We wish that a lot of different Willy Wonka’s marvellous inventions were real, but it turns out that his flavour-changing chewing gum is far closer to actually being created than you may think.
From the river of melted chocolate to the unbreakable gobstopper, Wonka’s inventions were the stuff of dreams for those of us with a sweet-tooth. Although from a scientist’s point of view, no candy was more intriguing than the chewing gum that tasted like an entire three-course meal.
The storyline of Violet Beauregarde and the wonderous chewing gum was featured in both the Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971) and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005) movies.
Despite having no nutritional value, Violet was indeed very full after trying the three-course gum. However, the gum itself is not entirely science fiction with scientists and chefs alike wanting to invent the special gum.
Wonka’s three-course dinner chewing gum
Throughout the course of the chocolate factory tour, Wonka shows off some of his amazing candy-based creations. In the Invention Room, he displays his ‘Three-Course Dinner’ chewing gum, which he describes as the “most amazing, fabulous and sensational gum in the whole world.”
Wonka claims that the gum can reproduce the flavours of each individual course unique to each other: tomato soup, roast beef and baked potato, and blueberry pie and ice cream.
Keen to show off her chewing prowess, Violet Beauregarde takes the gum out of Wonka’s hands and against his direct warning, tries the experimental gum. At first, she explains that the gum is incredible, but things quickly go wrong take a turn for the worst when she begins to go purple and swell up “like a blueberry.”
She is rolled out to the juicing room by the Oompa-Loompas who have all of the juice squeezed out of her.
How can chewing gum change flavours?
A process called microencapsulation is used to get a specific flavour inside a chewing gum. Essentially, this is a series of minuscule flavour capsules that break apart when they are chewed and release the flavour (usually a liquid) which is the flavour we taste.
For example, blueberry chewing gum contains blueberry flavoured microcapsules whereas strawberry chewing gum has strawberry flavoured microcapsules etc.
So, flavour-changing chewing gum works by having two different flavoured microcapsules with different tensile strengths and the act of chewing releases one flavour before the other.
It turns out that Willy Wonka’s three-course meal, flavour-changing chewing gum is being developed right now.
Real flavour-changing chewing gum!
Researchers at the Institute of Food Research claim that the latest microcapsule technology could make the eccentric invention a reality – albeit without the hilarious and disturbing side effects experienced by Violet.
Food scientist Dave Hart explained that, “Wonka’s fantasy concoction has been nothing but a dream for millions of kids across the world. But science and technology is changing the future of food, and these nanoparticles may hold the answer to creating a three-course gourmet gum.”
According to Hart, researchers from Harvard University are developing “tiny nanostructures within the gum would contain each of the different flavours. These would be broken up and released upon contact with saliva or after a certain amount of chewing.”
“The tomato soup capsule would break on contact with saliva, followed by roast beef and blueberry pie in stronger structures – providing a sequential taste explosion as you chew harder” says Hart.
As the scientists continue to develop their nanostructures, you can actually already buy your own three-course chewing gum in London.
‘Food architects’ Sam Bompas and Harry Parr have created their own Wonka factory where you can combine over 40,000 ingredients into your very own chewing gum for just £2.50.
Possibilities include gin and tonic, chicken kiev and foie gras, and black truffle. Bompas added, “We tried bacon and rosemary but it was disgusting, like putting bacon rind in your mouth that never goes away.”
So, it seems that whilst ‘the mechanism exists, the technique and flavours need perfecting.’