Scent Stories: A History of Mint and Why Americans Have Come To Love It

history of mint

From gum to toothpaste to cough drops, mint is always a flavor option in these products. Fun fact: mint is the third most popular flavoring ingredient in the world—and the fastest-growing flavor segment as consumers love it for its clean, fresh flavor. (If you’re curious, vanilla is the most popular, and citrus is #2.) 

But how did mint become a leading scent and flavor in oral hygiene products? After all, there are all sorts of other fragrant herbs and spices to choose from: cinnamon, fennel, parsley, and rosemary.

While the other herbs have been—and still are often—used in various products, the use of mint dates back to ancient Greece. It’s said that mint was scattered on floors to freshen rooms and used in funeral rites to mask the smell of the dead. It was even eaten to cure indigestion back then. 

Mint’s use didn’t wane, but fast-forward to the late 1800s and that’s when mint really grew in popularity. In 1870, Altoids were invented. Nowadays, we use them as breath mints. But when they were first created, the little white candies—throbbing with peppermint—were made to calm stomachs. 

Around the same time, toothpaste was invented, but it needed something to tame the terrible taste of the hydrogen peroxide and baking soda combination in it. Enter mint extract as an option. Next, Listerine mouthwash and gum were invented. And while other gum flavors were also developed, the peppermint flavor supposedly lasted the longest when chewed. Thus, gum manufacturers and consumers alike leaned into peppermint. In fact, we are still inventing new flavors of mint gum (think: Polar Ice, Sweet Mint, etc.).  

Why Americans Grew To Love Mint

One could argue, though, that it takes more than just the manufacturing of products to entice consumers to buy in. So, how has mint become so commonplace? 

One potential reason is that fresh breath is a sign of cleanliness and cleanliness has historically been a sign of good health. So when all of these minty products were being invented, a market for combating halitosis was also perpetuated—and mint’s strong scent and menthol’s numbing properties imparts feelings of cleanliness.    

Read more about The Power of Scent Associations & How They Are Created here.

OVR loves to understand how and why scent can influence our cognition and behavior. The way the story of a specific aroma can travel through history to create a cultural awareness and reliance that permeates our every day decisions and expectations is vital to understanding how the future of scent will exist in digital spaces


A Brief History of Mint, from Air Freshener to Breath Freshener

The Cool Flavors of Mint

Plant of the Month: Mint

New call-to-action

Recent posts
The OVR Blog
calling card

Let's Connect!

New call-to-action

Using scent to drive outcomes by linking memory and emotion to create more immersive Virtual Experiences.

  • Mental Health
  • Corporate Wellness Tools
  • Effective Training for High Risk Occupation
  • Technology driven Holistic approaches
  • Immersive VR Experiences

Recent Posts