3 Apr 2017
There is no confectionery other than bubble gum that is as scrumptious as it is fun! The moment you chew the gum and the flavours explode in your mouth, the delight is uncontrollable. Chewing, chewing, chewing until the climax, the BUBBLES! It’s like the sweet that keeps on giving.
Bubble Gum Origins
The origins of bubble gum are a bit different from today’s gum. You can bet it wasn’t pink. The first records of chewing gum can be traced back to the ancient Mayans and the Aztecs of Central America. Pieces of resin have been found dating back to 600 years ago. In the Scandinavian country Sweden archaeological evidence has been found of people chewing tree bark over 9,000 years ago! The ancient tribes chewed sweet grasses, leaves, grains, and waxes. The most revered of all these chewable delights is a resin produced from the Sapodilla tree, native to Central America. The tree is cut in a zig-zag fashion to allow the sap to pour out. This sap is called chicle. Chicle was known to the Aztecs and to the Mayans for its subtle flavor and high sugar content. The chicle was used as a means to freshen breath, quench thirst, and stave off hunger. If you were a Mayan with a toothache at the time you could have been prescribed chicle. They even used it as a tooth filling. In Aztec culture, on the other hand, only children and single women were allowed to chew in public while men could freshen their breath in private. New England settlers picked up on the practice and it became a popular .
In the late 1840’s, John Curtis developed the first commercial spruce tree gum by boiling resin, cutting it into strips and coating them in cornstarch to prevent them from sticking together. As the spruce resin became brittle and did not stretch Curtis began experimenting with new ingredients to achieve the perfect stretch. He added a paraffin wax for the soft and rubbery feel and flavouring to enhance the natural sugars of the gum. He released his new formula chewing gum calling it ‘The State of Marine Pure Spruce Gum.’ The next major player on the gum scene was Thomas Adams. In the 1850’s he was introduced to chicle by the former president of Mexico, Santa Anna. Whilst unsuccessfully trying to manufacture rubber from the chicle, one day, Adams popped a piece into his mouth. In 1869 he simply added flavour to the chicle, giving birth to modern chewing gum. He decided to open the world’s first chewing gum factory and in 1870. Adam’s gum paved the way for the chicle to replace paraffin wax in chewing gum production.
The gum at this point was still not able to hold flavour for too long. The flavour would leave as soon as the sugars of the gum had been dissolved. John Colgan, a drugstore owner who was selling gum from the balsam tree, was visited by Adam’s son. Adam’s son introduced Colgan to the new chicle gum his father had used successfully. Colgan invented a way for chewing gum to keep its flavour for longer while being chewed. He simply added powdered sugar and flavouring to the chicle. His new and improved gum called “Colgan’s Taffy Tolu Chewing Gum” was an overnight success. Using this new method of making gum Adams invented the ‘Sour Orange’ gum and a liquorice flavoured gum called the Black Jack. His chewing gums had become so popular they had begun to sell them in vending machines. It’s no wonder he is referred to as ‘The Father of Gum’!
In Also in the 1880’s the Fleer brothers began to experiment with chicle to make gum. Frank Fleer, wanting something different from his competitors, was prompted to find the best texture for blowing bubbles. His bubble gum released in 1906, called ‘Blibber-Blubber’, was too sticky and the bubbles would pop too quickly so did not sell well. Bubble gum was shelved, for now. Determined to master chewing gum Frank Fleer and William Wrigley Jr. started experimenting with mint and fruit extracts. They created the popular peppermint flavoured ‘Wrigley’s Doublemint’ brand. Realising the free chewing gum he gave to customers with their purchases was more popular than his product William Wrigley Jr. began to concentrate on producing chewing gum. In 1891 he founded Wrigley Chewing Gum. Facing a competitive market William Wrigley Jr. focused on advertising to sell his gum. He designed the wrappers for his Spearmint & Juicy Fruit gums to be bright and easy to read so people would remember them. He had the genius idea to send two sticks of gum to every American citizen in the phone book. Wrigley Jr. was also behind the rise in chewing gum sales after World War II. Sales got a massive boost when he got the American Government to put packs of chewing gum into soldiers ration packs. Soldiers shared their gum with other nationalities and the chewing gum phenomenon exploded world wide.
