Breath mints are small, underrated lifesavers (pun intended) that can help boost your confidence and make you feel like your freshest self. Let’s say you’ve got a big Friday ahead of you that includes a presentation at work and a hot date in the evening. It’s the breath mint that you’ll want to have by your side.

So how exactly are these fresh candies made? The answer lies in a few simple ingredients and a little bit of die cutting magic!

Who Invented Breath Mints?

The ancient Egyptians invented breath mints sometime in the early B.C.’s. These original candies were made by hand using a mixture of frankincense, myrrh, cinnamon, and boiled honey.

Smelly breath was apparently taboo in Egyptian society. Case in point, they are also credited for giving us toothbrushes and toothpaste. This was the best of a bad situation as dentistry wouldn’t be in practice until hundreds of years later. At least they had fresh breath and great smiles for building those pyramids!

How Do Breath Mints Work?

A breath mint works due to a cooling process known as evaporation. The ingredients inside of the mint, like sugar or cinnamon, end up easily dissolving from the saliva in your mouth. This turns the mint from a liquid state into a gas.

The result? You’re left with a cool, refreshing feeling every time you pop a mint in your mouth. It’s a great way to keep coffee breath and garlicy aftertastes at bay!

Tic Tacs were originally called “Refreshing Mints.” They were renamed in the 1970’s after the sound they made when you shook the box (tic tac).

How Are Breath Mints Made?

Breath mints are made in the same way as many other candies. They are created using industrial machinery and usually contain some form of sugar or sugar substitute.

This is how breath mints are made step by step:

  • Step 1: Ingredients like sugar, beeswax, and peppermint oil are mixed and bound together with an edible gel-like substance such as corn syrup, gum arabic, or gelatin. As it’s mixed together, the powdered ingredients will adhere to the corn syrup, gum arabic, or gelatin and become solid.
  • Step 2: The mixture flows from a hopper onto a tablet press that is fitted with a rotating die cutter. Each individual mint is then cut into its desired shape and size.
  • Step 3: The mints are further compressed to ensure they’re uniform in size and shape. Excess material or powder is also removed at this stage.
  • Step 4: The mints are packaged and shipped to stores to be bought by consumers.
  1. Step 1
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6FKJmN3L-Nk

    Mixing the Ingredients

    Mints can be made from a variety of ingredients including:

    • Sugar
    • Sugar substitute
    • Beeswax
    • Peppermint oil
    • Cottonseed oil
    • Coconut oil
    • Wintergreen
    • Artificial flavoring
    • Natural flavoring
    • Rice starch
    • Cinnamon
    • Spearmint
    • Citric acid
    • Food coloring

    At this stage, some combination of these ingredients are ground down into a powder form and mixed together with a binding substance like corn syrup, gelatin, or gum arabic (which is a natural gum that comes from the hardened sap of acacia trees). The combination turns the ingredients from a powdered form into a solid one.

  2. Step 2
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6FKJmN3L-Nk

    Die Cutting

    The mixture from step one travels through giant hoppers with sifts that help get rid of any clumps. From there, it’s onto a tablet press where die cutters create the desired shape and size for each individual mint.

  3. Step 3
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6FKJmN3L-Nk

    Perfecting the Mints

    The mints are almost ready to go! The machine further compresses the mints so everything adheres together. Any excess powder is removed at this stage as well. Some manufacturers refer to this process as “dedusting.”

  4. Step 4
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6FKJmN3L-Nk

    Packaging the Mints

    It’s time for the fun part – packaging the mints! Each brand has their own special packaging, such as the small clear boxes used by Tic Tac or the foil wrapping used by Lifesavers. The mints are either weighed out or counted, put into their packaging, and shipped to stores!

Hard candies and mints are made with the same style of rotary press as the one used by the pharmaceutical industry to make pills.

How Are Breath Mints Customized?

You’ll find that most mints have some kind of custom design, whether it’s printed right on the candies or on the package or tin.

Mints are customized using one of the following processes:

Screen Printing

Screen printing involves a mesh screen and green goo called emulsion. The design is pressed through the screen and transferred onto the mint tins. The more colors used, the more money it can cost to print the design.

Engraving

An engraved design will last for an insanely long time! This is a great choice for collectible mint tins and containers since the design is etched on via laser and won’t easily flake off or fade away.

