Modern Chewing Gum is Made in a Lab
By Chad Upton | Editor
Chewing gum has been around for a long time. The first form of chewing gum was birch bark tar, dating back about 5000 years in Finland.
Ancient Greeks chewed a gummy substance from the mastic tree. Aztecs and Mayans chews chicle from the chicle tree.
Chicle is responsible for modern chewing gum. In fact, the famous brand of gum, Chiclets, is named after chicle. Wrigley originally used chicle from a number of natural sources in Central America. But, just like sugar, we found a way to create chicle in a lab, saving the expense of importing it.
In 1937, some scientists at Standard Oil (now ExxonMobil), developed Butyl Rubber, which is almost exactly the same as chicle. It’s also used to make rubber tires, basketballs, footballs, soccer balls and many rubber components used for home construction on roofs and around HVAC fixtures.
Global supplies of butyl rubber primarily come from two companies ExxonMobil and LANXESS, a spin off of Bayer Pharmaceuticals.
Chicle is still used for chewing gum in some markets, such as Japan.
Photo: Darren Hester (cc)