The Story of Altoids

It is simply amazing that Altoids breath mints have been around for more than 200 years now. Produced by Callard & Bower-Suchard in Great Britain, Altoids certainly has a long and storied tradition. So, how did Altoids come into existence, and where are they headed?

Around the late 1780’s, during the time when King George III ruled in England, a confectionary company was making a new product. The small company named Smith & Company actually promoted Altoids as being for people with an upset stomach. It was only later that the product began to be advertised as a breath mint.

In the 1800’s Smith & Company merged with Callard & Bowser. Altoids was being advertised as “The Original Celebrated Curiously Strong Peppermints”. It’s interesting to note that Altoids wasn’t sold in the now familiar tins until the 1920’s. They were sold in small rectangular boxes that were close to the same size as the tins. The reason that the company decided to begin producing them in tins was due to prevent crushing. It also helped to keep them from spilling out in pockets and women’s purses.

No one knows how Altoids ever got its name, but it is believed that the company used the suffix “oids” on its products that offered medical benefits. For instance, Zenoids was produced by Smith & company as a help for easier digestion. But how it got the “Alt” in front of it is completely unknown.

Stories abound everywhere on uses for the Altoids tins. People use the empty tins for emergency medical kits that hold bandages and ointments, as well as containers for tobacco or illegal drugs. They have been made into MP3 players, geocaches, amateur radios, pinhole cameras, sewing kits, and even as an emergency camping stove. This little tin seems to have unlimited uses.

As far as Altoids themselves, no medical benefit was ever proven. While Altoids do freshen bad breath, they do not “cure” it. No mint actually cures bad breath.

Altoids are often used by Hollywood actors and actresses prior to filming scenes involving kissing. There have also been multitudes of stories over the years involving the use of Altoids in a romantic way.

Recently, Wrigley, who owns the brand, moved the production from Great Britain to its plant in Chattanooga, TN. The move was mainly due in part that more Altoids are sold in the United States than in any other country.

Altoids not only come as mints, but also in hard candy sours and gum, which are available in many different flavors.

Wrigley has recently announced that later this year, Altoids will be available in chocolate. You will be able to purchase a chocolate covered cinnamon mint. This will certainly be interesting, but people who have already tried it say it’s a great combination. On the online auction company e-Bay, three sample tins were auctioned off at $200 a pop!

Since Altoids first arrived in the United States in 1918, they have certainly made their mark. With over 200 years behind then, you can expect Altoids to continue to be as popular as ever. Boy, I need a mint!

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