Today’s entry is going to be a big one, and it covers a brand whose history I’ve been chasing down for over a decade. One of the original “big stick” bubble gum brands, it’s Bazooka’s (and Topps’) Big Buddy!
Before I get into it, I wanted to highlight that today’s post is the culmination of years of research and hunting, finally coming together by way of a significant addition to my historical materials just recently, thanks to fellow collector and friend. And as is the case with so much of what we write about and publish here on the site, the vast majority of today’s material has never been published before and was previously unknown or as I like to say, “un-Google-able”. You won’t find this information or these images anywhere else, so let’s get to it!
Big Buddy launched sometime in the mid-1960’s, at least as early 1968 though it could have been a littler earlier than that. It was a period when other “big stick” bubble gum brands were similarly being launched and were quite popular: There was Big Boss from Philadelphia Chewing Gum and one of my favorites, Bub’s Daddy from Donruss!
The novelty of these brands was that, unlike typical bubble gum that arrived in convenient bite-sized pieces, these burst onto the scene like confectionery ruler-length slabs. Too big to chew in a single session and impressively long.
The earliest version of Big Buddy wrapper even sported an on-the-pack ruler, a design feature that would be copied some years later for the Mars’ Marathon bar (another favorite of mine).
Here’s an example of what is likely the very first version of Big Buddy bubble gum wrapper, featuring a on-wrapper ruler as well as a 5-cent on-pack price [Note that Big Buddy was sold in a cellophane style wrapper for the first several years of its existence.]:
And here’s a launch year display box for the brand:
Here’s an example of one of those early design Big Buddy wrappers with the numbered ruler, but one that lacked the on-pack printed price:
The ruler was a clever design feature, as it visually indicated Big Buddy being a full foot-long chunk of bubble gum, even though the contents were a little short of that. [Big Buddy was typically around 9″ long at this point.] Included as cross promotion on the display boxes of other Topps products, it was even referred to as “the big ruler bubble gum”:
And, for reasons I haven’t been able to determine yet, the numbers on the ruler were soon removed so that by 1970, the “big ruler bubble gum” became less ruler-like than it had previously been:
Big Buddy was clearly a success, and it rapidly became a brand that was cross-promoted and cross-sold/packaged as you can see in this combo display box, that featured half Big Buddy and half Topps Gold Rush bubblegum in the unusual “scented” flavor.
By 1970, the success of Big Buddy was clear and so much so that Topps was introducing the first flavor extensions for the brand, Grape and Cherry.
It would appear that Big Buddy initially started at a 1.2 oz size, and was quickly reduced to 1.1 ounces.
Big Buddy’s growth in the market continued as the brand flourished, so that in late 1970 or early 1971 it received an additional round of flavor extensions, Raspberry and Hawaiian. It was also the year that Big Buddy’s wrapper design changed to reflect a new, unified look:
Late 1971 saw another new flavor introduced to the Big Buddy family with Lemon-Lime, bringing the total to an impressive six flavors:
Lemon-Lime as the new flavor in the family was highlighted in these candy industry trade ads from January 1972. These two ads featured all six flavors as well as pointing out that Big Buddy was shifting away from a cellophane wrapper to a wax-style wrapper:
Here’s a promotional mini-flyer touting the same packaging, and highlighting the “Big Ruler” description:
This next trade ad similarly invokes the “Big Ruler” description for Big Buddy, as well as hinting toward even more new flavor extensions:
That first ad showcases six different display boxes with a Big Buddy graphic of a giant and a friend, backed by photos of real fruits. Each of this style of box includes the tagline “The First Bubblegum for Giants”. I’ve already shown you the Lemon-Lime box, but I’m happy to have all of the others to share here as well:
Here are a few examples of the redesigned wax (non-cellophane) wrappers:
While Big Buddy was experiencing success in the United States, Topps’ Canadian licensee O-Pee-Chee was also selling a lot of the bubble gum. Here’s a wrapper example from my files of the bi-lingual Canadian OPC release. Note that the OPC version still presented with a numbered ruler graphic on the wrapper:
Believe it or not, Big Buddy would venture into special seasonal releases for Easter 1972 with a cleverly-renamed “Big Bunny” release. I don’t have any examples of Big Bunny wrappers in my archives (boy, I’d like to find one!) but I do have an industry trade clipping that features the release:
In 1973, Topps would bring a seventh flavor to the Big Buddy family in the form of “Frosty Orange Mint” as shown in this industry trade clipping:
Here’s a look at all seven 1973 Big Buddy flavor packs, all in wax wrappers:
That image was isolated from this outstanding September 1973 Topps trade ad, featuring most of the Topps confectionery family at the time:
Here is a lovely set of all seven of the 1973 style Big Buddy wrappers, including the newly-added Frosty Orange:
Eighth and ninth Big Buddy flavor offerings would be added sometime in late 1973 or early 1974, as shown in this clip from a Topps sales brochure featuring flavor extensions Hot cinnamon and Watermelon:
This Big Buddy Cherry display box from the period showcases eight flavors on the back of the box, but had not yet added Watermelon to the list (and now refers to the Hawaiian flavor as Pineapple):
Next up is an interesting piece, as it is an uncut display box for what what was a variety assortment of Big Buddy – eight flavors all in one box!
