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CHEWING GUM, SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE

Who has not chewed gum in their life? Let us discover what is behind chewing gum celebrating world gum day.

FROM WHERE DOES THE CHEWING GUM COME?

Prehistoric chewing gum derived directly from plants and tree resins with medicinal properties. However, the origin of chewing gum goes back to ancient Egypt and ancient Greece, where people chewed the resin of the mastic bush. The first traces of similar use of natural rubber date back to the Mayans, who routinely chewed rubber balls. Spanish speakers called it chicle, which is, in fact, the Nahuatl name of the plant (Manilkara chicle) from which it is extracted. Chicle gum base became more popular than gums made from resins because it was smoother, softer, and held its flavour longer.

The birth of modern chewing gum is due to William Semple, who patented the first recipe. The first chewing gum went on sale in New Jersey in 1871, but they were mushy and tasteless. Semple and others improved the production techniques to obtain a more consistent product with a better flavour, noticing a remarkable diffusion in the century’s last decade. During the 20th century, remarks the establishment of the synthetic gum base (polyisobutylene) instead of the natural one, although some companies still produce the latter.

blue chewing gum

GUM BASE: THE ESSENCE OF EVERY CHEWING GUM

Gum base is the main ingredient in the production of chewing gum. It is an insoluble and non-nutritive substance that allows us to chew it for hours without experiencing substantial changes. Its composition is a secret that every manufacturer jealously protects. Nevertheless, the main components are known. We can find food-grade polymers, plasticizers, softeners, texturizers, and emulsifiers, among other ingredients. 

Occasionally, emulsifiers help to hydrate the gum base, behaving as plasticizers.

    • Acetylated Mono- and Diglyceride – ACETEM (E-472a) increases elasticity and softness of the gum base.
    • Mono- and diglycerides and distilled monoglycerides (E-471) supply suitable textural and anti-sticking properties. They also help to the dispersion of colours and flavours within the gum base.
    • Lecithin adjusts the desired consistency of the gum base, reducing toughness and stickiness. It also enhances resiliency (tendency to return to the original shape) and elasticity. For bubble lovers, it also improves flexibility and thus bubble formation. When added to the chewing gum improve flavour feeling and shelf life.

The gum base recipe may vary depending on the different types of chewing gum to produce. Bubble gum usually has 15–20% gum base, while chewing gum has 20–25% gum base and sugar-free chewing gum has 25–30% gum base. Large chewing gum manufacturers generally produce their gum base in-house, while small chewing gum producers usually buy from third-party suppliers.

HOW TO PRODUCE A CHEWING GUM

The first step to producing chewing gum is elaborating the gum base. It is introduced into a mixing machine, together with colourants, sweeteners, flavourings, and emulsifiers. In the case of a natural gum base, it should be melted previously.

A gum stick is obtained from the paste, flattened by constant rollers that refine its size and thickness. When the gum is thin enough, refined sugar or another powdered sweetener is added to prevent it from sticking. The gum is then cut into different shapes at the flattening and rolling process, either by patterns or simple bars. When the gum has its defined shape, it is transferred to a conditioned place, where the temperature, light, and air are controlled to ensure its proper texture and consistency. Then, extrusion technology is implemented to smooth, form, and shape the gum. Next, the gum goes through a shaping process that is decided by gum type and consumer demand.

chewing gum production process

Chewing Gum production process

THE CHEWING GUM MARKET CHALLENGE

The chewing gum, one of the symbols of the 20th century, is decreasing its popularity in the 21st. The Smartphone is now the winner during the waiting times, and the changes in the consumer buying habits pushed by the pandemic have contributed to the decline of sales. The market is now reacting, finding new niches, mainly focused on specialized sectors such as functional chewing gum with caffeine or others that facilitate relaxation and help to sleep.