IELTS Listening Practice 40

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Listening Script Vocabulary

(Section 4: You will hear a talk on the topic of chewing gum. First, you will have some time to look at questions 33 to 36 [20 seconds]. Listen carefully and answer questions 33 to 36.)

L=Lecturer

Good everyone and thanks for coming to the lecture today. As we discussed last week, today we will be looking at a case study of how a product is developed and marketed successfully. The product I want to talk about is chewing gum, and we’ll take a brief look at the process of invention, promotion, marketing and competition in creating this very successful product.

Now, you may think that chewing gum is a modern invention but that is not the case. People have been chewing gum, in various forms, since ancient times. There’s evidence that some northern Europeans were chewing tar from the birch tree as many as 9,000 years ago, possibly for enjoyment as well as medicinal purposes such as relieving toothaches.

The ancient Mayans also chewed a substance called ‘chicle’, which also came from a tree - the sapodilla tree. The Mayans used this gum as a way to quench thirst or fight hunger, which is interesting because chewing gum is often marketed today as a way to help people stop smoking.  

The Aztecs also used ‘chicle’ chewing gum and even had rules about its social acceptability. Only children and single women were allowed to chew it in public. Married women and widows could chew it privately to freshen their breath, while men could chew it in secret to clean their teeth. Again, you will notice the similarities with the way we market gum today – it generally marketed to young people, unless it is chewed with the aim of freshening breath or improving oral hygiene.

In North America, the Indians chewed spruce tree resin, a practice that continued with the European settlers who followed. As before, gum was used to improve the health of teeth.

(Before you hear the rest of the conversation, you have some time to look at questions 37 to 40. [20 seconds] Now listen and answer questions 37 to 40.)

In the late 1840s, John Curtis developed the first commercial spruce tree gum by boiling resin then cutting it into strips that were coated in cornstarch to prevent them from sticking together. By the early 1850s, Curtis had constructed the world’s first chewing gum factory, in Portland, Maine. As it turned out, though, spruce resin was less-than-ideal for producing gum because it didn’t taste great and became brittle when chewed. Curtis and others in the chewing gum business subsequently switched to ingredients such as paraffin wax, which was softer when chewed.

The next key development came when an inventor in New York, Thomas Adams, started a company that by the late 1880s was making gum and selling it across the USA. Chicle was imported to the United States from Mexico and Central America and was as the main ingredient in chewing gum until manufacturers replaced it with synthetic ingredients by the mid-1900s.

In the 20th century, chewing gum made William Wrigley Jr. one of the wealthiest men in America. Wrigley started out as a soap salesman. After moving to Chicago in 1891, he began offering store owners incentives to stock his products, such as free cans of baking powder with every order. When the baking powder proved a bigger hit than the soap, Wrigley sold that instead, and added in free packs of chewing gum as a promotion. In 1893, he launched two new gum brands, ‘Juicy Fruit’ and ‘Wrigley’s Spearmint’.

Because the chewing gum field had grown crowded with competitors, Wrigley decided he’d make his products stand out by spending heavily on advertising and direct-marketing. In 1915, the Wrigley Company kicked off a campaign in which it sent free samples of its gum to millions of Americans listed in phone books. Another promotion involved sending sticks of gum to U.S. children on their second birthday.

Competition also played a role in the development of bubble gum. Frank Fleer, whose company had made chewing gum since around 1885, wanted something different from his rivals and spent years working on a product that could be blown into bubbles. In 1906, he invented a bubble gum he called Blibber-Blubber, but it proved to be too sticky. Later a successful formula for the first commercial bubble gum was found and named ‘Dubble Bubble’.

Today, of course, gum is sold in a variety of shapes and flavours …

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