Today, the vast majority of chewing gum in America is flavored after some form of minty freshness—spearmint, peppermint, wintergreen, etc. In fact, the three most popular gum flavors in the United States are all designed to give you fresh breath and provide a light, refreshing taste.
However, this wasn’t always the case. Throughout the 20th century, the flavors dreamed up in candy factories (as well as the flavors sought after by the average consumer) were becoming much more wild and diverse. What were some of those wild flavors? Were they successful? How did they influence the gum industry as a whole? Keep reading for all the details on the many evolving flavors of chewing gum in America!
Black Jack, one of America’s original chewing gums, was flavored with licorice beginning in the 1880s, while many of its homemade contemporaries were flavored using spruce and pine needles. Licorice was the clear winner between these two, and Adams Black Jack Gum rocketed to popularity soon after it was introduced to the market in 1884.
From those humble beginnings, the flavors of gum started to change pretty quickly. By the early 1900s, fruit-flavored gums, as well as spearmint gums, had become the industry standard. Mint and fruit extracts were being combined in a number of different ways to produce new flavors with exciting and enticing names. Examples of these early hybrid creations included the now-discontinued Clark’s Teaberry, and Adams Tutti-Frutti—the first flavored gum sold in a vending machine!
By the time the 60s and the 70s rolled around, chewing gum flavors had started searching for something unique—flavors that could “wow” customers and stand apart from the competition. Turning away from traditional fruits and old-fashioned licorice, many gum companies began launching products and flavors that were designed to catch your attention.
Introduced in the 1960s, Adams Sour was a line of fruit-flavored gums with a uniquely-sour bite that made them exciting and unexpected. Marketed under the phrase “Sour Power,” these flavors still have a devoted following to this day, despite being discontinued in the early 1980s. Shortly after things went sour, Adams also launched a line of “Ice Cream-Flavored” chewing gums, which included chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry.
As we reach the 21st century, mint-flavored gums begin to dominate almost all levels of the industry. Peppermint, spearmint, and wintergreen become the defacto choice for nearly all adult gum chewers.
To combat these minty waves, gum companies have begun to craft flavors that are extremely specific or incredibly niche. Nowadays, you can find gum that mimics the flavors of spicy ghost peppers, bacon, a TV dinner, and even the shockingly bizarre “man smell.” For better or for worse, there really is no limit to the gum flavors of the future.
Each of these gum flavors has evolved with the times, matching up both with what people want and what was possible for gum manufacturers. If you’re looking for three of the iconic gums that started it all, find Black Jack, Beemans, and Clove at select stores near you!