William Wrigley, who is fondly referred to as the ‘father of chewing gum,’ transformed a small soap business into the top chewing gum manufacturer in the world.
Although he did not invent chewing gum, his company helped to introduce it to the world. Wrigley accidentally found himself running the family soap business on his father’s request after he was expelled from school in 1890. According to www.answers.com, he began offering baking soda as a premium to boost soap sales.
When more customers started asking for baking soda than his father’s Scouring Soap, he abandoned his dad’s business and went into the baking soda trade and moved to Chicago.
His plan was to sell baking soda and offer chewing gum as a premium. For most of his business life, Wrigley advocated giving a bonus with each purchase.
“Everybody likes something extra, for nothing,” he often said. When he realized that customers were more interested in getting the chewing gum than baking soda, Wrigley quickly switched to the chewing gum business and offered razor blade as escort.
In 1892, Wrigley Chewing Gum offered its first two brands- Lotta Gum and Vassar.
He gradually began to phase out baking powder and razor blades to concentrate on chewing gum. The Lotta Gum was for children and men, and Vassar brand gum for women.
Wrigley’s Spearmint was introduced in 1893, Juicy Fruit in 1894, and Double mint gum in 1914. According to www.answers.com, the chewing gum business was highly competitive in the late 1800s.
Available information indicates that there were at least a dozen companies pushing their products.
In 1899, the six largest chewing gum manufacturers merged to form “the chewing gum trust.”
Although a newcomer to the industry, Wrigley was offered a place in the trust, but he refused. Under relentless competition, his company teetered on the verge of bankruptcy several times, but somehow managed to stay afloat.
A natural promoter, Wrigley later realized the power of advertising. Much of his company’s budget focused on selling the product through advertisements and gimmicks.
He used every form of advertising at his disposal. In his company’s ads, it is reported that he repeatedly told people about the benefits of the product.
He would buy space in newspapers, magazines, and even outdoor posters. His motto then was “tell them quick and tell them often.”
The earlier motivation seems to have worked well and today, the firm is a recognized leader in confections with a wide range of product offerings including gum, mints, hard and chewy candies.
In 1893 and 1894, Wrigley introduced the flavours that would make the company eternal-Juicy Fruit and Wrigley’s Spearmint and even designed the logo on the Spearmint package.
But the most successful product outside America was a pellet-shaped gum sold under the “P.K” brand name. By the time of his death in 1932, the company’s global sales had climbed to $75 million with a profit of $12 million.
Wrigley had also introduced flavours that appealed to different mass markets. Although Wrigley is credited for being the first manufacturer to offer chewing gum to the mass market, he didn’t invent it.
According to www.wrigley.com, chewing gum was invented in the Staten Islands with the help of Santa Anna, a former army general who ruled Mexico as President eleven different times. The journey began in 1869, while Santa was living in exile on the island.
He sold a tonne of Mexican chickle (modern equivalent of rubber) to a local inventor called Thomas Adams.
Adams’ aim was to make rubber tires from the substance, but the experiment went so wrong that he ended up with chewing gum. By 1884, he had introduced the world’s first flavoured stick of gum-Black Jack, which opened the door for future chewing gum companies like Wrigley.
Information from various sources indicates that early chewing gums were a challenge as they were hard to chew and the flavour, if any, lasted a very short time.
As chewing gum became more popular, manufacturers began to experiment with new flavours and non-solid ingredients.
Through shrewd use of advertising and the placement of Wrigley displays beside stores’ cash registers, Wrigley’s company came to dominate the chewing gum business, and from the sale of nickel packs of gum, he became one of America’s richest men.
He purchased a share of the Chicago Cubs in 1916, bought majority control of the team in 1921, and renamed the team’s ball park Wrigley Field in 1926.
In 1919 he bought California’s Catalina Island, turning it into a resort and expanded his gum empire into Canada in 1910, Australia in 1915, and England in 1927.