Today marks five years exactly since CollectingCandy.com was launched (way back on February 6th, 2012) with a feature retrospective on the Big League Chew brand. Since then, I’ve penned another 632 articles including the publication of over 6,000 images (many of which were things that had never been seen anywhere else online before). It’s been a lot of work, but one heck of a fun time doing it.
Since the site launched on the glorious topic of Big League Chew, I thought it appropriate to dedicate today’s anniversary post to the same. For a long time I’ve been wanting to take a look at the full variety of Big League Chew historical packaging I’ve brought together over the years. Within this post you will find over 70 different Big League Chew packs represented, along with the world premier unveiling of a previously lost-and-forgotten flavor; Big League Chew Cola! Make the jump to check it out!
As stated in the introduction, today’s post is meant to be as complete a look at the history of Big League Chew packaging as I could muster. It is far from comprehensive as there are still many packages and promotions you won’t find here (as I’ve yet to find them myself) but it should stand as a singular reference point for the history of Big League Chew packaging for the foreseeable future. This collection of packaging is the result of over a decade of collecting and my enthusiastic fandom for the brand.
I will be presenting the packages in chronological order as accurately as I could currently suss out (there will undoubtedly be inaccuracies and mistakes, and as time goes on I will identify them and make corrections as I go). Please make sure to take note of the Big League Chew Cola entry… it’s a big deal to me and it’s an exclusive world premier of a lost flavor being unveiled in this post for the first time anywhere. I hope you enjoy it. Here we go:
It all started back in 1980…
Grape was the first flavor extension for the Big League Chew brand. I believe this was launched in 1981, but it’s possible that it was on shelves during the brand’s first year. Still working on a definitive date on this initial release but this is definitely an example of the very earliest packaging for Grape BLC, as it sports the “NEW” indication.
Next up are two subtly different examples of an early promotion for a mail-away baseball shirt. Note the size of the front corner call-out:
After the introduction of grape-flavor Big League Chew, the next flavor to get added to the mix by Amurol was Strawberry:
Starting around 1982, Amurol decided to incorporate other sports like football and hockey into Big League Chew packaging, fearing that the exclusively-baseball themes would hurt sales during baseball’s off-season. While these fears turned out to be largely unwarranted, the move did allow for the creation of some great new mascot artwork by the visionary artist behind Big League Chew’s original look, Bill Mayer.
Here’s a great dual-sport Strawberry pack – this is one that’s never been shown anywhere online before today. It features a fantastic football player illustration on the back of the pack:
Big League Plug was the first (and only) major brand extension for the Big League Chew brand. This was an attempt to take the name and packaging and use it to sell a chocolate bar of sorts. The “chocolate bar” was likely more like a shaped Tootsie Roll than a Hershey bar. It was initially sold in a white package like this one:
But soon after the initial white package, that was changed to the following brown package, perhaps to clarify that this was not a bubblegum product and was different than the Big League Chew offering that consumers had experienced before.
I should like to note that while these Big League Plug packages are attributed to 1982 due to the copyright date printed on them, the inclusion of the peel-apart package indications make me think they may have actually been brought to market a few years later than that. So consider 1982 a provisional date, and that 1986-1987 might be more accurate:
Sometime after the explosive success of Big League Chew in the United States, distribution began in Canada, with packaging that featured the requisite bi-lingual text:
“Baseball Bonanza” was a big early promotional tie-in for Big League Chew. Here’s a look all three of the Big League Chew flavor packs featuring the promo:
1985 introduced packs that temporarily included 15% more gum than normal:
Watermelon would be the fourth flavor added to the Big League Chew mix, and it occurred in the 1984-1985 period. The earliest packages I have for the flavor are from 1985, when they included the dual-sport package with the hockey player on the back:
The next package up for presentation is the featured piece for today; Cola-Flavored Big League Chew!!! For years, I’d known of the Big League Chew CHERRY Cola flavor, but I’d never heard of a standard Cola offering of the brand.
Also, over the years I’d often considered the dual-sport packs and wondered why a Big League Chew pack featuring a basketball player was never made. But, as it turns out, one was… it’s just that no one really remembered it or knew about it. This one is so rare and unknown that when I presented it to Rob Nelson, Big League Chew inventor and owner, he told me he “didn’t really have a recollection of it”. How about that?
