Remember bubble gum? Your dentist said it was bad for your teeth. Your teacher said she'd suspend you if you chewed it in class. Your mother said you looked like a cow, with your jaw chomping up and down like that. You didn't listen to them, but somehow you kind of lost track of the stuff after you grew up.
But bubble gum didn't go away; like you it got a little more savvy.
Introducing the latest thing in chewing, the latest thing in packaging, the latest thing in bubble gum: Bazooka in a tube.
Yes, a tube. Like toothpaste, only not quite, since dentists probably won't be encouraging you to squeeze this stuff out twice a day.
Topps Chewing Gum Inc., which also manufactures such favorites as Garbage Candy, Smurf candy and Return of the Jedi candy, gave the press a taste of the new product earlier this month. The unveiling came after a three-year search by Topps' scientists for the perfect gum formula.
"It couldn't be too thick or it wouldn't come out of the tube," says Topps chief executive officer Arthur T. Shorin, "and it couldn't be too thin. If it wasn't right: a) we wouldn't call it Bazooka, and b) it would be a flash in the pan."
According to the old Madison Avenue adage, the best product is the one you use once and then throw away. Therefore, bubble gum has got to be one of the most marketable products in the history of teeth.
This conventional wisdom is not wasted on the Topps people. Before describing his new product, Shorin, who is given to using words like, "bubbleability," "chewability" and "squeezeability," asks if you chew bubble gum. "It's like bread and butter to me," he says.
"Years ago we thought if it wasn't bubble gum, we couldn't do it," he says. "But then we realized we could broaden our vistas and make kids even happier if we saw ourselves as being in the children's entertainment business. If it tickles their funny bones, we do it."
So the search for new ticklers was on. First came Wacky Packages, satirical stickers kids bought and stuck into collecting albums, then E.T. bubble gum cards, and then Bazooka in a tube.
Chances are you think of bubble gum as kids' stuff. If that's so, it's probably a good thing you're not in bubble gum. The whole industry is based on a solemn belief in the emotional significance of a little morsel of fragrant, chewy stuff.
"So much is prescribed for kids already, where you go to school, when you go to school," says Shorin. "You're even regimented as to how much bubble gum you put in your mouth. Put the bubble gum in a tube and then the youngest child can vend it to himself. This product gives kids portion control."
But at the risk of bursting your bubble, Mr. Shorin, what about those little cartoons that come with every square of the traditional Bazooka? Will squeeze Bazooka customers have to forgo the chuckles and the enticing offers of Special Prizes? Or will they carry their cries of discontent all the way to the Topps' laboratory in Brooklyn?
Only time will tell, since Bazooka in a tube is not due on the market until the end of the year. But sooner or later Topps will know if its new idea has gained a place alongside such legends as the Jawbreaker and the Sweet Tart. According to Shorin, the feedback will come. Either by "word of mouth, or word of gum."