A lot happens in 100 years—even in the world of chewing gum. In 1900, there were really only a handful of successful chewing gum brands across the country. By 2000, the market was inundated with flavors and styles from over 100 brands from around the world. What else has changed? How have those changes affected the gum you chew today? Grab a stick and pull up a chair!
All the chewing gum flavors available in 1900 had one thing in common: they were all derived from natural sources. After all, the synthetic and laboratory-born flavorings of many modern chewing gums simply wasn’t available back then. The result was gum with real and lasting flavor. At first, things were tricky. Early “spruce gums” and “pine gums” were definitely natural, but didn’t really appeal to many palates, young or old. When Thomas Adams started adding popular and natural flavors of the time, such as licorice, mint, and clove, everything started to shift. For a while, tasty and authentic chewing gum was the standard, flavored with naturally sweet foods and fruit juices.
By the end of the century, most modern chewing gums were creating their flavors in a lab. During the 1990s and early 2000s, outlandish flavors, such as “Cotton Candy” and “Lightning Lemonade,” were the latest fad. Following that, sugar-free gums became the new popular thing, while the iconic brands of the past retained their natural and timeless, yet intensely unique tastes that seem to never get old.
Advertising in 1900 was a much less crowded space. Commercial advertising as we know it hadn’t been around for very long, which meant that many of its designers and artists took cues from more general artistic concepts, as they had almost no contemporary examples to take for influence. When the first billboard went up bearing the iconic Black Jack chewing gum logo, it was likely the largest gum advertisement for hundreds of miles. The result was timeless packaging centered around dynamic colors, clean lines, and instantly-recognized aesthetics. Even if someone has never chewed a piece of Black Jack, it’s likely they will recognize its shades of blue and black. Even if someone has never seen a stick of Clove, the strikingly red packaging they associate with spice-flavored gums is directly due to its original design.
By 2000, marketing for chewing gum brands had become much more targeted. Brands were competing in an increasingly crowded market, and gum was being advertised to a younger and younger generation (a trend that proved unprofitable). The result was busier designs with louder color palettes, hoping to be both noticed and taken as trendy. Meanwhile, the original chewing gum brands that valued their history banked on the timeless appeal of their designs, which still resonate with customers in the 2020s and beyond.
In 2020, vintage gums represent one of those rare pieces of history that remains untarnished by time. Of course, one hundred years of change has made many things better, but certainly not everything. There are tastes that are timeless, and we are happy to share those with you.