For many of us, the gum is just an instant mouth freshener or something we pop into our mouth to ward off drowsiness and stay alert during a lecture or meeting.
But, several research studies have shown that the mindless act of chewing gum can also help calm nerves during stressful situations, reduce nausea, relieve symptoms of dry mouth, and improve oral hygiene and health.
Regardless of what you use chewing gum for, you’ll like to have a favorite brand. And if you’re like most Americans, you gotta love Wrigley’s Extra.
Launched in 1984 as the Wrigley’s first surge-free gum, Extra has been one of the US’s most popular chewing gum brands. But is Extra gum vegan? This is exactly what we’re going to find out today. So, let’s get into it without further ado!
Is Wrigley’s Extra Gum Vegan?
Determining the vegan status of Wrigley’s extra gum requires an evaluation of the ingredients it is made of. Since the gum comes in several flavors, the exact list of ingredients varies slightly.
However, the base ingredients are the same for all Extra gum flavors, so let’s take a look at them and find out if Extra gum ingredients are vegan-friendly or not.
Extra Gum Ingredients
The core Extra gum ingredients that are found in all its flavors include:
§ Gum Base
Gum base is what gives a chewing gum its texture and flexibility (the chew) and holds the flavor.
As defined by the International Chewing Gum Association, the gum base is made of wax, food-grade polymers, and softeners.
Traditionally, polymers derived from natural sources, such as plants and trees, made chewing gums. However, today, synthetic polymers are generally used as they provide better texture and retain the flavors for longer.
Is Gum Base Vegan?
While most online sources classify gum base as vegan-friendly, the truth of the matter is that it’s hard to determine the vegan-friendliness of this core gum compound.
The reason being the variety of ingredients that can be used in its manufacturing. There are 46 FDA-approved ingredients that can be used to make the gum base. While the majority of these approved ingredients are vegan, a few are not. These primarily include:
- Animal-derived resins
- Glycerol esters – They can be synthetic but are often derived from animal products
- Lanolin – A waxy substance derived from sheep’s skin
The issue here is that the gum companies do not list the ingredients of their gum bases, so you can’t really tell if they are vegan or not.
Is Extra Gum Base Vegan?
I couldn’t find any official reference from Extra or Wrigley’s regarding what their gum base is made of in the US. However, a Huffington Post article states that Wrigley’s gum base is synthetic.
Moreover, the Extra Oral Healthcare Program, Australia also mentions, on their website, that they use all synthetic ingredients to make their gum base.
While both these sources are not US-specific, it can safely be presumed that Wrigley’s uses the same synthetic ingredients to manufacture gum base in the US to maintain the same quality of their chewing gums.
Sorbitol is a carbohydrate from the class of sugar alcohols called polyols. It naturally occurs a variety of fruits, but it is most commonly manufactured from corn syrup in the commercial industry.
The most common use of sorbitol in the food industry is that of a sugar substitute (in sugar-free products). However, it is also sometimes used for moisture retention and to add texture to certain products.
Is Sorbitol Vegan?
Since sorbitol is derived from natural plant sources and no animal product is used in its manufacturing process, it is classified as a vegan-friendly ingredient.
Glycerol is another sweet-tasting alcohol compound known by the scientific name of trihydric alcohol and the common name of glycerin.
Is Glycerol Vegan?
Glycerol can be derived from both animals and plant sources. For this reason, most online sources (dedicated to veganism) classify glycerol as a controversial ingredient unless it is specifically labelled as vegetable glycerol.
Some even assert that when it is written as glycerol only, it is highly likely to be derived from an animal source.
Simply put, you can only determine the vegan status of glycerol when its source is specified by the manufacturer, which is not the case with Wrigley’s Extra. The brand doesn’t specify the source (or nature) or glycerol used in its chewing gums.
If we go by what most online sources assert, the glycerol used in Extra chewing gums is (potentially) non-vegan. However, I found one Reddit post where a user shared the response from Mars (the Wrigley’s parent company) on the same issue…
This makes it seem that the glycerol used in Extra chewing gums is derived from a plant source.
However, it’s important to note that glycerol is a controversial ingredient in the vegan community. This is because one of its major (plant-based) sources is the palm tree.
Are you wondering about the issue with palm-derived ingredients? Refer to my article Are M&M’s Vegan for a detailed discussion on it.
Extra uses both natural and artificial flavors in its chewing gums.
Are Food Flavors Vegan?
