History of Chewing Gum
Although it comes in multiple flavors, today’s chewing gum is made from certain basic ingredients that are traditional. The base is usually made from tropical tree resin or some synthetic material—including wax, rubber byproducts, and poly vinyl acetate. The rest is a blend of corn syrup, various sugars, artificial coloring, and numerous flavors. In the manufacturing process, the base becomes a soluble liquid, is combined with certain byproducts, and forms a solid block. Then it is blended with sweeteners, flavors, and coloring before being packaged.
How chewing gum evolved
While the history of chewing gun is somewhat unclear, we do know that the ancient Greeks liked to chew on a substance that mainly consisted of resin from the mastic tree. In the United States, Native Americas preferred to chew on a substance that had spruce tree resin as its base.
In more modern times, early chewing gums had little to offer because they were not easy to chew and the flavor, which was minimal, did not last long. However, as it grew in popularity, manufacturers began to experiment with additional flavors and gum that had non non-solid (sometimes liquid) centers.
Chewing gum today
Historians attribute the introduction of modern chewing gum to a Mexican general who was an infamous participant of the battle at the Alamo, Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna. Not surprisingly, his invention was the result of luck, rather than planning. After he was exiled from Mexico, the general familiarized Thomas Adams, Jr. with chicle, which is taken from saodilla or sapota trees. His goal was to experiment with the substance and find a method for manufacturing car tires that was less expensive.
Although his experiment was unsuccessful, Adams did create what was possibly the world’s first mass-marketed chewing gum, known as Adams New York Chewing Gum. The first patent for this product was awarded in 1869, and he created the first assembly line for the mass production of chewing gum two years later.
In 1880, William White produced the first flavored gum, Yucatan, when he combined chicle and corn syrup, and then added peppermint extract. Simultaneously, Dr. Edward Beeman developed a gum that was to be used to soothe digestive problems by adding pepsin powder to the basic formula. Beemans Chewing Gum, a derivative of that product, is still on the market today.
Chewing gum, which provided the impetus for the vending machine business, has long been a factor in our American culture. By 1888, subway riders could choose from a wide range of chewing gum from the vending machines in their stations. Five years later, the William Wrigley Company, located in Chicago, introduced Wrigley’ Spearmint Gum and Juicy Fruits, which are still two of best-selling chewing gums available today.
In order to compete with Wrigley’s, the American Chicle company was formed in 1899, and it was a consolidation of Adams Gum, Yucatan, Kiss Me Gum, and Beeman’s Gum. That same year a dentist named Franklin V. Caning produced Dentyne gum, and Chiclets was also formally introduced. While the formulas have been updated, both of these products are still on the market.
Competition continued to be fierce in the industry, and in 1914, Wrigley’s introduced Doublemint Gum. Hoping to reduce the competition, American Chicle bought the company that manufactured Chiclets and later acquired the Dentyne Company. In 1923, Wrigley’s was among the first candy producers to be found on the stock exchange.
When the public became increasingly health conscious, sugarless gum appeared on the market, and a standard formula was used until 1970, when the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned cyclamate, its active ingredient. Thirteen years later, manufacturers began using aspartame (known as Nutrasweet or Equal), and today, sorbitol is commonly used in sugarless gum because diabetics can tolerate it with less difficulty.
Wrigley’s as a leader
Because the company is relentlessly innovative, it created Freedent Gum, for those who wear dentures, in1975. In 1984, Wrigley’s began producing Extra Sugarfree Gum, and 10 years later, it began marketing Winterfresh Gum, a special favorite with teenagers. Today, Wrigley’s is the world’s largest chewing gum manufacturer, and it now has factories in about 10 foreign countries.