When did gum become so popular? I remember growing up in the 80s, my mother would allow me to go to the corner store to buy myself some snacks. Extremely excited I was, at seven years old, and although the store was no longer than a football field down the road, this was a huge endeavor for me. Just before I walked out the door my mother would remind me, “Get me a pack of Double Mint”. Wrigley’s Double Mint gum was a popular choice for my mother, and her favorite. She did dabble with Spearmint and Juicy Fruit, also Wrigley brands, but Double Mint was her favorite. Back then it was only a quarter for five sticks of gum, but it proved detrimental to my snacking budget. A pack of Hostess Creme filled Lemon Cup Cakes-with the white squiggles on the top cost me $0.59, while a‘Quarter-Water’(Huggs version of juice-pint size combination of water & high fructose corn syrup) cost me $0.25. That brought my total to $0.84, and my mother’s twenty-five cent gum was putting a damper on my past-time fun. To compensate, I would have to substitute the ‘Quarter Water’ for a pack of Jingles. They were a knock-off version of Now-&-Laters. At five cents for a pack of 5, and with enough salivating enzymes to wet my whistle, it worked as being the closest thing to washing down my cupcakes without spoiling the experience with some nasty-old’ water.
Today, if my allowance remained the same as it did over twenty years ago, I’d definitely be out of luck. These days the price of gum has had major inflation. A very marketable product now, gum is competing in a high demand market. Of course there were gum campaigning running back then in the 80s, but ruled by a few conglomerates, the commercials were merely reminders that “we are about the only type of refreshing gum you’d find”. Remember those unforgettable Double Mint Twins segments? The smaller competitors like Trident and Chicle, who later built it’s credibility by acquiring the early ‘Chicklets’ and ‘Dentyne’, were simply survivalists during this era. None the less, the prices were all roughly the same. There was another type of gum, that mainly served as aesthetic purposes. Bubble gum was on the other side of chewing gums like Wrigley. Bazooka was the leading figure in the bubble gum industry an it’s applications was well known for being someone’s surprise as they opened up a pack of candy, or a pack of baseball cards. This bubble gum was often dehydrated and therefore hard to chew initially. Much self generated saliva was needed to soften the sugary compost and prep it for bubble making. Famous in sports like baseball, marketed the ‘bubble’ indirectly. This maintained its existence despite it’s tooth shattering design.
Gum is said to have come into existence during early Greek and Native American civilizations www.candyfavorites.com/shop/catalog-gum-history.php during which resin from tree sap would be slightly processed then chewed on. It wasn’t until 1880, when William White, a chewing gum innovator, introduced corn syrup to the mix. This, combined with an added peppermint extract by the preceding Chicle company, produced the first flavored gum.Yucatan was born!
I’d say that the 90s seemed rather stagnant for gum competitors. Not much money being wasted on idle advertisements, as with many major corporations. However, by 2000, gum made a remarkable comeback. Over the next 10+ years the market for gum had become extremely competitive. Particularly with chewing gum. As variety has changed immensely, so has price. More relative to the economy today, a pack of gum traditionally cost around a dollar. Wrigley’s, with their well protected record has even raised their prices according to economic change over the decades. However, it was only by five cents, which also proves for a minor and acceptable adjustment on Wrigley’s part. Even with the price increase, I would still purchase from them because they keep things simple, have an excellent track record, and a five cents increase is lenient granted the price of competitors.
Marketing for this commodity has also changed immensely. As with the generic and wholesome commercials of old, today’s gum commercials are filled with violence, aggression and high sexual tension and innuendos. Unrated or too hot for T.V. in a sense, are these over the top commercials now-a-days. For instance, there’s the commercial like the one involving a gang a yodelers randomly appearing in a parking lot, surrounding a guy and repeatedly kicking him in the back with devastating blows until he coughs up his long lasting flavored gum, before a van of ganged Stride employees arrive and retrieve the overused product. A similar commercial involving a goat running into, perhaps the same guy, results in him again spitting up his over-chewed gum, while again those gum-bandits arrive to retrieve the over chewed product. The slogan is “Spit out your gum and chew another piece already”. Pretty funny! But also pretty silly and a waste of a lot of money when you think about it. However, with this product being on the high end of profitability, these issues are of no concern.. There’s also another, rather sexual, commercial that stood out to me. This one involved parents helping their son move into his college dorm. While Dad and Son retreated back to the car to gather more items, Mom was getting caught up in a moment with the roommate, as they shared a piece of his gum and an intimate moment at the same time. Dad and Son returned, with appalling looks about their face. What is the connection. Don’t ask me, but these are the avenues taken to promote these breath fresheners.
With regard to pricing, I can remember running late to an event where I was going to be engaging in conversation with others. I stopped at a convenience store near my destination for some breath fresheners. Never really paying attention to it up until this point, I noticed that there is a Whole Aisle, dedicated to various types of gum. No longer behind or adjacent to the counter is the quick fixer. The inventory is too wide now, for it to be contained amongst the confines of the cashier. Flavors aren’t so generic anymore either. The traditional mint flavors have gotten an upgrade. Now, there’s ‘fruit-blasts’, ‘watermelon-kiwi’, citrus-cherry, ‘apple-mango tango’, and the list goes on and on. The quirky attachments at the end of the named flavor is usually the marketing scheme, as it is catchy and appeals to the need for diversity in many people. There’s also additives in this new age gum. Additives like vitamins, antioxidants, and green tea herbs. Who said I was sick. I don’t need antibiotics and pain medicine in my gum. These distractions are taking away from the main purpose and confusing me.This is why the cashier said, “That will be $3.49”, when she rung up my order. I was appalled, because all I ordered was the gum. Nearly five bucks for a pack of gum I thought to myself. The world must have gone mad.