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M & M's

M & M's

Each day, Mars Inc.'s candy division produces over four hundred million M & M's—the popular chocolate snack with the

candy coating that "melts in your mouth, not in your hand." At first a wartime treat for soldiers on the go, the convenient portable sweet has become a part of daily life for candy-crazed kids and busy adults alike.

The name M & M's comes from the first letter of the last names of Forrest Mars (1904–1999) and William Murrie (1873–1950), the founders of the company that produces M & M's to this day. Mars also makes such other well-known candies as Mars Bars, Milky Way, and Skittles. However, M & M's remain its most popular product. M & M's Plain Chocolate Candies were introduced in 1941. They first gained popularity with American military personnel serving in World War II (1939–45), who received the candies in their food rations. Originally, the tiny candies were packaged in paper tubes, making them easy to carry along no matter what the climate or conditions. Eventually the packaging changed to the familiar brown plastic pouch (yellow for peanut M & M's).

At first, M & M's came in six colors: red, yellow, green, brown, orange, and violet. In 1949, tan replaced violet. It was the first of many changes that have been made to the product over the years. In 1954, for example, Mars introduced a new variety of M & M's with a peanut center. Peanut would be followed in later years by three additional varieties: Peanut Butter Chocolate, Almond Chocolate, and Crispy Chocolate. In addition, the color blue replaced tan in 1995. In the summer of 2000, the company decided that "plain" was too plain a name for their most important product and changed its name on the package to M & M's Milk Chocolate Candies. All these changes received extensive news coverage.

Unlike most candies, M & M's has managed to expand its influence from the food industry into the larger popular culture. The 1990s saw the creation of M & M's World, a retail and entertainment complex located in Las Vegas, Nevada. There, fans of the candy-covered chocolates could purchase more than three thousand M & M's brand items including everything from T-shirts (see entry under 1910s—Fashion in volume 1) and caps to calculators and home decor.

—Robert E. Schnakenberg

For More Information

Brenner, Joel Glenn. The Emperors of Chocolate: Inside the Secret World of Hershey and Mars. New York: Broadway Books, 2000.

Jorgensen, Janice. The Encyclopedia of Consumer Brands. Detroit: St. James Press, 1994.

Mars, Inc. M & M's. (accessed February 19, 2002).

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