Modern Synthetic Gums

Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

  • About

Today, chewing gum is made mostly of synthetic polymers, especially styrene-butadiene rubber—also found in auto tires—and polyvinyl acetate—in adhesives and paints—though some brands still contain chicle or jelutong, a natural latex from the Far East. The crude gum base is first filtered, dried, and then cooked in water until syrupy. Powdered sugar and corn syrup are mixed in, then flavorings and softeners—vegetable oil derivatives that make the gum easier to chew—and the material is cooled, kneaded to an even, smooth texture, cut, rolled thin, and cut again into strips, and packaged. The final product is about 60% sugar, 20% corn syrup, and 20% gum materials. Sugar-free gums are made using sugar alcohols and intensive sweeteners.