Monday, June 23, 2008

History of Chewing Gum

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Although the history of chewing gum is somewhat cloudy, there is evidence that the early Greeks chewed on a substance made from a resin of the Mastic Tree indigenous to Turkey.

In North America, Native Americans chewed on a substance that made from the resin of Spruce Trees. This practice continued until the early 19th Century and has been accredited as one of the first modern examples of Chewing Gum.

In the late 19th Century, Paraffin or edible wax was introduced as a substitute for Spruce Resin. Although this trend was short lived, we do see similar examples in modern candies such as Wax Fangs or Wax Lips or the retro candy classic, wax bottles.

Although flavors vary, all chewing gum consists of basic ingredients. The base is often made from resins from tropical trees as well as synthetic materials such as polyvinyl acetate, wax or rubber byproducts. The remainder is an amalgamation of corn syrups, sugars and hundreds of flavorings not to mention artificial colors.

The base is melted to a soluble liquid and then combined with the byproducts and stored in a solid block. It is then combined with colorings, flavors and sweeteners prior to packaging.

Bubble Gum, unlike regular chewing gum, has a base that consists of rubber latex and this is what gives it elasticity.

Early chewing gums were a challenge as they were hard to chew and the flavor, if any, lasted a very short time. As chewing gum became more popular, manufacturers began to experiment with new flavors and non-solid, often liquid, centers.

The advent of modern chewing gum is attributed to Mexican General, Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, who became infamous as one of the participants of the Alamo As with most great inventions, it was more luck than planning.

After being exiled from Mexico, he introduced Thomas Adams Sr. to Chicle which is a substance derived from Sapota or Saodilla trees. Adams wanted to use the elastic ingredient in experiments to find ways to make more economical car tires.

Although he never was able to produce an economical tire substitute, in the end, he created one, if not the, first mass marketed chewing gums called Adams New York Chewing Gum. The first patent for chewing gum was awarded in 1869 although Adams did not create the first mass production chewing gum assembly line until 1871.

In 1880, William White combined corn syrup with Chicle and added peppermint extract thus creating the first flavored gum called YUCATAN. In the same period, Dr. Edward Beeman added pepsin powder and created a gum that was to serve as a "digestive aid." Beemans Chewing Gum, still available today, is a derivative of this discovery.

Chewing Gum became an important part of American culture and is often associated with being the catalyst behind the vending business. As early as 1888, vending machines appeared at subway stations in Manhattan offering different varieties of chewing gum.

In 1893, the William Wrigley Company, based in Chicago, IL, introduced two new chewing gums, Juicy Fruits and Wrigley's Spearmint, which to this day, remain some of the best selling chewing gums in the world.

In an attempt to compete with Wrigley's success, the American Chicle Company was established in 1899 and was an amalgamation of Yucatan Gum, Adams Gum, Beeman's Gum and Kiss Me Gum.

In 1899, Franklin V.Canning, a dentist, introduced Dentyne Gum and later that year, Chiclets were formally introduced. Both chewing gums are still available today although the formulas have changed.

The industry, fiercely competitive, saw little change until 1914. That year, following the success of Juicy Fruit and Wrigley's Spearmint, the William Wrigley Jr. Company introduced Doublemint Gum. Later that year, Thomas Adams introduced Adam's Clove Gum that to this day remains a retro candy "cult" classic!

American Chicle, in hopes of narrowing competition, purchased the company that invented Chiclets and went on to acquire the Dentyne Company while William Wrigley Jr. Co., in 1923, became one of the first candy companies to be listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

1928 was a very important year as Walter Diemer, an accountant for Fleer Gum, created the first formula for Bubble Gum. Fleer Gum had been searching for years to produce a formula that allowed bubbles to be blown that didn't stick and this is exactly what Diemer stumbled upon. It was also one of the first times that food coloring was used and pink became, and remains, the industry standard.

Fleer sold the rights for Dubble Bubble Bubble Gum to Marvel Entertainment Group and this gum was included in packages of trading cards until the late 80's. In 1988, Concord Confections, the largest manufacturer of bubble gum balls, purchased the rights to Dubble Bubble Bubble Gum.

In the early 1930's, Peter Paul Co., the inventors of Almond Joy and Mounds Candy Bars made a foray into the chewing gum market with the introduction of Charcoal Gum which was advertised, not so subtly, on the side of their candy bar boxes. They continued to make chewing gum until the late 1940's.

In 1938, two brothers started a company in Brooklyn called Topps Gum. The gum was sold at cash registers and is considered to the first "changemaker" as the marketing strategy was to get consumers to spend their change. This gum sold well but it wasn't until post World War II that they introduced the product that would take the nation by storm: Bazooka Bubble Gum!

This became, and remains, one of the best selling bubble gums of all time and in 1953, they decided to include the first comic in each piece. In 1950, Topps introduced the first trading card but it wasn't until two years later when Sy Berger, a baseball enthusiast, decided to make a card focusing exclusively on America's pastime.

Although Topps Company diversified into other non bubble gum novelty candies such as the Baby Bottle Pop, Push Pop and Ring Pop to name but a few, they remain one of the largest bubble gum manufacturers in the world with sales over 3 billion dollars!

The 1940's, the war years, saw the introduction of Rainblo Bubble Gum by Leaf Confectionary Co. and the William Wrigley Jr. Co., introduced Orbit specifically as a wartime product. Wrigley chewing gum was standard issue in the soldier's field rations, as was the Hershey Milk Chocolate Bar. Dubble Bubble also offered bubble gum squares that were included in ration kits.

In the 1950's, as consumers became more health conscious, Sugarless gum was introduced. The formula remained standard until 1970 when the FDA banned the active ingredient, Cyclamate. In 1983, Aspartame (known as Equal or Nutrasweet) began its use as a sugar free sweetener. Later, Sorbitol was introduced and is commonly used today as diabetics more readily tolerate it.

The original idea behind sugar free gum is accredited to a dentist named Dr. Petrulis. Chewing gums contained Ammonia and he discovered that this substance counteracted acid that lead to tooth decay. Dr. Petrulis sold his company to the William Wrigley Co., and in the late 1960's, they introduced the first sugar free bubble gum called Blammo.

Wrigley Company continued to create some of the best-loved chewing gums and it was not until 1975 when then introduced Wrigley's Freedent Gum (designed not to stick to dentures) and then a year later, Wrigley's Big Red. In 1979, they introduced Hubba Bubble Bubble Gum and in 1980, they introduced Big League Chew (shredded bubble gum).

Ever keeping with the times, Wrigley introduced Extra Sugarfree Gum in 1984 and in 1994 they introduced Wrigley Winterfresh Gum. As of writing, the William Wrigley Jr. Company is the largest manufacturer of chewing gum in the world. Its headquarters are in Chicago, IL but it has factories in at least ten (10) foreign countries!

Today, there are hundreds of varieties of chewing gum and companies such as Amurol, a division of Wrigley, continue to push the boundaries with unique products such as Bubble Gum Tape, Bubble Beepers, Bubble Jugs and Ouch Gum to name but a few.