How many licks does it take to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop?

For 50 years plus after the iconic Tootsie Roll animated commercial posed the question, “How many licks does it take to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop?” According to Tootsie Roll Industries, many academics tried to answer that very same question. Tootsie Roll Industries claims that they get more than 20,000 letters from children around the world who believe they cracked the mystery. The reported results range from a low of 100 to a high of 5,800 licks. I really would like to see the kid who took 5,800 licks to get to the center. Does he still have a tongue?

Buddy Foster

In the original television ad, a questioning boy (Buddy Foster) proposes the question to a cow (Frank Nelson), a fox (Paul Frees), a turtle (Ralph James) and an owl (Paul Winchell). Each one of the first three animals tells the kid to ask someone else, explaining that they would bite a Tootsie Pop every time they lick one. Eventually, he asks the owl, appearing wise, who offers to investigate. He starts licking the orange Tootsie Pop but bites into it after only three licks. The child walks away, saying to himself, “If there’s anything I can’t stand, it’s a smart owl.” The commercial ends the same way, with various flavored Tootsie Pops unwrapped and being “licked away” until being crunched in the center with a narrator (Herschel Bernardi) asking, “How many licks does it take to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop? The world may never know.”

Purdue University

A group of engineering students from Purdue University reported that its licking machine, modeled after a human tongue, took an average of 364 licks to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop. Twenty of the group’s volunteers assumed the licking challenge-unassisted by machinery and averaged 252 licks each to the center.

University of Michigan

Not to be outdone by a Big Ten rival, a chemical engineering doctorate student from the University of Michigan recorded that his customized licking machine required 411 licks to reach the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop. (411-364. Go Blue!).

Swarthmore Junior High School

Rejecting the notion that one needed active college status to undertake the Tootsie Pop licking challenge, a group of junior high students at Swarthmore School used human lickers, reporting an average of 144 licks to reach the center of a Tootsie Pop.

Bellarmine University

Bellarmine University in Louisville recently completed its own controlled study to get an answer to the age-old question.  With 130 participants they recorded their findings by gender, the amount of time taken and even the color of the tootsie pop. You can read all about their experiment here.

Grape (32%)Orange (34%)Raspberry (32%)
All subjects198 licks – 15.5 min.148 licks – 12.3 min.181 licks – 14.5 min.
Male subjects (49%)
187 licks – 14.3 min.
195 licks – 15.2 min.167 licks – 12.8 min.195 licks – 15.9 min.
Female subjects (52%)
164 licks – 13.8 min.
199 licks – 15.8 min.138 licks – 12.5 min.160 licks – 13.3 min.
8:00 a.m. subjects (25%)
209 licks – 17 min.
241 licks – 17.5 min.194 licks – 15.7 min.191 licks – 16.8 min.
9:25 a.m. subjects (24%)
153 licks – 14 min.
150 licks – 13.9 min.153 licks – 12.2 min.154 licks – 14.5 min.
12:15 p.m. subjects (26%)
162 licks – 13 min.
154 licks – 13.7 min.134 licks – 9.6 min.187 licks – 14.6 min.
3:00 p.m. subjects (25%)
177 licks – 13 min.
132 licks – 16.6 min.104 licks – 11.1 min.213 licks – 14.2 min.
Summary of the study conducted by Bellarmine University.

Based on the wide range of results from these scientific studies, it is clear that the world may never know how many licks it really takes to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop.