We are pleased to congratulate VitaGum with winning best graduate idea category in the All-Innovate competition and being awarded £5000 towards their venture! 30 colleges participated in this years All-Innovate ideas competition, of which 10 finalist teams pitched to the judge panel.

VitaGUM is a multivitamin-infused chewing gum that combats malnutrition and poor oral healthcare in refugee populations. Refugees mainly live off food packs that are calorie-rich that aim to reduce hunger but are severely lacking in essential vitamins such as vitamin C and iron. This leads to a high percentage of vitamin deficiencies and diseases, including anaemia, amongst refugees, and this is exacerbated by their poor oral health which makes eating painful. VitaGUM is an innovative solution which delivers both nutrition and oral healthcare to refugees, with its vitamin formula tailored specifically to the diet of refugees and antimicrobial properties for cleaning teeth

The challenge

Harriet Lester got the idea for the gum during her volunteer experiences in the Calais refugee camps. Vitamin deficiency and oral healthcare were wide and poignant issues amongst the refugees that other solutions failed to adequately address. 

There are currently 78  million forcibly displaced refugees globally – expected to rise to half a billion by 2050. Vitamin Deficiencies is the 2nd most prevalent medical issue in this population, 20% alone suffer from vitamin A deficiency. Over half of refugees have anemia, causing poor immunity, fatigue, blindness and developmental delays in children. 25% of refugees have 3 or more oral cavities. 

The financial costs of these issues cannot be exaggerated. The UN alone spends $111 million dollars annually, with an estimated budget deficiency of $446 million dollars. These is a pressing humanitarian issue as well as a financial one – given the significant costs of treating these problems after they arise. 

The gum

VitaGUM is designed specifically to target these challenges. VitaGUM is an innovative vitamin infused chewing gum that cleans teeth and provides essential nutrition for refugees whilst also improving their oral healthcare. It provides nutrition through sublingual absorption, and contain vitamins for this population specifically. It uses vitamin C and Zinc for immunity, iron to prevent anemia, folic acid for pregnant women, and antimicrobial agents to support oral hygiene. 

VitaGUM provides a range of benefits that existing solutions fail to address: Vitamin tablets are unsuitable as they normalise pill-appearing products from someone not a doctor. Nutritional drinks are bulky, made of plastic which is bad for the environment, and expensive to transport. Plastic toothbrushes are one-use-only causing a lot of waste The standard UN food rations are grossly lacking in nutritional value as they focus solely on calories, even though 80% of deaths are from malnutrition due to nutrient deficiency – not acute starvation. VitaGUM provide both vitamins and dental health care

The team

VitaGUM consists of a growing multidisciplinary team dedicated to making it succeed.