Last month M&M’s released a new product called M&M’s Mega, with three times more chocolate than the original M&M. Mars, Inc. the company that created the M&M is a $20 billion industry and produces 400 million chocolate candies every day.

MarsMegaM&Ms300To me there is something so endearing about the M&M. These “melt in your mouth, not in your hand” candies have taken on a life of their own through the popular animated characters that you see on TV. After hearing about a new product, it got me thinking about how it all began. So, of course, being the kind of guy I am, I researched it. And today we give give you the story of the M&M from brown to blue and every color in between.

One day Forrest Mars observed a group of Spanish Civil War Soldiers enjoying a chocolate “pellet” as some referred to it. It was coated with a hard shell of chocolate inside, a treat that Mars noticed melted in your mouth but not in your hand. It was all quite fascinating to Forrest and that’s when he came up with a new business idea: Why not start a candy company of my own! An obvious decision when you consider that Forrest’s dad Frank, is the guy who introduced the world to the Milky Way and the Snickers bar.

So, Forrest created his own version of the chocolate pellet, a candy-coated chocolate drop initially, (which he only made in brown). Once the confection was ready, he thought What I need is a merging of the minds.

He presented his new creation to Brent Murrie at the Hershey Corporation (the leader in candy production at the time). Apparently, Mars had inherited the candy-making gene because Murrie was sold on the new chocolate candy.

2012-10-26-1941MMSTubeThey formed a partnership and it wasn’t long before the M&M was born (because of the letters of their last names.) In the beginning they were distributed to the troops overseas during World War 2, but their popularity took off and they were soon a nationwide hit.

m&m military

The year 1954 was a landmark year for the M&M. That was the year the tiny “M” imprinted on each candy was changed from black to white. The animated characters first appeared in TV commercials along with the new slogan: “The milk chocolate that melts in your mouth, not in your hand.” The peanut M&M was also introduced in 1954.

In 1976, the orange M&M came along after previously only being available in brown, yellow, green, red and tan. It would be another 19 years before consumers would elect blue as the new color to replace tan.

Forrest Mars is credited as saying “I’m not a candy-maker, I’m empire minded. I want to conquer the whole…world.” Fifteen years after his death, Mars Inc. boasts a whopping $20 billion in annual sales with new product lines including M&M’s Mini, Mint M&M’s and Pretzel M&M’s. They’ve surpassed Hershey as the world’s leading candy producer and have become one of the most widely distributed candy brands in the world. Calling it an empire would be an understatement.