In 1906, the gum manufacturer Frank H. Fleer introduced a candy-coated, peppermint-flavored product known as Chiclets® gum. Although the name Chiclets® was inspired by the natural resin called chicle, the actual Chiclets® gum uses a different form of gum base. A number of different flavoring oils are added to this base, then the gum is formed into a small rectangle. A special machine coats the Chiclets® gum with a distinctive candy shell, which adds both flavor and portability to the mix.
Frank H. Fleer was a member of a conglomerate of American gum manufacturers known as American Chicle. Other members of this conglomerate introduced other familiar gums such as Wrigley's® chewing gum and Juicy Fruit® gum, but Fleer was searching for a way to extend the shelf life and flavor of chewing gum. Inspiration for Chiclets® gum came in the form of almonds coated in a candy shell, a popular snack at the time. Fleer developed a method for applying a hard candy shell, with its own flavor additives, to a flavor-infused gum base.
When Chiclets® gum was first introduced to the market, the only flavor was peppermint and white was the only shell color. By the 1920s, however, Chiclets® gum became available in a variety of fruit flavors, and the individual pieces were coated in a number of different colors. Chiclets® gum became increasingly popular in vending machines because of their extended shelf life and their eye-catching colors. Chiclets® gum also became a popular after-dinner mint and a mask for smokers' breath.
In 1962, the owners of the Chiclets® brand introduced Mini Chiclets® gum, which are still popular today in charitable gum vending machines. Mini Chiclets® gum offers the same flavors as regular Chiclets® gum, but users have the option of mixing various flavors together or controlling the amount of gum they chew at one time.
Sales of Chiclets® gum in the United States appear to have shrunk in recent years, but it continues to be a strong seller in foreign markets, especially the Middle Eastern region. In some parts of the world, the word chiclet is considered generic for any brand or type of chewing gum. Chiclets® gum is still sold in the United States, although it may be difficult to find on certain store shelves. It can, however, be ordered directly from vintage candy websites and wholesalers. There are similar gum products which feature candy shells and extended flavor, but many gum purists consider the original Chiclets® gum to be the best.