By gum! Northern Ireland firm has solution to a sticky problem on the streets
Footpaths pocked by discarded chewing gum could be a thing of the past if a chemical concoction created in Northern Ireland corners the £32bn removal market.
Expelliere International in Lisburn has created Xpelgum, a kit costing nearly £300 and containing liquids which heat up and dissolve the polymers in the gum, and a brush which then removes it.
The Expelliere team is only made up of six people at the moment but at a launch yesterday, sales director Chris Lomas said they will help create more jobs in their supply chain if sales of the kit take off.
The team hopes to achieve sales of £4m in year one and to have cornered 1% of the chewing gum clean-up market worth an annual £32bn worldwide in year five.
The bags which contain the kit are made by Northern Ireland social enterprise USEL, the triggers on the bottles by Canyon in Newtownabbey, while one of the chemicals used is sourced from global chemicals company Brenntag, which has an operation in Northern Ireland.
The bottling is currently done in Lisburn.
Mr Lomas said: "We will be creating jobs and sourcing locally, but revenue and tax will be through Northern Ireland.
"This is a Northern Ireland company and I couldn't be more excited. It's founded and funded in Northern Ireland and supported by Invest NI."
Mr Lomas said the company was already in talks with Johnston Street Cleaners in England – a company with global reach – so their machinery could be adapted to feature the Xpelgum system.
Convenience foodstore company Henderson Group has shown "a lot of interest" in using the system in around 400 Spars, while the Rotunda Hospital in Dublin had been "just blown away," Mr Lomas said.
Lisburn Leisureplex had also placed an order while fast food chain McDonald's is also reported to be interested after spending decades looking for a method of chewing gum removal which will not damage the block paving used outside most of its restaurants.
The chemical formulation was developed by a team at Queen's University six years ago which is no longer involved in the company but is being paid a small royalty, Mr Lomas said. The company has received over £100,000 from Invest NI for help with export marketing and business support.
Ian Murphy, Invest NI director for growth and scaling, said: "This forward thinking company has demonstrated that global markets are within the reach of all firms regardless of size or sector."