Friday, December 26, 2008
Plus X Grape Mint Gum
In Japanese business, there's a concept called "plus alpha". This means that an additional service is added on to whatever the usual package of services is offered. I'll note for those who have not lived in Japan that "plus alpha" is said in English, not in the Japanese equivalent of those English words. So, most Japanese people know what "plus" means even if it is written in English.
This grape mint gum says "plus X" which makes it sound as if something extra has been added. Lotte's web site says that the branding using "plus X" is specifically targeted at young people as a way of making gum made with Xylitol (a sweetener which helps strengthen tooth enamel) seem "fun" and "cool". I guess they feel that the whole idea of gum that is good for your teeth is too square for the likes of Japanese young people so it's hipper to make it vague by saying "plus X". Of course, I'm not sure how "fun" you can make tiny pieces of gum.
Lotte also mentions that the price of this gum is set at 100 yen (about $1), though I'm not sure why that should be so special. A lot of individual packs of gum are in the same price range, though there are some pretty expensive big plastic canisters of gum for around 500-800 yen (about $5-$8). Each pack has 14 pieces and if you chew the whole thing, it's only 37 calories. The pieces are rather sloppily wrapped in textured foil which is too big for the size of the gum. Perhaps Lotte is recycling packaging from more generously proportioned gum or they like the look of a product swaddled in foil.
The gum is similar to Chiclets in the U.S. though they are perhaps a little bigger. The pieces have a candy coating and don't have any scent at all. When you bite into it, you're hit by a faint grape flavor then by a very odd mixture of mint and grape. The mint is stronger than the grape, though they do tend to mix into a bit of a funky combination for a short time until the flavor peters out. The grape dies off entirely after about a minute and you're left with an almost bitter mint flavor. The flavor doesn't last all that long and the piece size is so small that even a conservative gum chewer might need 3 pieces to satisfy herself.
I'm not a serious gum chewer, but if I were, I wouldn't buy this again. It's not only that grape and mint do not make a great pairing, but also that the flavor doesn't last long and the gum isn't especially a great chew. I can't understand why fruit gum in Japan seems to be often paired with mint since that's not a particularly tasty combination. It could be that gum is mainly used to freshen breath and mint is seen as necessary for doing the trick. At any rate, I wouldn't recommend this.