Declining chewing gum sales have spurred gum makers and entrepreneurs to create “functional gums” that offer benefits beyond freshening one’s breath like boosting energy, helping smoking cessation, or bringing on sleep. In January, Synapse Limited Liability Company, a functional gum maker based in Denver, launched Synapse, a CBD-infused liquid-core chewing gum. Synapse is the company’s first foray into the CBD space, joining a marketplace of at least five other CBD chewing gums. The company hopes to differentiate itself by offering the CBD in a liquid core inside the gum, rather than mixed into the gum base.
Troy Widgery, Apollo Brands founder, had previously developed Apollo Energy Gum containing a caffeine and vitamin B-infused liquid core surrounded by a shell of the sugar-free sweetener xylitol to keep away the bitterness. It was created as an energy supplement that could replace a small cup of coffee. The company also sells Fly Gum, a variation aimed at flight crews and travelers who want to get over jet lag, and Golf Gum, sold mainly at golf course pro shops.
The Apollo team has about 20 people and operates out of a 17,000 square foot factory, office and product lab in Denver, Colorado.
The growing popularity of CBD created an opportunity for a natural line extension said Scott Schaible, the company’s communications director. Retail sales of CBD in the U.S. will likely surpass $1 billion in 2019, a 133% increase over 2018 sales, according to projections in the 2019 Hemp & CBD Industry Factbook, produced by the editors of Hemp Industry Daily.
Consumers are looking for ways to get the benefits of CBD without smoking and they want something portable that works quickly, Schaible said. Among those who buy CBD products, only a small percent currently consumes the substance via chewing gum, but customers who buy CBD tinctures or edibles might be interested in trying out CBD gum, said Schaible.
Synapse is not the first CBD-infused gum to come to market. Competitors include CanChew Hemp CBD Gum, Med CBD-X, Chill Gum, and American Shaman, but Synapse is the only product with a liquid core, said Schaible.
The company may also find competition from chewing gum that contains THC, the psychoactive ingredient found in cannabis. There are at least 46 chewing gum products that contain THC, nearly double the number available the year before, and sales of the category increased 17% over the prior year. That’s according to LeafLink, creator of the Wholesale Cannabis Pricing Guide an analysis of 2019 wholesale pricing in 10 US states with legal cannabis markets.
Some companies that make CBD gum claim that because the CBD is absorbed by the oral mucosa of the mouth as the gum is chewed, rather than traveling through the digestive tract, the substance is absorbed faster than CBD that is swallowed. They also claim more of the product’s CBD enters the bloodstream through this ingestion method, making it more cost effective. The United States historical legal framework around cannabis and hemp has prevented much sanctioned scientific experimentation in the area.
Widgery says that when the active ingredients are suspended in a liquid core, it causes them to be released faster and more completely than when mixed into the gum base.
Consumer awareness and product distribution of Synapse are the next two critical goals for the company said Schaible. Synapse made its debut at the end of January in Orlando at the 2020 PGA Show, a gathering of golf-related vendors. Apollo already had inroads in the golf industry -when Tiger Woods was spotted chewing gum at the Masters Tournament he won last year, Golf Gum sales spiked.
The company felt that the possible benefits of CBD, combined with research that said chewing gum can enhance concentration, made it a good fit for the market. According to Schaible, the size and flavor of Synapse make it ideal for longer chewing times.
The reaction at the show was enthusiastic said Schaible. More than 1000 boxes of the product were ordered, including inquiries from companies based in other countries that were interested in private-labeling or distributing the product abroad, he said.
A package of Synapse gum contains five spearmint flavored pieces with 15 mg of CBD per piece. At nearly four dollars a piece, it’s not at the same price point as Juicy Fruit, but costs about the same as other CBD gum on the market.
While Apollo has sold its products mainly through golf shops and online, its goal is to continue to expand its distribution. The increased acceptance of CBD by mainstream retail chains in America should help with that. Last year for example, the drug store chain Walgreen announced it would start selling CBD products in 1500 stores.
“We think there is a lot of potential,” said Schaible.