Mint mouthpieces and raspberry teething rings might become reality thanks to an alliance between A. Schulman Inc. and Add The Flavor LLC.
The two firms have developed Polyflav, a flavored-plastic technology that can infuse Schulman's Polybatch-brand plastic concentrates with a variety of long-lasting scents and flavors.
Flavors currently available include mint, raspberry, grape, lemon, chocolate and orange. The materials can be produced at the newly renovated Akron, Ohio, plant of Fairlawn, Ohio-based Schulman.
Polyflav is available in two grades. The Standard, or S, Series can be used in polymers to offer a strong scent with a subtle taste. The Optimized, or O, Series provides both strong scent and taste.
Work on the project began in 2006, when entrepreneur Corey Capasso brought the idea to Schulman while still a freshman student at the University of Wisconsin in Madison.
I was sitting with a group of people and just noticed how many of them were chewing on their pen caps, Capasso said in a recent phone interview. Then I realized there really was no such thing as long-lasting flavor for plastics. There was no Everlasting Gobstopper of plastics.
Fans of the film Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory will recognize the Everlasting Gobstopper as the name of a candy that never loses its flavor. Nestlé makes a candy of the same name, based on the film.
So I found out what science was behind it and reached a deal with Schulman, added Capasso, who is now a senior at UW. After that, I got angel financing with Penny Black [LLC] in New York.
This might sound like a lot for a 22-year-old to pull off, but Add The Flavor already is the second business venture of Capasso's young career. He previously owned ECHS, a series of college-oriented Web sites, including one that sold used textbooks and tickets to athletic events. Capasso a native of Woodcliff Lake, N.J., with a double major in risk-management insurance and entrepreneurship sold ECHS to a larger firm late last year.
Schulman's Chuck Hampton said in a recent phone interview that his firm one of North America's 30 largest plastics compounders was won over by the innovative nature of the concept.
After initial brainstorming, we thought it might be realistic, said Hampton, Schulman's North American concentrates business manager. Previously to get a flavor in a plastic, all you could do was dip a part in a flavored solution, but after a while the flavor would rub off. This technology infuses the plastic with the flavor.
When selecting flavors, Capasso said, the obvious ones were any kind of fruit and mint the kind you'd find in applications for kids.
Current applications include protective mouthpieces, infant teething rings, pet toys and a range of oral care, medical and dental products.
We want to see these products in places like Walgreen's and CVS, said Capasso, adding that he has been contacted by at least 10 large consumer products companies.
We're working on further advances in technology and hope to have lots of licensing deals in consumer products, he said. Eventually, we'd like to go direct to retail.
Last year, Capasso was recognized as one of America's Best Young Entrepreneurs by BusinessWeek magazine. His work with Add The Flavor also has been featured on the Web site of Fox News.
In April, Add the Flavor won second place and a $7,000 prize in the 2009 G. Steven Burrill Competition, an event for young entrepreneurs at UW.
Capasso will have more time to devote to the project after he graduates in May.
He has no formal training in plastics or chemistry, but has been advised on the project by Tim Osswald, a polymer engineering professor at UW's Polymer Engineering Center.
It's been a heck of a roller coaster ride, Capasso said of his venture into plastics. I may not have the academic background, but I'm good at jigsaw puzzles. I'm good at taking ideas and making them work.