What Goes into That Great Wrigley Mint Taste
A vast area of farmland is required to raise all the mint the Wrigley Company needs. If added together, this farmland would equal 137 million metres2, or approximately 33,890 football pitches.
Mint is a very thirsty plant. It grows in well-drained mucklands in Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin. It also grows well in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, South Dakota and Montana. These areas share one characteristic: They are all north of the 41st parallel, where the right amount of daylight produces the best yield and quality of oil.
Mint is a perennial plant that produces no seed. It is planted in rows, with state-certified, disease-free, root stock or underground runners from existing plants. By the second year the plants spread out, creating a solid mint meadow.
The oil is stored in glands on the underside of the peppermint and spearmint leaves. An acre (.4 ha) of mint produces about 76 pounds (34.5 kg) of oil.
Mint is difficult to grow and special care must be taken to ensure only the finest quality finished oil.
The harvesting season for mint is mid-June to late September, depending on the location of the fields.
When the crops mature, windrowers mow swaths down the mint field, leaving mounded rows of 'hay', or cut mint. The hay is left to dry, then picked up by a mechanical chopper and blown into a tub.
During the harvest season, the mint tubs roll steadily from the fields to a nearby distillery, where pressurised steam shoots through the tubs, vaporising the mint oil. The oil vapours and steam pass through a line at the top of the tubs to water-cooled condensers, where they return to a liquid state. In a separator, the mint oil rises to the top and is drawn into huge drums.
Samples are then tested and the oil is either bought or rejected. Oils accepted for purchase are stored in a temperature-controlled warehouse. Oils are identified by their growing areas, such as Willamette Valley Peppermint grown in western Oregon. Wrigley buys an assortment of mint oils, which are combined together in specified proportions to create each flavour.
Refining and Blending
Most mint oils go through a refining process called fractionation, which removes or reduces certain components to alter the strength or the taste of the oil.
Northwestern Flavors, a Wrigley associated company, does the final blending and refining of mint oils that the Wrigley Company buys for its brands worldwide.
Quality Assurance personnel perform a comprehensive battery of tests on samples. The composition of the oil is checked on a gas chromatograph to make sure it meets specifications. The oil is also tasted to identify any 'sour' or 'weedy' notes.
The oils are mixed together in specified proportions to create a master blend of peppermint or spearmint. The master blends are then further refined by distillation.
The final step is to blend the oils with other flavour ingredients required by the brand's formula. The finished flavours are then sent to Wrigley factories worldwide to be mixed with other chewing gum ingredients.