During WWII the most popular bubble gum with children was the Jawbreaker, also known as the gobstopper. The jawbreaker would take a long time to dissolve through the different coloured and flavoured layers making hours of entertainment while you work your way to the bubble gum center. This long lasting sugar coating made the jawbreaker one of the most popular sweets of the time. The jawbreaker inspired Rhoald Dahl to create ‘Willy Wonka’s Everlasting Gobstopper.’ With gum being marketed to all ages Wrigley’s became so popular worldwide they soon opened factories in Canada, Australia, Great Britain and New Zealand. His plan to focus on advertising payed off, chewing gum made Wrigley Jr. one of the richest men of the 20th century.
Even with his success in chewing gum Fleer’s passion for making the perfect bubble gum continued. Although his different recipes never quite got it right. An accountant working in his factory developed a hobby of creating recipes for chewing gum using Fleers original ingredients. In 1928 Walter Diemer invented one particularly stretchy rubber and used a synthetic strawberry flavour and dyed it pink. The pink dye is supposed to have been the only dye available but some say it is because pink was Diemer’s favourite colour. The world’s first successful bubble gum, ‘Double Bubble’, was now ready to hit the shelves. By 1937 the first gumball vending machine was invented, you could now get a gumball for a penny on every corner. At the beginning of the 20th century the competition was so stiff in the gum market companies began to focus on marketing. In 1951 The Topps company remarketed their bubble gum by putting baseball cards in the packet; a wise move considering they were giving out single cigarettes at the time.
From this competitive market a world of different bubble gum started to be made. An abundance of electrifying and intriguing flavours burst onto the gum market. Flavours like cola, watermelon, cottoon candy, the iconic blue raspberry and almost any other flavour you could think of. Bubble gum was primarily marketed for little and big kids. You could get it anywhere ranging from gum like Mr. Chews where you got a cool tattoo to go with your chewing attitude. You can even get gum with liquid centers! Bubble gum was such a hit with the public it was soon in a variety of sweets, lollipops get bubble gum centers, screwball ice creams had a Rainblo gumball at the end (my childhood favourite!).
UNCOMMON FACTS ABOUT Bubble Bum
- The fear of gum is called chiclephobia. Sufferers include Oprah Winfrey whose fear goes so far she won’t let audience members of her show chew. She began to fear gum because her Grandmother would keep used pieces!
- The greatest amount of bubble gum is sold between Halloween and Christmas.
- 100,000 tons of bubble gum is sold around the world every year.
- The largest piece of gum ever made was the equivalent of 10,000 normal pieces.
- There is a wall in Seattle where people queueing for tickets began sticking their gum to the wall. The idea stuck! The Market Theatre Gum Wall’ has been adorned with gum art since 1993.
- Studies show that it is the sugar within the gum that gives it it’s flavour. It looks like WIlly Wonka’s Three Course Dinner Gum is a way off yet.
- The most popular flavours in 2016 were mint, cinnamon, and bubble gum.
- Astronauts have chewed gum in space. The only problem is disposal, they have to swallow it. Gum does not take seven years to pass through your body or get stuck. Thankfully the gum finds its own way out.
- Studies by UK psychologists found that chewing gum improves memory. Groups who were chewing gum while listening to a number sequence maintained better focus, had higher accuracy rates and faster reaction times to those who had not been chewing gum. In 2000 Japanese researchers showed chewing boosts activity in the hippocampus, the area involved in memory. They also noticed a new health benefit of chewing, it increases your heart rate which brings more oxygen to the brain. More oxygen to the brain boosts concentration and reduces stress and anxiety. While gum has not been proven to be a performance enhancer it will boost your concentration levels before a quizz.
- The record for the biggest bubble blown is held by Chad Fell. In 2004 his bubble in the Guinness Records is 50.8cm. The Guinness Record for a bubble blown from a nostril in held by Joyce Samuels.
By gum, it looks like we love Bubble gum!