Ford Gum and Machine Co., Inc. is the American manufacturer behind the beloved Big League Chew, as well as unique licensed products such as Mike & Ike Bubble Gum, Hot Tamales Sugar Free Gum, and Smarties Gumballs.
The story of Ford Gum began in 1913.
Back then, 20-year-old Ford Mason was a roofing contractor and supplemented his income during the winter months in Buffalo, NY, with gum vending. The first U.S. gum ball machine was invented in 1888, and just a handful of entrepreneurs had ventured into the business.
Ford borrowed money to lease 102 machines and placed them in stores and shops of communities in western New York State. As Ford gained more experience, he was convinced that the penny gum ball could support him. At his peak, Ford had more than 500,000 vending machines perched on store counters and pipe pedestals and a nationwide system of service operators.
Flash forward to 2012.
Ford’s legacy lives on at the Ford Gum & Machine Co., which still has a commercial vending business, but gum vending has shifted dramatically.
“At that time, everything vended for a penny. There are no more penny vending machines and the majority of items today are capsules and toys,” explains Steve Greene, senior VP of sales and marketing, Ford Gum and Machine Co., Inc. “If you look at an eight rack of vending machines today, you will see two or three that vend candy, one that vends gum, and the rest are toys and capsules.”
The majority of Ford Gum’s business today is in retail sales—either branded products that the company manufacturers and markets for itself, or private label products Ford Gum manufactures for other marketing concerns.
One of its biggest deals was the 2010 licensing agreement for the Big League Chew brand along with the manufacturing equipment from the Rob Nelson Company.
“This deal brought back the product manufacturing to the United States at the Ford Gum facility in Akron, N.Y., and added 40 new jobs,” says Steve.
Big League Chew actually came to market 32 years ago via minor league pitcher Rob Nelson and former New York Yankee All-Star, Jim Bouton. The two met while both pitching for the Portland Mavericks, and created the gum as an alternative to chewing tobacco. Brilliant!
The same pouch that Rob and Jim dreamed up in the Mavericks’ bullpen back in 1977, can now be personalized with photos and names at MyBigLeagueChew.com.
Steve says it’s a fairly new program for Ford Gum, but he’s seeing a lot of pouches customized as wedding and party favors, and used for birthday parties and team functions. ($48 for 12 pack.)
Thinking outside of the pouch, Ford Gum also launched individually wrapped Big League Gumballs and Big League Bubblegum Lollipops at the Sweets & Snacks EXPO in Chicago this past May.
Both products are available in the Big League Chew flavors: Outta Here Original, Grape, Sour Apple, and Watermelon. (This also happens to be the order of best-selling Big League Chew flavors.)
Ford Gum has come a long way since 1913, and we’re looking forward to the next chapter in innovative gum products. Bring it on Ford!