Get Fresh (and Hip!)

These days, not too many philosophy majors go on to mint theories, but two years out of Harvard, philosophy concentrator Henry M. Rich ’02 is busy developing theories about mints.

A fledgling entrepreneur, Rich joined forces with Princeton graduates Jeremy Kahn and Jonathan Harris to develop a mint marketable beyond the Ivy League, in what he calls “the luxury consumables” sector.

“People will pay four dollars for a cup of coffee, even though it’s something that has been around for hundreds of years,” Rich says. “I figured that in the mint market, if we could make a really good mint that was also a fashion accessory, people would go for it.”

Rich and his associates began to think of ways to outclass Tic Tacs and eclipse the power of those curiously strong mints already at the forefront of the breath-freshening market.

“At the time, the smoking ban had just begun in New York, and people were starting to quit smoking,” he explains. His Eureka moment came when talking to a friend trying to cut back on cigarettes. “He told me he just couldn’t get over the oral fixation,” Rich recalls. Instantly the idea crystallized in his head: “why not make a mint picking up on that psychological connection?”

So the three bought a World War II-era tableting machine and found (via a Google search) a freelancing flavor specialist who had crafted the flavors behind Lifesavers for forty years. Thus, Oral Fixation Mints were born.

“The flavor designer messed up the coloring by a power of ten on our first batch,” Rich recalls. “All of our friends involved in sampling had completely blue mouths at first.”

Rich and friends eventually found the right mix for each flavor. “We just started banging them out, but we needed a clever package for them, too.” Keeping in mind the company goal of making everyday things beautiful, Rich, Kahn, and Harris immediately set to work on designing their product, Oral Fixation mints, in sleek metal packages resembling retro cigarette cases. They also launched a well-designed website, www.oralfix.com, which has helped to drum up interest in their aesthetically pleasing products.

Since their launch nearly a year and a half ago, the mints have gained much popularity in celebrity circles.

“I was doing promotion at a fashion show and some guy came up to me and said that Beyoncé had bribed him to get off the StairMaster with a pack of Mojito Mints,” Rich said.

Beyoncé isn’t the only one fixated on the mints. According to Rich, “Whitney Houston carries the Classical Peppermint, and Gwyneth Paltrow, Jude Law, and Lindsay Lohan are all fans,” he said. The company is also in the process of negotiating an appearance in an Usher video.

And the name has gained steam beyond Hollywood. Oral Fixation mints are available in five continents and the company just recently threw a party in New York to celebrate the acceptance of the mints as a fashion accessory. “People have started matching their outfits to the tins,” Rich says.

“The tins can hold mints, cash, or fake IDs,” Rich explains, adding that several have commented on their use as business card holders, too. They cost about three dollars for a pack of 30 and are available in six cleverly named flavors, including 7 Deadly Cinnamon and Sugar Free Tibet.

For night owls, company has developed Night Light, which is a caffeniated chai flavor. “Night Light has been marketed at Princeton to help kids stay up and write papers. A full tin probably has the same effect as a cup of coffee,” he said.

And while Princeton students have had a year to enjoy the snazzy succulents, Harvard students will now receive their fix, too. The mints will be offered in the Greenhouse and the Quincy Grille, in addition to Square locations like Cardullo’s and Newbury Comics. “I’m totally stoked to bring oral fixation to Harvard,” Rich says.