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History of M&Ms

M&Ms, the colorful button-shaped candies, have been a staple in American treat bowls and pockets since their introduction in 1941. The brainchild of Forrest E. Mars, Sr., and Bruce Murrie, M&Ms have transcended their status as mere confections to become cultural icons. They even earned their trademark “M” stamped on each piece in 1950, which has since become a symbol of their unique identity – a candy that holds its shape without melting in your hand.

The journey of M&Ms has seen numerous milestones over the decades, reflecting both innovation and a connection with historical events. From being included in U.S. soldiers’ rations during World War II for their durability in all weather conditions to becoming the first candy in space aboard the Columbia space shuttle in 1981, M&Ms have not only satisfied sweet tooths but also marked their presence during pivotal moments.

The much-loved Peanut M&Ms made their debut in 1954, further expanding the brand’s range and popularity. As M&Ms continue to evolve with new flavors and colors, they maintain a cherished position in the hearts and taste buds of many across the globe. They remain a family business at heart, despite being part of a company that has branched out into an extensive array of products and services.

Origins of M&Ms

M&Ms, the colorful button-shaped chocolates, have an enduring legacy that began in the early 20th century. Here’s how their journey started.

Creation and Inventors

Forrest Mars Sr. is credited with the invention of M&Ms. After a disagreement with his father, Frank C. Mars, Forrest went on to establish his own confectionery enterprise. In the early 1940s, he partnered with Bruce Murrie, the son of Hershey Chocolate’s president, to create the candy that would later be known as M&Ms. Their collaboration was strategic, securing a reliable supply of chocolate during wartime rationing.

Early Recipes and Ingredients

The early recipes of M&Ms were designed to be resilient. Ingredients included a hard sugar coating that encased the milk chocolate center, which was key to preventing the candies from melting. This made M&Ms popular with the military and led to their reputation as durable treats that could withstand warm climates. Initially, the candies came in limited colors, and the classic “melt in your mouth, not in your hand” quality was a unique selling point right from the beginning.

World War II Influence

During World War II, M&M’s found their place in military history by becoming a staple in soldiers’ rations. Their durability and convenience made them an ideal choice for troops on the move.

Military Rations Inclusion

M&M’s were created with the practical needs of the military in mind. During the war, they were produced in substantial quantities with the weekly output reaching 200,000 pounds at one point. Forrest Mars saw the opportunity to create chocolate that wouldn’t melt easily in soldiers’ hands, leading to the iconic candy-coated chocolate pellets. The hard shell protected the chocolate inside from melting, which made M&M’s a practical sweet for soldiers to carry without spoiling. They officially became part of the American soldiers’ rations, and with the massive scale of distribution, M&M’s embedded themselves into the lives of many military personnel.

Post-War Expansion

After World War II, the returning soldiers had developed a taste for M&M’s, which spurred civilian demand for the candy. The factory’s production capacity had increased to a staggering 600,000 pounds of M&M’s each week by the end of the war. This established a solid foundation for M&M’s expansion into the consumer market. As the soldiers shared their experiences with the candy, public interest grew, setting the stage for M&M’s widespread popularity and commercial success in the post-war era.

Brand Evolution

M&Ms have seen significant changes since their introduction in 1941, with packaging and advertising playing pivotal roles in the candy’s enduring appeal.

Packaging Changes

Initially, M&Ms were sold in cardboard tubes, a design that eventually gave way to the now-famous brown bags to keep the candy fresh and intact. The packaging has evolved to include resealable bags, ensuring that the chocolates can be enjoyed over time without losing their crunch. They also offer personalized packaging for special occasions, catering to a desire for customized experiences.

Advertising and Mascots

M&Ms quickly became recognizable through their distinctive advertising campaigns. Red and Yellow, the original mascots introduced in 1954, bolstered the brand’s identity, personifying the candy and providing a relatable face to consumers worldwide. Over the years, M&Ms has expanded its roster of mascots to include a variety of colorful characters, each with their unique personality, helping the brand to connect with different audiences and remain culturally relevant.

Product Variations

Since its inception, M&M’s chocolate candies have expanded far beyond their original form, introducing a variety of flavors and options to cater to diverse tastes and occasions.

