The sticky history of Freshen Up gum
Who originally produced Freshen Up gum?
American Chicle first opened its doors in 1899 and has been producing gum ever since. Over the course of time, it developed some of the most important gum innovations that humans have put in their mouths.
It started with the creation of its first product Black Jack—the first stick-chewing gum to be put on the U.S. Market. While most gums during this time were shaped into cubes and blocks, this move by American Chicle put it in a category all its own.
Shortly after the release of Black Jack, American Chicle launched another iconic stick gum called Beemans. Beemans, though similar to Black Jack, was known for its bold wintergreen flavor that stimulated the taste buds and freshened your breath.
It became so popular amongst consumers that the U.S. Army contracted American Chicle to produce an exclusive version of Beemans gum made for the military. Some even say it had caffeine in it, giving soldiers that extra boost needed while serving.
When the wars were over and American Chicle steered its attention back toward the American public, new gum flavors and brands had already hit the market. Dentyne and Wrigley’s were making serious headway in the competition, and it was time to step it up.
The standard spearmint, peppermint, and cinnamon flavors were old news, and consumers were craving something new.
Where did the idea for Freshen Up gum come from?
In 1975, American Chicle delivered Freshen Up: the first gum to have a gel inside with flavoring.
Freshen Up was a gum with a liquid center unlike anything anyone had ever masticated with. Its hard outer shell encased a small gel-like fluid that was filled with an intense minty flavor that burst open when you bit into it.
In an attempt to unite both young and old gum lovers, Freshen Up paid tribute to the old days of gum by returning back to the original cube shape, but added a new innovative twist that drew the attention of the younger consumers who had never seen or tasted gum like this before.
Combine this with an intentional name like Freshen Up and the tagline, “the gum that goes squirt” and you have yourself quite the marketing play that would lead to some rather “unique” commercials
Freshen-Up came in 4 staple flavors: bubble gum (pink), spearmint (green), peppermint (blue), and cinnamon (red). While each flavor stood distinct from one another it was rumored that spearmint was widely known as the best flavor of Freshen-Up on the market.
As Freshen-Up continued to grow in popularity in the U.S. American Chicle took it to new markets in Canada and the United Kingdom where it could be found on convenience store shelves everywhere.
The gum bubble keeps getting bigger…
It’s important to note that during this time, American Chicle was changing ownership. First it merged with Warner-Lambert Pharmaceutical Co in 1968, then Pfizer bought Warner Lambert in 2003. From there Cadbury purchased the rights to all Pfizer candy production in 2003, which led eventually to the buyout of Cadbury by Kraft Foods in 2010.
In 2019, Kraft Foods discontinued the production of Freshen-Up to focus on other projects. There are rumors that you can still find original Freshen-Up gum at some small town candy stores, but don’t be fooled by someone online–people have bought packs on eBay that are not made by the original brand.
Every big gum bubble has to burst at some point…
Why Americans are losing their taste for gum.
It’s tough to hear that your favorite food, snack, or gum is no longer being made. Nobody likes making the jump to a new thing when they love their old favorite.
But it begs a bigger question: if gum brands are discontinuing products, is it because people aren’t buying?
Turns out the answer is yes. According to stats, gum sales are down 14% in the last year across the board.
As the gum legend,William Wrigley, once said, “Anyone can make gum. The trick is to sell it.”
Here’s the problem…
Back in the early ‘50s and ‘60s, gum was seen as an endearing treat–something that was chewed by movie stars, musicians, and GI’s at war. That’s why all the kids were gung ho on chewing the stuff back then.
As time progressed into the ‘70s and ‘80s gum became a symbol of defiance. Most high school students were told to keep it out of their mouths and rebels like Greasers and Punks chewed it in rebellion.
Just go back and watch the blockbuster Grease and you’ll see Frenchy chewing on some bubble gum the whole film. It’s actually rumored that the cast of that movie chewed over 100,000 pieces of gum during filming.
Nonetheless, gum was part of the cultural zeitgeist during that time making it a widely popular item for young teens and adults to chew on not only for its taste but also for its status.
Here’s where things start to go downhill.
Around the mid-2000s we started to see the “sugar-free” movement in the U.S. This is when Americans start to realize that the old school food pyramid is no longer accurate and a new wave of alternative eating options start to present themselves to consumers.
That’s where “sugar-free” gum starts to take over and brands shift their approach toward this new health-conscious consumer who could care less about innovation and packaging design and more about ingredients.
Speaking of ingredients, this is also when many major gum brands start to realize consumers aren’t too keen on chewing artificial plastic either.
In case you didn’t know, some gum in fact is made from a type of rubber called polyvinyl acetate. Thus, as consumers became more aware of what they were putting into their bodies and the environment, gum lost some of its appeal.
Fast forward to now and we start to see more consumers stepping away from big brand gum and toward other alternatives. Some brands have emerged with “natural” gum that goes back to the original sap ingredients that are pulled from sapodilla trees called, where the name "chicle" comes from.
These brands flaunt both a healthier alternative gum that is also eco-friendly to the environment.
All that to be said, there are still plenty of gum chewers out there masticating away on their favorite flavors.
And while we might not be able to get our hands on Freshen-Up gum anymore, there are still plenty of old school classics and new wave tastes that we can try out when we feel the need to chew.