By Prudence Minayo
Big G chewing gum grew to be a household name in Kenya and the East African region. The late Sir George Owino decided to break with tradition of the pellets chewing gum and came up with the idea of having a bigger sized gum instead. When it hit the shelves, Big G, named after Sir George, became an instant hit.
It’s size and flavor made it a magnet to many including those who chew khat ‘miraa’. The gum was given a red color with distinct yellow wordings. It competed with the big names in the market including PK, Juicy fruit and orbit.
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This is the story of the man whose ingenuity introduced what would grow to become Kenya’s most loved chewing gum as told by WoK.
Background and Education
He was born in 1941 as the only son of Patrick Owidh and Maria Obiero. He attended Sega Primary School followed by Shimo La Tewa Intermediate School.
Working at Wrigley
In the early 70s, he became the first Kenyan to get employed AT Wrigley, a US based multinational chewing gum company located in Global Innovation Center (GIC) in Chicago, Illinois. With a history spanning over 100 years, it is the largest manufacturer and marketer of chewing gum. Its products are spread to over 150 countries and the company has operations in 50 countries including Japan, Czech Republic, India, Colombia, France, United Kingdom, Kenya, New Zealand, Mexico and Australia. Some of their popular brands include Juicy Fruit, Spearman, hubba bubba, orbit and double mint. They opened their first and only African subsidiary in Kenya in 1972
When Owino was employed, he became a marketer for the brand and didnt like the pellets that dominated the chewing gum industry, thus, the introduction of Big G.
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When it was introduced to the masses, massive campaigns were carried out to promote the product. The campaigns made it famous and people loved the new chewing gum, different from all the others. The product then spread across other parts of East Africa.
George Owino was promoted to become the chairman of Wrigley East Africa where he worked until his retirement in 1998.
He passed away in 2004.