Deboss

A debossed design has a raised, textured look. Think about the iconic Altoids mint tin. The name “Altoids” is spelled across on the top, and you can actually feel the texture of each letter as you run your finger across the lid.

Offset Printing

Offset printing is used to get the “M’s” on M&Ms® or the sweet messages on Valentine’s Day hearts. It can also be used to print a small design or text directly onto the mint candies instead of the tins or containers.

Do you want to learn more about the process of customizing mints? Check out this video!

How Are Candy Canes Made?

One of the most popular mint candies of all time is candy canes! These peppermint treats are made with sugar, machines, and plenty of love!

Here’s how candy canes are made:

  • Step 1: A big batch of sugar, water, and corn syrup are mixed together in automated mixers.
  • Step 2: Starch is then mixed together with the flavoring, which is typically peppermint.
  • Step 3: The entire mixture is fed into a machine that folds the batch over and over again. This helps ensure the flavor is even across the entire candy cane.
  • Step 4: The mixture is fitted to automatic pullers, which turn rapidly and cause it to turn white.
  • Step 5: The white mixture is fitted onto heated rollers that form it into a giant log.
  • Step 6: Red candy is rolled on a separate machine, stretched, folded, and fitted onto either side of the white log.
  • Step 7: The white and red log is placed into a batch roller. As the log spins around, the red candy becomes thinner and thinner, forming the iconic candy cane stripes.
  • Step 8: The batch travels between wheels that make it thinner and then through rotating knives that cut each piece into the right size for the candy canes.
  • Step 9: The candy canes are packaged and shipped to stores, especially around the holiday season.
  1. Step 1
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oHHBLSSctoc

    Mixing the Ingredients

    Just like breath mints, candy canes are made using sugar, corn syrup, and a little bit of water. This is all mixed together to form one gooey concoction that will later be turned into your favorite holiday treats.

  2. Step 2
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oHHBLSSctoc

    Add the Starch & Flavoring

    A mixture of starch and flavoring is created separately from the mixture in step one. The flavoring is usually peppermint, but it can also be strawberry, orange, watermelon, root beer, and any other candy cane flavor you see in stores.

  3. Step 3
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oHHBLSSctoc

    Folding

    At this point, the starch, flavoring, sugar, corn syrup, and water are all folded together. This is done using high-tech machines that can fold the mixture quickly and efficiently, which ensures the flavor is uniform across the entire candy cane.

  4. Step 4
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oHHBLSSctoc

    Pulling

    Now it’s time to make this mixture look less like a big mess! Automatic pullers stretch it out over and over again until it turns completely white.

  5. Step 5
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oHHBLSSctoc

    Forming a Log

    The white mixture is spun into one giant log. At the same time, heaters warm it up so it’s pliable and easier to shape into those iconic canes.

  6. Step 6
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oHHBLSSctoc

    Adding the Stripes

    During steps one through five, a separate roller has been making red-colored candy. This candy is then taken off the roller, stretched out, and fitted to either side of the white log.

  7. Step 7
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oHHBLSSctoc

    Thinning the Candy

    The candy canes are almost ready to go! The entire log is placed into a batch roller, where it is thinned to the correct dimensions for the candy canes. During this process, a torch runs over the mixture to ensure it remains nice and stretchy.

  8. Step 8
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oHHBLSSctoc

    Cutting the Candy

    The log first goes through a belt that twists the red candy around into the iconic stripes. From there, each piece is cut by automatic cutters into the desired size for the candy canes.

  9. Step 9
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oHHBLSSctoc

    Packaging

    The candy canes are wrapped in cellophane, placed in boxes, and shipped to stores. When all is said and done, this entire process from start to finish takes about 30 minutes.

How Can You Make DIY Breath Mints?

Do you need party or wedding favors on a budget? You’ve likely got everything you need to make your own breath mints right at home!