Both natural and artificial flavors are debated ingredients in the vegan community.
I have discussed this issue in some detail in my article on Sour Patch Kids. Give it a read to discover why these widely used ingredients have a controversial status in the vegan world.
It’s important to mention here that despite the ongoing debate on natural and artificial flavors, many vegans are fine with consuming them because it’s impossible to avoid these ingredients. Almost all packaged food items, cooked or uncooked, contain natural and/or artificial flavors. You just cannot avoid them completely.
Like flavors, the colors used in the food industry can be divided into natural and artificial. Wrigley’s Extra uses both in their chewing gums.
Are Food Colors Vegan?
Most natural food colors are vegan, as they are derived from plant sources. The only known exception is carmine, the red color that often appears as E120 on food labels. It is derived from the cochineal insect.
Artificial food colors are essentially vegan. They are made using various chemicals and are free of animal ingredients. However, they are not cruelty-free. There is strong evidence that artificial colors are tested on animals.
Knowing that animal testing is one of the biggest ethical issues veganism stands for, many vegans (prefer to) avoid products that contain artificial coloring.
On the flip side, many don’t because not only it’s hard to avoid them (just like flavorings), but also the avoidance of artificial colors by some people won’t make any difference in the animal testing practices.
Some of the Extra chewing gum varieties contain both natural and artificial colors, while others only have one of them. From a strict vegan perspective, you should only consume Extra gum varieties (or any food item per se) that only contain plant-derived natural colors.
The FDA provides a list of the food colors approved for use in human food along with their sources and code that can come in handy for this purpose.
Here’s a bit of information to make this evaluation a little easier for you…
The FDA has approved a total of nine artificial food colors. These include:
- Blue – No. 1 and 2
- Red – No. 2, 3 and 40
- Yellow – No. 5 and 6
- Green – No. 3
- Orange B
If you want to avoid contributing to animal cruelty in any way, avoid Extra chewing gums that contain any of these artificial colors.
So, Is Extra Gum Vegan or Not?
Unfortunately, there is no clear-cut answer to this question. As they say, to each their own, the answer depends on every individual’s understanding of veganism and commitment to its philosophy.
Some hardcore vegans may want to avoid Extra chewing gums because of the presence of controversial ingredients, while others may not have an issue with their consumption because they are really hard to avoid.
Having said that, most online sources classify Extra chewing gums as vegan-friendly simply because they do not contain any animal-derived ingredients.
But, if you have been vegan for any length of time, you would know that it doesn’t work that way. You cannot determine the vegan status of any product just based on the presence or absence of animal ingredients or by-products.
You have to look beyond what you see on the label and read between the lines to figure out if a product truly meets the vegan criteria or not.
However, as I said earlier, it all comes down to what veganism means to you.
Is Any Extra Gum Flavor Truly Vegan?
Let’s take a quick look at the ingredients list of all Extra gum flavors to find out…
Please note that these are the Extra gum flavor options available in the US. The range of flavors varies in different countries. However, the core ingredients are likely to be the same, so those living outside the US can also use this article as a handy guide to evaluating the vegan status of an Extra gum flavor.
Is Extra Spearmint gum vegan?
Here’s the list of Extra Spearmint gum ingredients:
Is Extra Peppermint gum vegan?
Extra Peppermint gum is made of the following ingredients:
Is Extra Watermelon gum vegan?
Extra Sweet Watermelon gum ingredients list is as follows:
Is Extra Smooth Mint gum vegan?
Here is the list of ingredients of Extra Smooth Mint gum:
Is Extra Bubblegum flavored chewing gum vegan?
Extra Bubblegum flavored chewing gum is made of the following ingredients:
Is Extra Winterfresh gum vegan?
Extra Winterfresh gum ingredients include:
Is Extra Cinnamon gum vegan?
Extra cinnamon flavored gum is made of the following ingredients:
Is Extra Polar Ice gum vegan?
Here’s what Extra Polar Ice chewing gum is made of:
For reasons discussed earlier, I have deliberately refrained from giving any verdict regarding the vegan status of different Extra gum flavors. Take a look at their ingredients and determine yourself.
It may seem like an exhaustive process, but it’s actually not because the core ingredients of all Extra gum flavors are the same.
Did you find this article helpful? Are you interested in a similar vegan analysis of other popular snacks? Take a look at my article Are Jelly Beans Vegan to find out if you can enjoy these sweet treats while following a vegan lifestyle!