Realize one thing about editors: When a story tailor-made for a great headline crosses our paths, it will make its way to print. Case in point, Wrigley's (Chicago) recent announcement of a patent for a gum infused with a version of Pfizer- (New York) owned Viagra. Unfortunately, decorum prevents many headline suggestions from making their way to print.

Readers may recall that Pfizer is the pharmaceutical giant that sold Adams (and its Dentyne, Bubblicious, Clorets, Certs and Halls brands of gums and mints) to Wrigley competitor Cadbury Schweppes (London). Pfizer also has announced that it is studying lozenges and tablets as delivery vehicles other than the little blue pill.

While Wrigley may not own the Viagra name, it has landed a U.S. patent (#6,531,114, for those of you keeping score) for a gum that delivers sildenafil citrate, Viagra's active ingredient.

Wrigley has no definite plans to market the gum (and if it decides to do so, I feel compelled to warn the company that Nestle owns the rights to the “Everlasting Gobstopper” brand name). A few facts should also be kept in mind.

Nicotine gums notwithstanding, consumers have not yet embraced the concept of medicinal gums. Wrigley, itself, is well aware of this fact, and gave up on Surpass heartburn-relief gum a few months back and closed its healthcare division.

Amerifit Nutrition (Bloomfield, Conn.), known for its Estroven dietary supplement, which helps balance hormone levels for women approaching menopause, has found more success with its take on enhanced gum. Amerifit's Vitaball is a vitamin gumball providing 100% of the daily recommended value of 11 vitamins. The functional bubblegum could convince children of gum's possibilities. By extension, the parents may follow along; however, at the very least, by reaching the children of today, Amerifit is educating the consumers of tomorrow.

At present, a lingering question remains: Is a Viagra-type gum the way to introduce the concept of medicinal gum to the public? Communicating the benefits of nutraceutical products has proven difficult enough, but the Viagra gum would be squarely in the realm of pharmaceuticals. After all, Viagra (and, presumably, Wrigley's version) does require a prescription, though reports of its ease of access are widespread.

It is just difficult to comprehend the public willing to treat a gum like a drug. Heartburn relief is one thing; the latest proposal is quite another.

You have to admit, though, the practical jokes alone would be worth hearing about.

Internet Information

For more information on this issue's articles, see the Internet sites provided below.

Snacking: The Fourth Meal — Mintel International Group — Where potato chips came from — Snacking for weight control

Formulating Vegetarian Foods — Vegetarianism at U.S. colleges — Vegetarian Resource Group website — Information on tofu characteristics, Oregon State University, Food Resource — Flavor technology's impact on product development — Nutrition of vegetarian diets

Ethnic Beverage Development: A Case Study — Cañita home page —Buying preferences of young Hispanics — Age, race and gender influences on beverage choices

Ingredients in Use: Soy Sauce and Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein — Ingredient Labeling: What's in a Food? — IFT paper: Development of enzymatically hydrolyzed vegetable protein with koji-culture and its application to foods — San Francisco Chronicle article "Global Food Fight Brews Over Sauce Labeling"