The artwork from the front of the pack and the mascot used for the Cola flavor is the same as that which would be used the following year for Big League Chew Cherry Cola, so my guess is that this was a short-lived unsuccessful release before the move to the more successful Cherry Cola flavor was made.
So here it is, a forgotten flavor of Big League Chew that was lost to time, until today – the exclusive world premier of Big League Chew Cola!!!!:
1986 brought the addition of a “pull open pouch” feature to Big League Chew packs, as you can see here:
Now, here is an early package for Cherry Cola.. a flavor known as Big League Chew inventor Rob Nelson’s favorite:
One of my favorite oddball packs are the “Less Money Pak” editions released in the late 1980’s. These were sold in pouches that were still the same dimensions as regular Big League Chew packs but contained about half the amount of bubblegum within them, and were offered at a reduced price.
The early 1990’s saw the release of a BLC flavor extension I’d love to see make a comeback, a hot cinnamon flavor known as Big League Chew Flaming Hot:
Here’s a great example of a fun play on the original Big League Chew mascot artwork, for the Tangy Apple flavor:
In 1995, Big League Chew mixed “crunchy candy crystals” in with the shredded gum for Big League Chew “Sparks”:
In 1997, the illustrated mascots were removed from packs and for the first time replaced with famous baseball players from history:
Sometime toward the end of 1997 and 1998, the foil packs were retired and a new set of illustrated mascots were introduced for Big League Chew packaging. This was the beginning of packaging that was no longer based on the classic Bill Mayer artwork:
The last decade saw at least a couple different contests, allowing Big League Chew fans to be illustrated as mascots on the actual packs. This is the last such pack done, although I know there was at least one earlier version done, featuring a different fan:
When Ford Gum took over the manufacture of Big League Chew from Wrigley/Amurol in 2010, one of the first fun things they added into the marketing mix were specially-illustrated holiday packages for the brand. They offered up packages for Christmas, Easter and Halloween:
2014 also saw the limited edition re-release of two classic discontinued flavors. Strawberry (one of the original 1980’s flavors) and Cotton Candy, first introduced in the late 1990’s:
2014 also saw the limited edition release of two real-player packs, Matt Kemp and Cole Hamels. Sadly, in spite of me searching all over the place, I never found a Cole Hamels package, but I did find a Matt Kemp:
Here are the current Canadian bi-lingual packages for Big League Chew:
Ground Ball Grape Big League Chew saw a fun graphical change in 2016 with a move to an all-purple background pack:
And that brings us up to now. That’s over 70 different Big League Chew packs ranging from the very beginning of the brand over 35-years-ago all the way up to today. I gotta say, it’s tremendous fun for me to look back at this iconic American brand and to document it and share it here. I look forward to filling in the missing pieces from the Big League Chew historical packaging puzzle in the coming years. There’s certainly more to come!
Since launching CollectingCandy.com five years ago today, I’ve had many unique experiences and made amazing friendships that have come out of my unusual relationship to, and passion for, the history of candy along with my desire to write about it all on this site. It’s been one of the great pleasures of my life to get to do so, and I hope that these first five years are merely the beginning. I look forward to many more to come and with that I’ll just sign off and say I’ll see you next time!
Congrats on the Blogiversary! I remember Cherry Cola Big League Chew, but I don’t remember a regular Cola. Cool that you found it.
I was and still am a chocolate lover. But I remember having Big League Chew a couple of times. When I was in my teens, a friend of mine who was originally from Connecticut, introduced me to chewing tobacco. According to him, chewing tobacco was a “thing” where he came from. Before I tried it, I remember thinking that it will either taste sweet like Big League Chew or chocolate fudge. Either way, I thought it was going delicious. Not even close.
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Thanks for sharing. I love the classic artwork and your earlier article about the history behind Big League Chew was a good read.
BTW, I always thought that guy on the original 1980s grape package looked like Snidely Whiplash (from Dudley Do-Right) and that guy on the strawberry package looked like Andre the Giant.