CHICAGO — The Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co. has filed a patent for a chewing gum sweetened with dried fruit powders. According to the company, using dried fruit powders as a replacement for current bulking agents such as polyols or sucrose may provide a healthier chewing gum option for consumers.

“Newer commercial technology in drying fruits provides more energy efficient freeze drying and large scale drum drying, making dried fruits more economical and readily available commercially,” Wrigley noted in the patent filing. “Chewing gums formulated with dried fruit powder as the bulking agent provide not only a real fruit taste, but also offer healthier options for consumers.

“The bulking agent is natural since it is fruit, and it contains the natural flavor, vitamins and nutrients that is inherent to the fruit itself. Further, removal of the traditional polyol-type bulking agents can eliminate gastrointestinal discomfort often experienced by some individuals, or in the event multiple chewing gum pieces are consumed.”

Wrigley said in the filing that chewing gums typically contain 50% or greater by weight of a sweet bulking agent, often either sugar (sucrose) or sugar-free (polyols). Both offer advantages and disadvantages, according to the company.

The company said the advantages of sucrose are that it is “a natural sweetener, providing mouthfeel and texture, while slowly releasing sweetness, and enhancing flavor delivery of the chewing gum composition.” Disadvantages, though, include the fact sucrose is cariogenic, and may lead to tooth decay as well as impacting glucose levels for those suffering from diabetes, Wrigley said.

“Chewing gums which use sugar as the primary bulking agent can be viewed negatively in that sugars such as sucrose have been recently described in the media and elsewhere as ‘empty calories,’” the company said. “That is, providing calories without other nutritional benefits such as vitamins, fiber, etc.”

Polyol-based sweet bulking agents such as sorbitol, maltitol, isomalt, mannitol and xylitol are often used in place of sugar in chewing gum compositions. Wrigley said sorbitol often is used due to availability and cost, while maltitol is used because of its similarity to sucrose in sweetness and solubility. The company cited gastrointestinal disturbances as a disadvantage of using polyols.

“Considering the disadvantages associated with both sugar and sugar-free sweet bulking agents, there is a need for a sweet bulking agent suitable for use in chewing gum compositions, which is natural, provides a healthier chewing gum option to the public, and does not cause gastrointestinal disturbances in the amounts consumed in chewing gum,” Wrigley said.

Wrigley identified a number of fruits that may be dried to a low water content to satisfy the requirements to be used as a chewing gum sweetener, including berries, drupes and pomes. Examples of berries include blackcurrant, redcurrant, gooseberry, guava, pomegranate, kiwifruit, grape, cranberry, blueberry, melon, orange, lemon, lime and grapefruit. Examples of drupes include plums, peaches and cherries. Examples of pomes include apples and pears.

Wrigley said the fruit may be seeded or seedless, and a variety of drying methods may be used to produce a dried fruit powder typically containing less than 12% by weight water. Drying methods mentioned by the company included solar, spray, contact, foam, explosion puffing, vacuum, freeze, radiative, acoustic, and osmotic drying.