gum is the result of six years of research, during which we were able to develop six different formulas for the production of the gum base and the chewing gum at an experimental level. Then, in 2008, the formulas were adapted so that Chicza could be produced on an artisanal basis. Chicza contains chicle, certified organic products, and fragrances and natural flavors. The organic products were certified by a European organization affiliated with the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM). What makes our chewing gum special is that it contains at least 40% chicle - conventional chewing gums use only small amounts of natural chicle and mix it with synthetic gums. Our Chicza chewing gum is a natural and organic product that is fully biodegradable. The chewing gum decomposes through weathering and contains a bacterial enzyme that turns it into dust over time. As a result, it returns to the soil and enriches it as if it were rotted wood, dead leaves, or any other element of organic origin.
"Chicza represents an ancient culture, a history. Chicza stands for the tropical rainforest, one of the lungs of the planet, a healthy forest suitable for human consumption, which restores the origin of natural chewing gum, abandoned many years ago to make gum from synthetic ingredients."
Can you tell us more about the cooperative?
Chicza is produced by the Chicleros, who are also called the guardians of the forest. In 2003, the Chiclero Consortium was founded as an integrating social enterprise, joined by more than 2,000 Chicleros in 54 forest communities in southeastern Mexico in the states of Campeche and Quintana Roo. The cooperative's development model aims to improve the socioeconomic structure and social enterprises, as well as the rational conservation of the tropical rainforest. The consortium is actively involved in the production and distribution of Chicza chewing gum, which is compatible with the sustainable management of the rainforest. These activities and other initiatives promote the creation of community forest reserves and a program to restore eroded land formerly used for agriculture. In 2009 alone, we added 22,545 hectares in community forest reserves.
To what extent does the cooperative contribute to improving the socioeconomic structure in the region?
Chicza's working model has a great impact on the community, which can be described as follows:
Community work: the company promotes the participation and structural integration of regional communities in the production chain of the wood-free forestry sector. The company involves the communities in the entire production process, making them stakeholders and a fundamental element for the company's growth. Promotion of employment: Thanks to the recognition of the chicle activity, about 1,800 Chicleros have social and economic benefits. Better quality of life: through the active, constant and fundamental participation of the community in the company's production process, an important contribution is made to the quality of life. For example, there are programs for health services and education. Family cohesion and stability: Due to the constant income that the Chicleros receive, there is less migration.
Why did you decide to participate in the International V-Label Awards?
It is necessary to promote a more sustainable consumption that involves the entire ecosystem in a gentler and more responsible treatment of nature and animals. Participation in the international V-Label Awards has given us the opportunity to do this.
How did you and your team receive the news of becoming a winner? How did you celebrate?
We celebrated it with great joy! Our product packages carry the V-Label certification and the V-Label Awards’ Winner logo, and we promote it on our social networks as well as on our website. We believe that people pay attention to the kinds of organizations that create and allocate resources for the benefit of our ecosystem.
What's next? What other exciting products is your company working on?
We are currently working on a new Chicza line called Chicza Sugar Free.
Where do you see the plant-based industry going in 10 years?
We hope that plant-based eating becomes a worldwide norm.
Can you give future participants a piece of advice?
"Every opportunity to demonstrate the quality of your product is a perfect one - don't hesitate to take them when they show up! They come into our lives to make an important contribution."
Thank you, Miguel, for taking the time to answer our questions! It was a pleasure to have Chicza participate in the International V-Label Awards 2021, and we are excited to see the entries for this year’s Awards!
Do you also have an outstanding plant-based product you’d love to share with our global audience? Take a look at the various categories and nominate your vegan product for this year’s V-Label Awards until the 14th of July!