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Chicago’s gum is No. 1

Juicy Fruit ad.

 

This summer marks the 120th anniversary of the World’s Columbian Exposition. The Chicago World’s Fair of 1893 introduced quite a few new foods, both directly and indirectly. The six-month-long fair put the blue ribbon on Pabst Beer, brought Chicagoans tamales and Vienna Beef hot dogs and led to the invention of the brownie. The fair also brought the DeJonghes, who would later create their garlicky namesake shrimp dish, to the city. The lady managers of the fair produced a cookbook, as well.

William Wrigley, Jr.

William Wrigley, Jr.

Product introductions at the exposition included the first pancake mix, the first cold breakfast cereal and Juicy Fruit gum, the oldest product of the Chicago-based Wrigley Co., and, according to the manufacturer, the No. 1 chewing gum in America.

Company founder William Wrigley, Jr. had come to Chicago from Philadelphia in 1891. At first he sold Wrigley Scouring Soap, a product made by his father, and then baking powder.

He got into the chewing-gum business by giving away gum as a premium with sales of the baking powder. When the gum proved more popular than the product it came with, Wrigley started marketing it under his own name, and registered a trademark in 1892.

The World’s Columbian Exposition proved a prime promotional opportunity for the new line. Wrigley’s original gum flavors, Lotta and Vassar, have long been forgotten, but Juicy Fruit, introduced at the fair, and produced ever since, is now a brand name recognized by 99 percent of U.S. consumers.

Juicy Fruit History

 

The gum was briefly taken off the market during World War II’s ingredient shortages, when Wrigley stopped civilian production but continued to make Juicy Fruit for the armed forces throughout the war.

Packaging underwent a variety of changes over time. In 1974, a 10-pack of Juicy Fruit was the very first product with a UPC code to be scanned when the technology was launched with a handmade scanner at a Marsh Supermarket in Troy, Ohio.

The Wrigley Co. built its landmark namesake building on North Michigan Avenue — the first high-rise north of the river, as its headquarters in 1924. Since 2012, however, Wrigley’s global headquarters have been housed in its three-story, state-of-the-art laboratory and office building on Goose Island, dubbed the Global Innovation Center, which opened in 2005.

Wrigley chewing gum was manufactured on the South Side until 2007, when the company closed its 94-year-old Chicago factory, and moved production to far west suburban Yorkville. In 2008, candymaking giant Mars Inc., which also has a candy plant on the Northwest Side, bought Wrigley for a reported $23 billion, with financing from Berkshire Hathaway, the holding company run by Warren Buffett.