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The Strange Recipe Behind 'Bubble Gum Flavor'

Mental Floss logo Mental Floss 8/08/2017 Jake Rossen

© iStock You can thank Fleer Chewing Gum Company accountant Walter Diemer for stumbling across one of the major milestones in gum development—twice. In 1928, Diemer pioneered a more flexible gum consistency that allowed chewers to blow bubbles. He lost the recipe, though, and took four months to piece it back together.

Ever since, gum aficionados have enjoyed bubble gum. Part of the appeal is simple: It’s an amusement device, like having a chewable balloon. The other part is taste. But it can be tricky to describe the flavor of bubble gum. What exactly are we tasting when we reach for a pack of original flavor Double Bubble or Bazooka gum?

Spoon University recently tackled the question. When we opt for bubble gum that isn’t advertised as having a specific taste, we’re probably going to get something that’s a blend of artificial flavors like banana, cherry, and strawberry. There might also be hints of orange, lemon, or cinnamon. The flavors combine to give the gum its unique profile. Gum companies typically use esters, flavoring chemicals that help mimic tastes by smelling like fruit. And no two profiles are alike; gum companies tweak the recipe depending on what they want out of their gum portfolio.

That’s why it can be difficult to articulate bubble gum’s flavor: It’s nothing that occurs naturally, and sticking "banana-lemon-cherry" on the wrapper would just confuse consumers. Putting “amyl acetate”—the chemical responsible for giving food a banana-type taste—doesn’t look so appealing, either. So we're left with "bubble gum": hard to define, but much easier to chew.

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