What you’ll need:

  • Bowl
  • Whisk
  • Teaspoon
  • Parchment paper
  • Pizza cutter
  • Cookie cutter (optional)
  • Water
  • Powdered sugar
  • Gum paste mix (check out the baking aisle or a cake decorating store)
  • Natural peppermint, wintergreen, or spearmint flavor (available on Amazon or at most grocery stores)

This is how to make your own breath mints at home:

  • Step 1: Mix gum paste, flavoring, and water in a bowl until it forms a thick dough.
  • Step 2: Cut the dough into the desired shape for your mints using a pizza cutter or cookie cutter. You can also roll the dough into balls.
  • Step 3: Sprinkle powdered sugar on top of the mints as they sit on a piece of parchment paper.
  • Step 4: Set the mints out on a counter to dry for 2 to 3 hours. The longer they sit, the harder they’ll get.
  • Step 5: Enjoy!
  1. Step 1
    https://theburlapbag.com/blog/2012/11/homemade-breath-mints

    Mix the Ingredients

    Grab your bowl and mix a few drops of the flavor with the gum paste mix and water. Start off with the whisk and switch over to the spoon when it gets difficult to stir around. You can add more water if it’s too dry, and more gum paste mix if it’s too wet.

    Pro Tip:

    Start off with only a few drops of the peppermint, wintergreen, or spearmint flavor. If they’re not as minty as you would like, add more drops to the next batch! You can also mix in a few drops of vanilla for an extra sweet taste.

  2. Step 2
    https://www.sustainablecooks.com/breathmints-or-suck-it-starbucks/

    Cut the Dough

    Cut the dough into the desired shape for your mints. You can use a pizza cutter to make rectangles, roll the dough into little balls, or use a cookie cutter to get certain shapes like hearts or stars.

  3. Step 3

    Sprinkle on Powdered Sugar

    Sprinkle powdered sugar on top of the mints while they are sitting on the parchment paper. You only need a few sprinkles on each piece, so use your thumb and pointer finger and gently rub the sugar on top.

  4. Step 4

    Set Out to Dry

    Leave the mints on the parchment paper and put them on your kitchen counter to dry. This will likely be about 2 to 3 hours. If you want the mints to be hard, let them sit for a longer amount of time.

  5. Step 5
    https://theburlapbag.com/blog/2012/11/homemade-breath-mints

    Enjoy

    Your mints are now ready to go! If you plan on using them as party or wedding favors, you can wrap them individually or put them in some kind of container for all your guests.

You can find minty dog treats on the market! These help fight bad breath, which happens as your pet ages.

How to Reuse Your Old Mint Tins

You’re fresh out of breath mints and all that’s left is the cool tin or container. Rather than tossing it in the garbage, try any of these ideas!

Jewelry Box

You can store small earrings, necklaces, rings, and bracelets inside of your mint tins. If it looks ugly, a little bit of paint or glitter can go a long way!

Office Organizer

Are you tired of digging around in a drawer for paper clips or rubber bands? Keep those small odds and ends right in a mint tin and leave it on top of your desk.

Coin Container

Sure, we all use credit cards these days, but those pennies and dimes are still income. A mint tin is a much better bank than under your couch cushions or the seats in your car!

Traveling

Put your small travel essentials like Q-tips, bobby pins, and lip balm inside of a mint tin. You can also store crayons inside and keep the kids occupied with a few coloring books.

Card Holder

Perhaps you’re an entrepreneur with a bunch of business cards to carry around. Maybe you just got a ton of gift cards for your birthday. Either way, a mint tin is great storage!

Use it for Your Keys

You’ll never wonder where you put your keys again! An old mint tin is an ideal place for your car and house keys, or for those random keys you need, but don’t use every day.

DIY Tic-Tac-Toe Board

Use painter’s tape and make a mini tic-tac-toe board inside of an old mint tin. You can then find “X” and “O” magnets or use colorful push pin magnets instead.

Game Night

Mint tins are the perfect size for a deck of cards, dice, and a few poker chips. It’s no guarantee that you’ll get that Royal Flush, but at least it makes game night a breeze!

Art Supplies

This one is for the crafty people! An old mint tin is a great place for your pom poms, googly eyes, stickers, and stamps. You’ll be nice and organized and ready for your next project!

Sewing Kit

All those needles and thread spools can get easily misplaced. Turn an old mint tin into a makeshift sewing kit, and you’ll have everything you need in arm’s reach!

Tackle Box

No need to flounder over how to store your bait and tackle. Simply reuse an old mint tin, and you’ll catch those fish hook, line, and sinker!

