Chewing gum and bubble gum are familiar sights in many regions of the world, except for Singapore, where gum-chewing is largely banned. As anyone who has tried to blow bubbles with chewing gum has noted, bubble gum has a distinctive formulation which allows people to easily blow bubbles. The key distinguishing factor between these two popular products is the ingredient list, with bubble gum having a few ingredients that make it more viscous so that it will stretch and hold together when bubbles are blown.
The history of chewing gum is ancient. Several cultures, including the Ancient Greeks and the Mayans, chewed natural plant products like chicle and mastic as breath fresheners. Packaged gums have been readily available since the 1800s, with manufacturers using a variety of gum bases for their products. A chewing gum is usually designed for long-lasting enjoyment, releasing flavor slowly over time, and these products are not usually intended for swallowing.
Bubble gum was introduced in 1906, but the original product was not a wild success because the recipe had not been perfected. It took several more tries for bubble gum to catch on in the 1910s. Unlike chewing gum, bubble gum is highly viscous so that it can easily be blown into a bubble shape. It has also been treated so that it is not sticky, so that if a bubble bursts, it will not coat the face and hair of the chewer.
Both chewing gum and bubble gum are often sweetened to make them more enjoyable to chew, and many companies add flavoring to their gum. Mint is a common choice, but it is also possible to find licorice, cinnamon, watermelon, and many others. Many of the flavorings act as breath fresheners in addition to flavorings. Some companies have added ingredients like caffeine, to help people stay awake, along with extra minerals to promote nutrition. Gum can also be dipped in candy coatings or molded into balls so that it can be dispensed from vending machines.
Many companies keep their gum bases proprietary so that other manufacturers cannot copy their popular products. The ingredients in chewing gum and bubble gum can vary, with some companies using natural products like chicle in their bases, while others prefer to use synthetics because they are cheaper and sometimes easier to handle. Some bubble gums are more viscous than others, which explains the broad variation in achievable bubble sizes.