Grape Bubble Yum used to be my favorite, though my “hey, my parents aren’t looking,” non-sugarless choice was Watermelon Bubblicious. Bazooka had the best instant flavor that disappeared way too fast (and the best comics with silly riddles at the bottom). Chiclets made a cameo in my Halloween trick-or-treat bag. Trident, either the cinnamon or original flavors, is what I chewed on the airplane going to visit my grandparents in Florida every year, simply because that’s what Mom and Dad had on them. Spearmint Orbit is what I now pick up at Duane Reade when I need a pop of mint.
I’m talking, of course, about gum. It’s been with me since my parents deemed me old enough to chew it (sugarless, of course). At the time, the options were fairly limited. It came in a stick or in a shorter, thicker rectangle form, and it only came five pieces to a pack. But today, the gum aisle has literally popped with an explosion of brands, flavors, shapes, sizes and benefits. Even a quick scan of the shelves at your local bodega will bring you face-to-face with more options than you ever thought imaginable for a product that is, on average, only one inch.
When this gum insanity reached such a fever pitch, I can’t be sure. I DO know that gum not only comes in enough options to keep you chewing a different variation every day for two months straight, but that it will also continue to astound you for as long with its packaging structures and designs. Whereas the standard gum package contained five long sticks or five short sticks and had an exterior that was fairly bland, today’s packages are resealable, with two levels of ten pieces each, eye-catching cover patterns and jaw-dropping flavors. There really is something for everyone:
Feeling bold and heroic?
Feeling semi-mainstream with a penchant for whiter teeth?
Feeling mysterious and adventurous?
Feeling like dessert?
Feeling like being a kid again?
Don’t like what you see? Make your own! Fans of EXTRA sugar-free gum can now create and purchase personalized packs featuring their photos and designs via Wrigley’s first-ever custom-packaging offer, MyExtra.
As you can see, manufacturers have been consistently pushing the envelope when it comes to flavors, shapes and benefits. But the truth is that what was first patented as modern chewing gum here in New York back in 1869 contains, for the most part, the same ingredients as our fancier-packaged versions today: chicle (or rubber), sweeteners, flavors and colors. In the late 1800s, there were only two brands really competing for your business. Now, gum is a product literally bursting with innovation across more than twenty brands. And while it is one of the smallest products on the market, the branding of each 2” x 3” pack is speaking volumes about a rectangle that has to do a lot of shouting to get you to buy it at your local bodega.
Have you also been recently wowed by chewing gum? Or do you think we are about to reach the gum “bubble” – and if so, which brands will fall by the wayside when it bursts? Has a tiny pack no bigger than your business card made an impression on you for its design or flavor offerings, so much so that it made its way into your shopping bag? Just some things to chew on. (And in case you were wondering, it won’t sit in your stomach for seven years if you swallow it.)