Store Earbuds & Cords

Nobody wants to deal with tangles, whether it’s headphones, video game cables, or USB chargers. Label a bunch of mint tins for your different cords, and you’ll avoid major headaches down the road!

Toothpick Holder

Do you always have spinach stuck in your teeth? Store toothpicks in a mint tin and keep it inside of your bag or purse.

Emergency Kit for Your Car

Keep a few bandages and Neosporin inside of an old mint tin and leave it in your car’s glove compartment. You can also squeeze in other emergency supplies like aspirin and dental floss.

Tool Box

Small tools, like nuts, screws, bolts, drill heads, and nails, fit perfectly inside of an empty mint tin. Just be sure to carefully retrieve them from the tin when they’re ready to be used.

More Candy

When in doubt, you can always put more candy inside of your mint tins. Anything small, like M&Ms or Skittles, will fit with ease inside of the container.

Mint tins were first sold in the 1920’s. Altoids was one of the first brands to start using this type of packaging.

Do Breath Mints Expire?

Breath mints that are stored in a sealed container will usually expire after 1 year. If yours start to smell funky, change in color, or grow mold, throw them away before that time.

Mint leaves, on the other hand, will last for 5 to 7 days if kept in the fridge or pantry. They can last up to 3 years if you keep them in the freezer. Keep that in mind if you frequently drink Mojitos or like to make your own mint ice cream!

Stats for Success

10,000 mints can be produced every minute with industrial machines.

As of 2020, a single Tic Tac contains 1.9 calories.

The mixture used to make candy canes can weigh as much as 100 pounds.

The Bottom Line

The process for making mint candy is fairly simple, but it ends with pure deliciousness. Whether it’s breath mints for that big date or candy canes for the holiday season, you can’t go wrong with these fresh treats!

References

IP Factly. (2016, July 28). The Ancient Egyptians Invented Breath Mints. Retrieved from,
https://ipfactly.com/the-ancient-egyptians-invented-breath-mints/

Atteberry, J. Kiger, P. 10 Amazing Ancient Egyptian Inventions. Retrieved from,
https://science.howstuffworks.com/innovation/inventions/5-amazing-ancient-egyptian-inventions6.htm

How Products are Made. Breath Mint. Retrieved from,
http://www.madehow.com/Volume-6/Breath-Mint.html

Discovery Channel. (2013, October 23). How It’s Made Breath Mints Discovery Channel. Retrieved from,
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6FKJmN3L-Nk

Geobeats. (2016, October 18). 10 Things You May Not Know About Tic Tacs. Retrieved from,
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vdDiSCJLSVE

Popular Science. (2002, March 29). Why Do Breath Mints Make Your Mouth Feel Cool? Retrieved from,
https://www.popsci.com/scitech/article/2002-03/why-do-breath-mints-make-your-mouth-feel-cool/

Cook, S. (2018, November 29). Homemade Mints (Altoids Mints Copycat). Retrieved from,
https://www.sustainablecooks.com/breathmints-or-suck-it-starbucks/

The Burlap Bag. (2012, November 29). Homemade Breath Mints. Retrieved from,
https://theburlapbag.com/blog/2012/11/homemade-breath-mints

Science Channel. (2015, December 18). Candy Canes | How It’s Made. Retrieved from,
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oHHBLSSctoc

McKay, B. McKay, K. (2011, January 30). 21 Manly Ways to Reuse an Altoids Tin. Retrieved from,
https://www.artofmanliness.com/articles/22-manly-ways-to-reuse-an-altoids-tin/

Crigger, D. (2017, February 4). 17 Incredibly Awesome Things to Do with Altoids Tins. Retrieved from,
https://www.onecrazyhouse.com/altoids-tin-ideas/

Penelope’s Oasis. 10 Great Uses for Candy Tins You Probably Never Thought Of. #Organize. Retrieved from,
https://penelopesoasis.com/2011/altoid-tin-project-uses-crafts.html

Still Tasty. Mints/Mint Candy, Commercially Packaged or Purchased in Bulk – Unopened or Open Package. Retrieved from,
https://stilltasty.com/fooditems/index/17704

About the author

Alyssa Mertes

Alyssa is a promo expert with over four years of experience in the industry. She is the Lead Copywriter at Quality Logo Products and has had work published for the Promotional Products Association International and the Advertising Specialty Institute.