HACKETTSTOWN, NJ — Introduced to the U.S. market in 1941, M&M's are the flagship product of Mars Candy Company. They are known the world over for their candy shell, which encases a filling that originally was milk chocolate, but over the years has expanded to include peanut, dark chocolate, mint and even pumpkin and candy corn flavors for Halloween.
Forrest Mars, Sr., son of the Mars founder, Frank C. Mars, got the idea when he saw soldiers eating British chocolate candies covered with a hard coating to prevent them from melting, during the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s, according to “The Emperors of Chocolate: Inside The Secret World of Hershey and Mars” by Joel Glenn Brenner.
In 1941, Mars received a U.S. patent for his process and production began at a factory located at 285 Badger Avenue in Newark, according to virtualnewarknj.com.
The two Ms in M&M’s are for Forrest Mars and Bruce Murrie, son of Hershey Chocolate's president William F. R. Murrie, who had a 20 percent share in the product. The partnership was important because the candies were made with Hershey chocolate, and Hershey had control of the rationed chocolate during WWII.
The U.S. Army famously became a big customer for the company because M&M’s could be carried by soldiers and not melt in the heat. However, M&M’s did not introduce the tagline “Melts in your mouth, not in your hand” in 1949. It remains America’s most popular slogan, according to a Texas Tech study.
The popularity of the candies led the company to increase production and move to a bigger factory in Newark at 200 North 12th Street, where M&M’s were made until the company moved to an even larger plant in Hackettstown in 1958. Two decades later, the company opened a second factory in Tennessee.
In the 1950s, M&M's had become so popular that the company spurred imitators. So the company devised a solution for consumers to distinguish the real M&M's from the wannabees: stamping each candy made with the letter “m.” Originally, the “m” was black, but the coloring was changed to white in 1954.
Another monumental change came in 1954 when the company introduced Peanut M&M's. At first, they appeared only in the color tan. By 1960, Peanut M&M's came in yellow, red and green.
In 1976, the color orange replaced red, which was discontinued in response to the scare that red dye #2 might cause cancer. They disappeared for over a decade and eventually were re-introduced in 1987. During the mid-1980s, Mars launched holiday M&M’s for Easter (pastel-colored shells) and Christmas (red and green shells).
Also in 1980s, M&M's expanded internationally to Canada, the UK, Europe, Hong Kong, Japan, and Australia.
Over the years, M&M’s have continued to be introduced in new varieties, including:
- Peanut Butter M&M (1991)
- Blue M&M's (1995), which replaced the color tan and produced a public relations bonanza for the company.
- M&M's Minis (1996)
- Crispy M&M's (1999-2005, reintroduced in 2015)
- Dulce de leche M&M's (2001-2003) introduced in LA, Miami and other markets with large Hispanic populations.
- My M&M's (2004), an online option for consumers to design their own customized messages
- Mega M&M's (2007), introduced as “Ogre-Sized” in pale green and tan to promote the “Shrek” movie
- M&M Faces (2008) enables customers to upload images to their personalized candies
- Pretzel M&M (2010)
- M&M's Chocolate Bar (2013)
- Crispy M&M's (2015)
- M&M cookie (2016)
- Coffee Nut M&M’s (2016) topped Honey Nut, and Chili Nut flavor in fan voting
- Caramel M&M's (2017)
- Crunchy Mint (2018) was selected over Crunchy Espresso and Crunchy Raspberry
- English Toffee M&M’s (2019), which defeated Mexican Jalapeño and Thai Coconut in the voting.
- Hazelnut Spread M&M's (2019)
- Creepy Cocoa Crisp M&M’s (2019), limited edition for Halloween.
- M&M’S® Fudge Brownie is coming in 2020!
Today, more than 400 million individual M&M's are produced every day in the United States, according to a report by the LA Times. They can be bought at retail stores, online, and at M&M World locations, where they are sold in dozens of colors and can be personalized and printed in just minutes. However, if you are buying a bag of classic M&M's Plain, brown accounts for 30% of the colors, while red finishes second with 20%, according to “The Emperors of Chocolate.”
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