Later on in 1974, Big Buddy’s wrapper design would evolve once more, moving to a repeating design as seen on the following Watermelon wrapper [Note: This also reveals a drop in size from 1.1 oz to 1 oz]:
Here’s a matching Big Buddy Watermelon display box from the period:
The move to a repeating wrapper design raises a question as to why that change was made? It might have been simply to refresh the brand, but I’d speculate that it was due to a change in production (a new factory or machine) as repeating wrapper designs are easier to utilize in more scenarios and within more types of wrapping machines. They can be cut anywhere along the wrapper line and they’ll function just as well. Here are an assortment of other Big Buddy repeating wrapper examples from 1974. Unfortunately, each one of these examples was trimmed and shortened from its original length for inclusion in a scrapbook at the time:
I’m not sure how long the repeating wrapper design lasted, as by 1975, Big Buddy packs were featuring an on-pack promotion as well as a return to their original 1.2 oz size. The promotional offer took up a significant amount of the wrapper, as you can see here:
By 1977, Big Buddy would undergo another revamp both in packaging design and flavor assortment. Gaining an Apple flavor somewhere along the way:
Display boxes for Big Buddy also got a new look, now including the faces of excited kids:
I have a few examples of Big Buddy wrappers from this late 1970’s design, and here they are:
In 1981, Big Buddy would receive an update for the 80’s with yet another wrapper design refresh as well as the introduction of the first Big Buddy Strawberry flavor:
I really dig the addition of “The almost Foot Long Bubble Gum” tagline to the wrapper, along with a set of footprint graphics to go along with that. Sadly, this also meant the loss of the old ruler markings that had been a staple on Big Buddy wrappers from the beginning. Here are a couple examples of the 1981 design:
By 1983, the end was closing in on Big Buddy. I speculate that the decline was related to the massive shift in popularity toward the “soft chunk” category of bubblegum with brands like Bubble Yum, Bubblicious and Hubba Bubba.
Still, Big Buddy had a little life left in it, and in 1983 would return to a larger 1.25oz size as well as a change from wax to a poly/cello style wrapper. The packs themselves highlighted the increase in size with a chevron call-out:
1983 would appear to have been the end of the Big Buddy bubblegum brand. In 1984, Topps attempted to keep the format alive through a re-branding, wrapping it into the iconic Bazooka family and calling it “Big Bazooka”.
Here’s an example of a Big Bazooka wrapper:
And so, after sixteen years and eleven different flavors, Topps’ Big Buddy brand would be retired, ending a major chapter in the “big stick” bubblegum category’s history. The other powerhouse player in the category, Donruss’ Bub’s Daddy, would follow suit a few short years later, leaving no other widely sold big stick bubblegum brands available. Times and tastes had changed, but what a ride it was for a brand that I always thought was pretty darned cool. Thanks for the memories, Big Buddy!
Today’s post is an extension of the celebration of CollectingCandy.com’s 6th Anniversary. It’s the kind of article that deep dives into a brand that has been virtually forgotten to history, and one that aims to document and preserve it in a way that only CollectingCandy.com can.
With over two dozen vintage wrappers, a dozen vintage display boxes and various promotional flyers and industry clippings, the documenting of the history of the Big Buddy brand has now been established, and as I discover new pieces going forward I will work to figure out how they fit into the existing puzzle. Undoubtedly, my understanding of the brand’s timeline may evolve, but that’s the fun of it!
So with that, I’ll sign off on all things Big Buddy for now. If anyone remembers this classic brand, please leave a comment and share your story. See you next time!