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Some Facts to Chew On

September 19, 1993|ROY RIVENBURG

Gum electricity: The jaw power that Americans use to chew gum could light a city of 10 million for a year.

Gum warfare: Military specifications covering the storage, packaging and manufacture of gum are 15 pages--three pages shorter than the specs for fruitcakes, two pages longer than those for condoms.

Gum evolution: "There's really no animal that chews gum besides humans," says dental scientist Carl Kleber. "You can get a monkey to chew it for a couple of minutes, but then they just take it out and stick it in their hair."

Gum ingredients: Gum base, the secret sauce that gives gum its character and texture, is a mix of 40 to 50 compounds, including pine-tree resin, wax, petroleum products and synthetic latexes similar to ones used in girdles and golf-ball covers. No wonder some gums go by names like Eye Poppers, Slimer, Goose Bumps and Ectoplasm.

Gum fads: Super-sour flavors are out, blue-raspberry is in. And business for Bart Simpson gum is off 90%. Most novelty products last one to three years, but there are exceptions. Among the hits: Big League Chew shredded bubble gum (13 years), Bubble Tape (six years) and Ouch, the bandage bubble gum (four years).

Gum aphrodisiacs: During the 1970s, an Indiana company called Swingers Inc. sold something called Frenchie's Spanish Fly Chewing Gum. The secret ingredient, however, was actually cayenne pepper.

Gum pitchmen: In the early 1950s, Ford Gum & Machine Co. hired Ronald Reagan as its radio gumball spokesman.

Gum dentistry: One of the most frequent customer suggestions for products is fluoride gum. "A great idea," says Wrigley spokesman Bill Piet, "but high doses can be lethal."

Gum control: Ice freezes gum, making it brittle enough to chip away. For bigger jobs, janitors sometimes use chemical solvents, high-pressure hoses, steam cleaners and scrapers.

Gum profiteers: During World War II, with rubber in short supply, black-market bubble gum--sometimes known as "pink-market" gum--sold for up to $1 a chew.

Gum coloring: Bubble-gum inventor Walter Diemer used pink food coloring for his 1928 concoction of Dubble Bubble because it was "the only (color) I had (on) hand."

Sources: "The Great American Chewing Gum Book" by Robert Hendrickson, interviews, ICC/ACCUTRACKS snacks report, "Dirty Little Secrets" by James Dunnigan and Albert Nofi, Wall Street Journal.

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