Innovation That Matters

Mastic fantastic


There’s a new premium commodity in town, and its name is mastiha. Those of you with no ties to the Eastern Mediterranean or the Middle-East are forgiven for not knowing exactly what mastiha, or mastic gum, is. It’s a product of the mastic tree, which is mainly cultivated on Chios, a Greek island in the Aegean Sea. Small cuts are made in the bark of the tree, the sap seeps out and congeals into ‘tears’ of resin, which are harvested and cleaned by hand. The resinous result has been popular and highly valued in the region for thousands of years, and was traded from Venice to Damascus. More than just a sticky flavouring, mastiha is cherished for its antibacterial properties, used to reduce tooth plaque and treat gastric ulcers. It was once considered so precious that countries fought for the right to control its cultivation. (The ancients were very fond of mastic chewing gum.) Flash forward 20 centuries, and welcome to modern Greece, where the Chios Gum Mastic Growers Association started Mastihashop to stimulate demand for its produce. Mastiha is used in a wide variety of products, and Mastihashops carry everything from mastiha-flavoured coffee, biscuits and liqueur, to toothpaste, cosmetics and chewing gum. All well-branded and sleekly packaged. There are currently seven Mastihashops in Greece. But the cooperative-formed retailer has its eye on international expansion: both in the Middle-East, where mastiha is a familiar ingredient, and in the west, where the fragrant and exotic product has yet to catch on. Unlike olive oil or sea salt, Mastiha’s hand-made and uber-local character ensure a lasting degree of exclusivity. The medicinal properties and nice branding can’t hurt, either. Time to enquire about distribution and franchising?



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