The Little-Known History Of Orbit Gum

Image via Flickr/ ohdearbarb

We all know Orbit gum as that sugar-free sensation with flavors like sangria, strawberry mint and melon breeze that burst in our mouths. But did you know that Orbit was originally introduced all the way back in 1946 in response to World War II?

It’s true. War conditions led to the limitation of top-grade ingredients. At the same time demand for chewing gum increased as it was included in soldiers’ ration packs. By 1944 Wrigley could no longer obtain enough ingredients to meet demand for its top-quality gums. Rather than changing its formulas and reducing the quality associated with its brands, Philip Wrigley—son of the company’s founder—took Juicy Fruit, Spearmint and Doublemint gums off the civilian market and shipped all supplies to troops serving overseas.

Gum provided to soldiers was thought to relieve tension and ease dry throats during long marches. But GIs also used it to patch tires, gas tanks, life rafts and airplane parts. Wrigley advertisements boasted five sticks of gum per day supplied for every war worker, stating, “Factory tests show how chewing gum helps men feel better, work better.

But the American public still demanded gum to satisfy its chew cravings. In response, Wrigley introduced Orbit to replace its brand staples. The back of each Orbit wrapper displayed the message, “All our prewar materials have been used up so there is no more Wrigley’s Spearmint, Doublemint or Juicy Fruit being made. Orbit is the best gum we can make now. It is pure and wholesome but not quite good enough to carry the Wrigley label. You may still get Wrigley brands but they will be older than Orbit.” Older gum? Have you ever tried chewing an ancient stick of gum left over from… say… last Halloween? Ew.

Meanwhile, Wrigley kept the memory of its staple brands alive in consumers’ minds with advertising campaigns featuring an empty Wrigley’s Spearmint gum wrapper with the slogan, “Remember this Wrapper…

After the war, subpar Orbit was no longer needed, and production ceased. But in 1976 the brand made its return in Germany, Switzerland and Holland—the first sugar-free gum issued under the Wrigley name. It became so popular the brand was soon launched in Canada, Australia, England, Norway, Poland and Israel. But Orbit wasn’t seen in American again until 2001 when it was reintroduced in spearmint and wintermint flavors under the slogan “Just Brushed Clean Feeling.” It soon became the fastest-growing brand of gum in the nation.

In 2007, Orbit became the first chewing gum to receive the American Dental Association’s Seal of Acceptance; however for some reason or another, the ADA does not accept Orbit White. And here’s some useful Orbit trivia: The gum contains the natural sugar alcohol xylitol. Although the sweetener is completely safe for humans, even a small serving is deadly for dogs. In fact, just three grams can knock a 65-pounch pooch dead in his tracks. So if you ever see Spot or Fido getting into your pack of Orbit, call the vet immediately!

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