BUSINESS: Rainforest Chicza S.A. de C.V.
CITY: Mexico
Country: Mexico
The Consorcio Chiclero (Consortium of gum tappers) is a cooperative made up of more than 200 "chicleros," working in 46 forest communities in southeastern Mexico (located in the states of Campeche and Quintana Roo). Their development model is structured around improving the socioeconomic structure of producers and social enterprises, along with conservation of tropical forests. Years ago, the consortium began producing organic chewing gum based on sustainable management plans. In 2008 we changed our formulas in order to create the Chicza brand, containing chicle, organic products certified by IFOAM Organics, and natural flavors and aromas. We thus began our small-scale industrial production while strengthening our integration of the entire value chain into our original initiative. Chicza is the result of six years of research, which have allowed us to formulate six unique formulas for organic chewing gum.

From the tree to the pack:
Chicza is 100% natural, with the gum sustainably harvested from chicozapote trees in the Maya Jungle. Organic and Biodegradable, it also supports communities through Fair Trade schemes.

To harvest the gum, the chiclero first inspects the tree, touching it and testing it with his machete. If he decides to harvest, he begins to climb the tree, using only a few simple tools. Starting from the bottom of the tree, he climbs making V shaped cuts in a zig zag, from which runs the white latex that will later be turned into gum. He climbs higher and higher, hugging the tree that holds him up. Their skill is fascinating, and the work is difficult, and at times dangerous. However, this is a skill that they learn from a young age, watching their experienced fathers and grandfathers. The gum is harvested during the rainy season, when the trees are well hydrated and the mosquitos are thriving, distracting them while they work. Concentration is essential, as a mis-aimed machete strike could cut the harness holding them to the tree.

However, a carefully-sharpened machete is the crucial tool for their craft. The chicleros make these zigzag cuts from the base of the trunk, which can be over a meter in diameter, and these cuts allow them to climb up to 30 meters into the forest canopy. They bury their special, pointed boots into the fresh cuts to support their weight, and the latex runs down the tree into special containers attached to the base of the tree using beeswax. Depending on its size and how many times the tree has been tapped, a tree can provide between a half and two kilograms of latex. Once it has been tapped, the tree rests for at least five years before being tapped again.

Upon returning to the forest floor, the chicleros collect the latex, filter out the impurities, and boil it in large metal pots. Little by little the latex loses its humidity and assumes the well-known sticky and elastic consistency. When it is at the perfect consistency, it is cooled and placed in wooden molds. These are transported to regional collection centers, and from there the chicle from various communities is taken to the Chetumal plant, where the final product is made. The chicle is melted with natural waxes to make the base gum. While still warm, organic sweeteners such as agave syrup are added along with natural flavors. The base is then compacted and molded into pieces of gum. The use of purely organic and natural ingredients and methods creates a truly exceptional product, organic, biodegradable, to contrast the world of artificial and synthetic chewing gums.