George Owino: The Man Behind Big G, Africa’s Biggest Chewing Gum

LifeStyleBiographyGeorge Owino: The Man Behind Big G, Africa's Biggest Chewing Gum
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The Big G ( Big George) – Kenya and their indigenous entrepreneurs. The late Sir George Owino, was the man behind chewing gum that came to be a household name in Kenya and East African market. Competing with others like Juicy fruit, spearmint and PK, which became to be known as Orbit.

The manifestation of Sir George’s industry and commitment to his projects was the setting up of the Wrigley factory in Nairobi, to cater for the East African market.

Through the success of the Big G, which was the first gum to be manufactured in such a size in the world, the mother company got convinced that setting up a factory to cater for East African would a wise thing.

As the market share of the gum, which was his innovation, grew so did his stature, and he rose to become the chair of Wrigley EA, a post he held till his retirement in 1998 to concentrate his energies on Orbit Distributors, the firm he set up in 1977 to solely distribute Wrigley products in East African Market.

Its distinct larger size (as compared to other pellets in the market), red cover branding, and yellow wording made the product conspicuously stand out from the fold.

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Very few people, however, can put a face to the founding of the now-ubiquitous chewing gum named after the late Sir George Owino.

Owino’s journey to the top began in 1971 when he broke history by becoming the first-ever Kenyan employee at the then newly launched Wrigley Company in the country. The company is the force behind some of the beloved chewing gums such as Juicy Fruit, Double Mint and Orbit.

At his new workstation, he was hired as a marketer but according to reports, he was not entirely impressed by the pellets that formed a huge chunk of the chewing gum market.

Owino wanted a slightly bigger gum and so the Big G was born. At the time, it was the first gum to be manufactured in such a size in the world, differentiating itself in the market.

When the product hit the shelves, an intense marketing strategy to popularise it countrywide was launched and by 1983, it was already competing with the market leaders.

With the success came promotions. Sir George then grew up the ranks in the company which had then expanded its operations to several countries on the continent.

He later became the chairman of Wrigley’s in East Africa. 

Early Education

Born in 1941, Owino rose from a humble background as the only child of Patrick Owidh and Maria Obiero. He proceeded to Sega Primary School from where he proceeded to Shimo la Tewa Intermediate School.

He served as Wringley’s Chairman to his retirement in 1998 and passed away in July 2004.

Big G passed on in July 2004. His story is closely similar to to that of Sir Henry’s.

“George Owino: Story of Man behind Big G, Kenya’s Biggest Chewing Gum,” Kenyans.co.ke, April 11, 2022, https://www.kenyans.co.ke/news/74733-george-owino-story-man-behind-big-g-kenyas-biggest-chewing-gum.

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