Do you know what you’re putting in your mouth when you eat a handful of M&M’s? No worries, I’m not your mom, I’m not talking about the sugar intake or the amount of corn syrup in it. M&M’s are more than that— it’s about the history you’re stuffing in your mouth.
It came a very long way since its first release in 1941. Who knew it would be one of the most popular candies in the United States today?
So sit back, relax, and open up an M&M’s bag (my personal favorite is the M&M’s Peanut Milk Chocolate) as we go throughout the history of the one candy that never seems to disappoint.
The founder of Mars company, Forrest Mars Sr., didn’t start his business by selling M&Ms, it was actually with Mars bars.
In 1932, he moved out to England, where he began producing Mars bars for the troops. It wasn’t until during the Spanish Civil War that he came across the idea of M&M’s. After seeing a few British soldiers eat small chocolate beads covered in a hard sugar shell, he immediately saw the potential of a new candy. Because of that hard sugar shell, he knew it would be the key to preventing chocolate to melt so easily, especially during the summer months.
We’ve all been there— not the best feeling having your hands smeared with chocolate. And this was actually the reason why sales of chocolate went down during the summertime back then. With the lack of air conditioning, even the people in the 1930s didn’t want to deal with that mess. Thus, began the development of the M&M’s.
To get this new candy idea out in the world, Mars knew he needed some help. Since World War ll was happening at this time, shortages of supplies (chocolate, sugar, etc) were increasing. So when he came back to the United States, he contacted Bruce Murrie, the son of Hershey executive William Murrie, to team up with him.
This new partnership benefited both of them. Mars had a steady supply of resources to produce his new candy, while Murrie received a 20 percent of stake in it.
Both named the new candy, “M&M” after themselves. It stood for “Mars and Murrie”.
Soon after, production began in Newark, New Jersey, in March 1941. The candy were covered in the same colors as we see them today, except for the color blue. They had purple instead. They also originally sold M&M’s in cardboard tubes, which is rare to buy today.
At one point, it was rare to buy M&M’s altogether. After the United States entered the war, the candies were only sold to the military. However, once the war was over, and the soldiers returned, it seemed everyone wanted the new candy.
Soon after the war, M&M’s were then sold to the public. Over time, Mars had enough money to buy out Murrie’s shares of the company and take over the M&M brand. Those weren’t the only changes to happen at the time, the candy itself also had some.
In 1948, the brown bag package we all know and love was implemented. In 1950, the candies infamous “M” were imprinted in a black font color. Then in 1954, it changed to the white font color that we see today.
This was mainly to ensure customers were eating the real deal, and not copycats.
In the early 1970s, a study showed “how the FD&C Red No. 2—then the most widely used commercial food dye in America—linked to cancer and fetal death.”
In 1976, the FDA banned all uses of that red food dye.
Fortunately, that specific red food dye was never used in M&M’s. However, Mars didn’t want his customers to feel concerned about the red M&M’s, so he removed them all from the candy packages.
Of course, people were outraged. So due to high demand, and also new confirmation that Red Dye No. 2 was proven not to be carcinogenic, after all, Mars brought back the red M&M’s. Yay! And that wasn’t the only good thing to happen for the candy.
In 1981, M&M’s became the first candy to go to space. Because of its high reputation during the war, the crew abroad NASA’s first shuttle, ‘Columbia’ wanted M&M’s to be the candy they take in the rocket. How cool is that?!
We all know how M&M loves to have different themes for their candies, especially for holidays. But did you know in 2011, it created a special edition M&M’s just for a space launch?
Well, I guess it wasn’t just any space launch. On July 8th, 2011, NASA launched its final space shuttle. So, in celebration, Mars produced a special edition M&Ms, “decorated with the image of the Atlantis shuttle, the phrase ‘3, 2, 1…Lift Off!’ and date of the launch: July 8, 2011.”
How memorable was that moment?! Or do you know a better one?
In my opinion, I think my favorite moment for the M&M brand was in 1954. During that time period, there were so many improvements and additions happening to the candy, one was the introduction to my all-time favorite M&M’s — Peanut Chocolate Candies.