Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Hubba Bubba Dr. Pepper Bubblegum!

Have you ever been sipping on a Dr. Pepper and thought to yourself, "man, sometimes I just want to chew this stuff instead of drink it?" Well, it looks like Wrigley's has finally answered your prayers...

Let's talk about the art of criticism for a moment. Social commentary is pretty easy, since everybody has an opinion on culture and politics. Literature, film and music are also pretty easy to critique, as are video games, food and drink. Other things however, are a bit more challenging to review -- like, say, pens or hotel rooms. I mean, yeah, you can probably iron out a couple of paragraphs if you really apply yourself, but in general, we have so few experiences with such things (compared to watching movies or eating out at restaurants, anyway) that comparatively ranking those experiences is difficult.

Which brings me to one of my tallest orders to date as a subversive anti-consumerist satirist fan of mass manufactured culture. How do you, precisely, review bubblegum?

Over the years, I've probably chewed tens of thousands of pieces of gum. Hell, I may even be up to the sextuple-digits by now, actually. As much experience as I have had with the semi-foodstuffs, however, I have yet to really develop anything even remotely resembling a qualitative personal gauge for what makes gum superior or inferior to others. Surely, you cannot just rely upon simple flavor here -- you also have to figure in things like the duration of the flavor, how long it takes before the gum becomes too soggy to thoroughly chew and of course, its overall mouthfeel (if it has a gel center a'la Freshen Up, that's obviously automatic bonus points.) And that's not even accounting for variations in texture -- can you really objectively compare the flavor of  your basic stick of Juicy Fruit to that of a Hobgoblin-themed gumball, anyway? With all of those factors taken into consideration, maybe it actually isn't surprising why I haven't come up with a ranking system yet.

And then, along comes something like Hubba Bubba's Dr. Pepper-flavored bubblegum, which makes you reevaluate your entire philosophical outlook on things. What an amazing corporate syncretism going on here, no? It's Wrigley's meets Cadburry Schweppes (by way of corporate spinoff) -- it's not quite the Mountain Dew-flavored Oreos I have always dreamed of, but as far as cross-promotional Frankenfoods go, I'd say this one is definitely one of the finest I have seen in a while.

Of course, this isn't the first time somebody tried to convert Dr. Pepper into gum.Way back in the 1980s, the popular beverage was transformed into a fancy bubblegum with a fancy, quasi-liquid core. Ostensibly, that meant you could feasibly chew and drink the product simultaneously, although from what I recollect, the molten gunk in the middle didn't taste all that much like any kind of soda ... unless there is a cola out there somewhere that tastes like melted confectioner sugar.

This newfangled gum, I am afraid, is sans that semi-liquid gimmick. Admittedly, that's a pretty big letdown, seeing as how synthetic soda flavoring technology has had to have certainly made leaps and bounds since the Reagan years. Alas, as its own individual product, I reckon this here Hubba Bubba/Dr. Pepper chimera (henceforth referred to as BubbaPepper) isn't too bad.

As soon as you open the wrapper, the first thing you are going to notice is the smell. Give the engineers at Wrigley's credit, because the scent of this stuff is almost indistinguishable from that of the actual cola. Go ahead, crack open one of these bad boys in a crowded room, and I guarantee you someone will soon be asking if someone spilled a Dr. Pepper on the floor.

Probably the biggest problem with the gum, however, is its appearance. I guess the brown hue is a nice ode to the color of the beverage, but I am definitely not a fan of the ridged, obese Tootsie Roll aesthetic. I know it sounds like me trying to be funny, but it actually DOES start smelling like a Tootsie Roll after awhile. Yeah, at first, you may be smelling nothing but soda, but once the Tootsie Roll thought enters your head, there's no way you will be able to smell anything other than gooey chocolate. It's just like that dress meme that took the Internet by storm earlier this year -- as soon as you see black and blue (Tootsie Roll smell), you'll never be able to go back to seeing white and gold (Dr. Pepper smell.)

As far as the product's taste is concerned, it's all right. To me, it didn't really have that much of a Dr. Pepper vibe; I mean, a slight hint was palpable, but it was fairly faint, and after about five minutes of chewing, the flavoring seems to dissipate altogether. Maybe it's just the power of suggestion, but I started getting a Tootsie Roll taste as well after a few gnashes -- can anybody else out there who has tried this stuff go to bat for me, or am I just flat out going bonkers here?

It really seems to be a golden era for novelty gum right now. In addition to the Dr. Pepper blend, Hubba Bubba has also released a Hawaiian Punch-flavored tie-in, while other manufacturers have releases gums that (allegedly) taste like, among other things, Sour Patch Kids and assorted Starburst candies.

At the end of the day, though, I guess I just can't give you folks a solid interpretation of this stuff. Sure, I can give you kind of an overview of what the the product looks, smells and tastes like, but I really can't describe to you how the gum feels swirling around in your mouth, or the rubbery friction that results from pounding the gum between your back row bicuspids. Ultimately, this is just the kind of stuff you are going to have to try and dictate for yourself -- and seriously, if you dictate anything other than "Tootise Roll," you better shoot me a damned e-mail.

Lastly, I just wanted to comment on how much of a joy it was to see the "mouth-wrapper-trash-can" sequential pictograph above. It does the heart good to know that, more than a decade after I graduated high school, today's youths are still bearing witness to the same text-less, anti-littering hieroglyphics that my generation grew up with. Dr. Pepper flavored things may be scrumptious, but even that doesn't hold a candle to the sweet taste of continuity...


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