Bubble Gum Science

Get ready for a lesson in the science of food polymers.

Times have changed. At one time chewing gum in school got you into big trouble. Not only did you have to spit it out but you had to write, “I will not chew gum in school” a hundred times. Today, kids are learning how to make gum in science class as a lesson in the chemistry of food. Get ready for a lesson in the science of food polymers… or the secret to making the world’s best bubble gum.


The difference between bubble gum and chewing gum is the gum base. Chewing gum base is a natural gum called chicle harvested from the sap of a tropical tree called a sopapilla tree. This kind of gum is chewy but it will not blow a large bubble. Bubble gum base, on the other hand, is a mixture of starches and polymers made in a laboratory and specially formulated to blow bubbles.

Believe it or not, chewing gum is actually beneficial. It relieves boredom, eases tension and aids in concentration — tell your teacher that little fact! It also helps to pull food particles from between your teeth and even freshens breath. Okay, sometimes it freshens breath. A stick of gum containing sugar has about 10 calories compared to sugarless gum which has only 6 calories. Contrary to popular belief, swallowing gum will not do any harm… or so they say.

Ancient Greeks chewed the gum of the Mastic tree. More than 1,000 years ago the native people of Central America and North America chewed the sap and resins found in trees. Today, the United States is the world’s leading manufacturer of gum (go figure!). With all of this fascination with bubble gum, it only stands to reason that bubble gum was invented in 1928 by Walter Diemer, an accountant from Philadelphia.

And now you know the rest of the bubble gum story.

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