Posted on Sunday 13 October 2013 by Ulster Business
Pictured at the global launch of xpelgum at the Merchant Hotel are Chairman and Technical Director of Expelliere International John McCandless, with xpelgum Managing Director Chris Lomas.
Expelliere International has launched a new ionic-based product called xpelgum which when applied breaks down the chemical structure of chewing gum to remove its stickiness and allow for its safe removal.
The technology was first developed at Queen's University Belfast six years ago and since then over £2m has been invested by a local business consortium to take the ground-breaking technology to the point where it can be launched to a global chewing gum clean-up market estimated to be worth $50bn.
At present there are a number of partial solutions to the problem in the market involving high pressure water or steam jets that can damage the surface below the gum. The team behind xpelgum are marketing it as an environmentally safe gum removal solution and with global patents already in place for the next 20 years, the Lisburn-based company is confident of success.
Chairman of Expelliere International John McCandless, who has been chairman of several land and residential property development companies for the last twenty years, said: "Many attempts have been made to find a way of removing unwanted gum but to date a commercially viable solution to the problem has not been found.
"We believe xpelgum is that solution and the extensive testing we have carried out to date with organisations in the leisure, retail, hospitality and contract cleaning sectors has confirmed our belief that we have developed a product with true global appeal."
So confident are the company in xpelgum that two of its directors, dressed in business suits, demonstrated it on an old piece of gum stuck to the lobby floor inside the upmarket Merchant Hotel. A spray of the liquid catalyst is followed by a spray of activating agent, starting a chemical reaction and causing the gum to appear to smoke, before being easily brushed off.
"We've already had a lot of interest and based on advanced orders we expect sales to be high," the company's Managing Director Chris Lomas told journalists. "If you're responsible for a public space you will want our technology."
The self treatment starter kit will retail for £299 and treat 500 pieces of gum, with a refill also costing £299 (enough for 2,000 pieces) and an estimated four refills needed a year for a commercial premises.
Expelliere is also in "advanced discussions" with UK contract cleaning company Johnsons Cleaners to see if it can adapt their machinery to use the product on a larger scale. It has also had interest from Henderson Group to use the product at its 400 stores. Expelliere already has Bunzl, the multinational distribution company, signed up and taking orders from its customers.
Lomas said the company expects to turn over £4m in the first year after launch and within five years hopes to have reached 1% of the market – around £500m.
The MD has a strong background in launching new brands having worked for a number of Blue Chip companies including Heinz Foodservice. He is also a former Dragons' Den contestant and turned down a job offer from Duncan Bannatyne because he didn't want to move to Scotland. However, the potential scale of opportunity with xpelgum was enough to attract him to work in Northern Ireland.
"It's estimated that we spend £19bn a year on chewing gum and around £50bn cleaning it up. The problem is only set to get worse as more people give up smoking – there's been a 30% increase in anti-smoking gum," he explained.
"The conventional cleaning methods rely on steam and jet washing which can't be used on all surfaces and comes at a huge cost, both in terms of money and the environment. Our technology doesn't rely on that. It is the first technology that allows people to do it themselves," he added.
"This is a Northern Ireland company, it was founded and funded in Northern Ireland and supported by Invest NI. It is cutting edge technology that is in high demand and we have a great opportunity to access a wide market place."