The Creation and Commercialisation of Chewing Gum

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The idea of chewing gum was evident long before the creation and commercialization of what we know today as chewing gum. Within groups such as Mayan Indians, early American Indians, and the ancient Egyptians, it was popular to chew tree resins, sweet grasses, waxes, and grains for pleasure. The first real version of chewing gum was not created until 1848, when John B. Curtis created the State of Maine Pure Spruce Gum. The world’s first modern chewing gum, as we know it today, was created in 1870 by Thomas Adams and it was called Adams New York Chewing Gum. While the chewing gum market was still young and new, creators could not figure out how to keep flavor in the gum. This was until William White added sugar and corn syrup with a peppermint taste as he found that this combination allowed the flavor to remain for an extended period of time.

These first gums used chicle as the main ingredient. Chicle is the “the sticky white substance that seeps from the sapodilla tree when the bark is first cut”. However, as the industry progressed, spruce and paraffin gum were preferred as they were able to hold flavours even better than William White’s recipe. In 1891, Wrigley Chewing Gum was founded by William Wrigley Jr. and to this day, stands as the leading chewing gum brand.

The concept of sugarless chewing gum arose in the 1950s when dentist, Dr. Petrulis created the idea. This gum contained ammonia which assisted in preventing tooth decay. Since this time, a number of different sugarless gum brands have been developed, including Wrigley’s Extra, Trident, and Canada’s own Pür. The chewing gum industry is now worth approximately $25 billion, consisting of numerous brands, flavours and functions of gum.

While chewing gum differs in packaging and brand names, it is present in relatively identical forms around the world. However, Singapore is the exception to this fact, as they banned chewing gum throughout the city-state on January 3rd, 1992. Historically, Singapore has put great emphasis on maintaining cleanliness as well as order throughout their city-state. In 1987, citizens in Singapore who rode the Mass Rapid Transit system began to stick chewing gum on train door sensors resulting in malfunctions and train delays. This in combination with Singapore’s desire to maintain cleanliness, led to the ban of chewing gum by President Goh Chok Tong under the Regulation of Imports and Exports (Chewing Gum) Regulations. An exception from this ban occurs in relation to “therapeutic gum”, which is exempt from the ban when citizens have a medical prescription.

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Overall, the chewing gum market in North America is on a slight decline in recent years. This may be due to a number of factors including a shift in demographics, wherein millennials and younger generations have not adopted the habit as much as previous generations. However, there has been a slight increase in the sugarless gum segment due to ever-prominent health trends in consumers’ minds. 

On the other hand, the chewing gum market in China, Russia, Mexico and Brazil has risen in recent years as chewing gum here is somewhat of a newer product to consumers. In Europe however, the trend of declining gum usage among millennials is not as prominent since younger consumers make up most of the gum usage here, as demonstrated by a study conducted in France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK. Finally, the Middle East stands as the largest consumer of chewing gum.

Currently, the leading manufacturing firms in the chewing gum industry in order of market share are Wrigley Company, Mondelez International, and Lotte. Wrigley is a subsidiary of Mars, Inc. and owns a number of chewing gum brands including 5 Gum, Eclipse, Hubba Bubba, Juicy Fruit, Orbit and more. Founded in 1891, Wrigley is based out of Illinois, USA, and boasts annual sales of approximately $5.4 billion. With annual revenues of over $25 billion, well-known snack giant, Mondelez International owns two other popular chewing gum brands, Trident and Dentyne. Unlike these first two, privately-owned Lotte chewing gum is not based in the USA, but rather in Seoul, South Korea. While it is less known in North America, they are extremely popular in the Asia market.

Sales of chewing gum in Canada has remained relatively steady, only declining slightly in recent years. Sugarless gum sales have been leading over sugar gum sales in Canada since 2015, most likely due to increasing prominence of health trends and overall popularity of sugarless gums. Most popular North American gum brands are located in the United States; however, there is one Canadian firm contributing to this trend of sugarless gum - the brand Pür. Pür, founded in 2010, is a naturally sweetened gum brand based in Toronto, ON. They have been growing in sales since being founded and predict they will continue to do so in the coming years.

In terms of future developments, the gum industry is getting creative with uses of gum beyond recreational purposes. According to the Wall Street Journal, while the overall gum market is slightly declining, this may be attributable to the growing interest consumers have in the functional benefits of foods rather than recreational ones. Therefore, many companies are formulating new uses for chewing gum.

Chewing gum can and has been used to assist/treat a number of different things including oral health, smoking cessation, and oral infections. However, pharmacologists are looking even further into gums that could possibly treat more than just these indicators, including allergies, diarrhea, migraine, nausea and more . Those currently studying these options believe that the pleasant flavours and high acceptability of chewing gum will lead to compliance among consumers toward its use as a vehicle for medication and treatment. There has also been the development of “green tea chewing gum” for the purpose of providing the chewer with antioxidants which assist in the prevention of certain diseases.

In addition, the sugar-free segment of the gum industry is expected to continue its growth in coming years as sugar-free gum “promotes a strong flow of stimulated saliva which helps to provide a number of dental benefits,” which is in line with the rising health-conscious consumer trends.  In addition to bodily health benefits, recent research has risen about the use of chewing gum for better well-being, cognitive performance and mood. This research demonstrates how chewing gum has the ability to enhance attention, performance, and even reduce stress to a certain extent.

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