Introduction of Peanut M&Ms

In 1954, M&M’s brand took a bold step by adding a new variety to its lineup: Peanut M&M’s. These candies were a distinct twist on the original, offering a crunchy peanut center along with the classic candy shell.

Seasonal and Limited Editions

Throughout the years, M&M’s has released an array of seasonal and limited edition flavors. These typically correspond with holidays and special events, giving consumers unique tastes like Pumpkin Spice in autumn and White Chocolate for Easter.

International Varieties

M&M’s offers a range of products that are exclusive to certain regions around the world. For instance, some international varieties include the Pretzel M&M’s in the United States and the Hazelnut M&M’s that can be found in parts of Europe.

Manufacturing Process

The creation of M&Ms involves a complex manufacturing process to ensure the distinctive candy shell and delicious chocolate center. Each step is carefully monitored to maintain the high quality standards that M&Ms are known for.

Factories and Production Lines

M&Ms are produced in multiple factories around the world. Production lines in these factories are highly automated with a combination of advanced machinery and manual inspection. The process begins with the production of the chocolate centers, which are then coated with a crisp, colorful shell through a process called “panning.” During panning, the chocolates are tumbled in large drums while layers of sugar shell are sprayed and dried, building the shell up gradually.

Quality Control Measures

Quality control is critical in the manufacturing of M&Ms. Regular checks are conducted throughout the production line to ensure that the size, color, and taste meet the strict standards set by the company. Advanced technology, such as color scanners and size graders, is utilized to sort out any imperfections. Additionally, the staff conducts taste tests and visual inspections to maintain the iconic look and flavor of the candy.

Cultural Impact

M&M’s have woven their way into the fabric of American society, becoming more than just a confectionery treat. They’ve impacted various cultural realms, from movies to marketing, illustrating a lasting presence in pop culture and significant partnerships.

Pop Culture References

M&M’s have frequently appeared in various media, often as a nostalgic or iconic element. Films and television shows sometimes feature the candy as a plot point or a memorable treat. They also appear in video games and music, showing their reach beyond just snack food.

Collaborations and Partnerships

M&M’s have engaged in numerous collaborations that bolster their cultural significance. These include limited edition flavors and packaging, often tied to holidays, events, or pop culture franchises. Their partnerships extend to support for charitable causes, such as donations to military care packages, reinforcing their role in community and national narratives.

Nutritional Information

When indulging in M&Ms, a consumer receives a combination of chocolate and candy shell ingredients. Understanding the nutritional profile can help one be mindful of their dietary choices.

Ingredients and Allergies

M&Ms typically contain sugar, chocolate, cocoa butter, milkfat, and cornstarch, among other ingredients. As a chocolate candy, they also include emulsifiers like soy lecithin to maintain a stable consistency. It’s crucial to note that M&Ms are produced in facilities that handle various allergens, including nuts, so they may not be suitable for individuals with severe nut allergies.

Health Considerations

For those tracking their diet, a standard serving of M&Ms can have over 200 calories, with a mix of carbohydrates, fats, and a small amount of protein. It’s important for consumers to be aware that M&Ms are high in sugars and fats, which should be consumed in moderation. They offer little to no dietary fiber or essential vitamins and minerals, thus they should be enjoyed as an occasional treat rather than a dietary staple.

Environmental and Ethical Practices

M&M’s, a renowned global brand, has taken steps toward environmental sustainability and ethical sourcing. They recognize the significant impact their business practices can have on the environment and communities.

Sustainability Initiatives

M&M’s parent company, Mars Inc., has made public commitments to reduce their environmental footprint. They have implemented measures to decrease greenhouse gas emissions across their manufacturing process and aim to source 100% renewable electricity. Mars Inc. strives for a circular economy where packaging materials for products like M&M’s are reused and recycled, reducing waste.

Fair Trade and Sourcing

The sourcing of ingredients for M&M’s chocolate is centered on fair trade practices. They focus on responsibly sourcing their cocoa, a primary ingredient, ensuring that farmers receive fair compensation. Mars Inc. has joined other industry leaders in committing to responsible sourcing, and they work with certification programs to support sustainable farming communities. They aim to help farmers improve their livelihoods while maintaining sustainable agricultural practices.