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Chewing Gum

Updated on January 10, 2010

Chewing gum is a sweetened, flavored mixture of chicle and other natural gums used for chewing. From early times man has enjoyed chewing on various gummy substances. The early Greeks chewed gum from the mastic tree, and the Maya Indians chewed chicle more than a thousand years ago. Chewing gum made with chicle and other latex products was developed in the 1860's and soon attained wide popularity.

The manufacture of chewing gum begins with the preparation and blending of the gum base materials. Chicle, the natural gum obtained from the sapodilla tree (Achras zapota), is blended with similar latex products, such as sorva and jelutong, to provide a smooth, uniform chewing quality. In blending, these gums are first ground and then melted with pressurized steam. Next, the sterilized gum base is purified by means of centrifuge machines and fine mesh screens. In this state, the mixture looks very much like a thick syrup.

The next step in chewing gum manufacture is the addition of precisely measured amounts of finely powdered sugar, corn syrup, and flavorings to the gum base. The most popular flavorings are made with spearmint oil, peppermint oil, fruit extracts, and various spices. These ingredients, plus the gum base, are placed in huge mixing kettles, each holding 1,000 to 2,000 pounds (455-910 kg). When mixing is completed, the gum, which has the consistency of bread dough, is kneaded and passed through a series of rollers that gradually reduce it to a long flat continuous ribbon 19Vz inches (50 cm) wide. The ribbon is then scored in a pattern of single sticks which are separated as the ribbon enters the wrapping machines. Sometimes the gum is made in small pillow-shaped pieces and coated with sugar or candy in rotating copper pans.

The final step in the manufacture of chewing gum is packaging. Sticks of gum are individually wrapped and gathered into packages that are then tightly sealed.

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