Chewing gum has been around since the beginning of the 19th century, and primitive forms of “chewing gum” trace back to the Ancient Greeks and Mayans. So, needless to say, the process for producing chewing gum has changed a good bit over such a long period of time. That being said, the basic “recipe” mostly remains the same, though the methods, materials, or complexity of the task might have evolved with the times.
All chewing gums begin with some sort of natural or synthetic rubber. When Thomas Adams originally invented Black Jack, he was using naturally sweet and chewy chicle harvested from several species of “rubber trees” throughout Central America. The locals would make zig zag slashes into the outermost layer of the bark and collect the “syrup” that would drip from the trees. These workers were known as “chicleros.”
In the early 1900s, most gum companies began switching from tree-harvested chicle to synthetic rubber alternatives. The chicle trees being harvested were in short supply, the product itself was sometimes inconsistent, and the demand for chewing gum was only increasing. Eventually, however, the alternatives were perfected and the gum industry kept right on booming!
No matter the chewy beginning to your gum, the first step in the process is to cook it—cook it down to be both filtered and flavored. The flavoring step was where Thomas Adams became a pioneer, as Black Jack licorice gum was the first flavored chewing gum to be released to the public. From there, the world of chewing gum exploded in variety, with cool and minty gums like Beemans, spice-forward gums like Clove, and fruit-flavored sticks like Adams Sour Fruit.
Once the mixture is filtered and flavored, it needs to be cooled until it reaches the appropriate texture and consistency. Then, the gum is molded and kneaded by hand or machine until everything is absolutely perfect. At this point, the gum is typically cut into either pellets or sticks, though other shapes or styles are sometimes used. The stick, of course, is the iconic image of chewing gum in America—another innovation courtesy of Thomas Adams. Black Jack was not only the first flavored gum in America, but also the first formed and cut into sticks before being sold.
After the gum is cut, it often receives a final dusting of powdered sugar before being packaged and shipped to stores across the country and around the world. Black Jack, Beemans, and Clove each get dressed up for the occasion, as our gums are still wrapped in their original, iconic packaging from over 100 years ago! Once the gum is wrapped and boxed up, it can be shipped out to whichever retail store offers that style and flavor.
Curious about where you can find the original Black Jack, Beemans, and Clove? Find out here!