Here’s a little M&M’s history for all the chocolate fans out there. To celebrate the Madonna (or Lady Gaga) of all chocolates, we’ll begin by exploring why they were invented. Then we’ll look at some of our favourite marketing campaigns from them. We’ll also cover limited edition flavours we’ve seen over the years. Finally, we’ll learn why astronauts can’t get enough of the colourful little treats!
We’ll start with a common question that perhaps you’ve wondered yourself: what does “M&M’s” even stand for? Well, they stand for the owners, Mars and Murrie. Forrest Mars was the son of the Mars Company founder, while Bruce Murrie was the son of Hershey’s president. Mars came up with the idea after having noticed British soldiers eating similar chocolates (Smarties) during the Spanish Civil War. He approached Murrie, who agreed it was a good idea. They combined forces to develop a similar hard-shelled candy that protected chocolate from melting. The US Army went on to be their first big customer, particularly during WWII. As a result, the demand for M&M’s increased, and the sales skyrocketed.
The brand was curious to explore their options when it came to colours and flavours. With a strong slogan under their belt, “Melts in your mouth, not in your hand,”, they did just that. Going global in the 80s only seemed to fuel their innovation. They experimented with choices suited to the geographic distribution of consumers, various sporting events like the Olympics, and even holidays.
We can take for example the printed rabbits and chickens on their shells around Easter. There’s even the now discontinued dulce de leche flavour that was released in 2001. Designed with a specific focus on five US markets with significant Hispanic populations – Los Angeles, San Diego, Miami, McAllen-Brownsville, and San Antonio – the flavour was only here for a limited time, but M&M’s deserve credit for tailoring their products to specific sectors. A more recent example comes from their 2014 FIFA World Cup “Brazilian M&M’s. These candies came in the colours yellow, green, and blue!
Before we move on to talk of astronauts, let’s look at some other dreamy flavours.We have strawberry peanut butter, white cheesecake, pumpkin spice, hot cross buns, chili nut, birthday cake, carrot cake, lamington, gingerbread, mint crisp, and the latest addition from 2019: English Toffee…Bet you didn’t factor all of these flavours into your M&M’s history!
But why do astronauts love them so much? For starters, things taste different in outer space. Blood flows through astronaut bodies more slowly and it can feel as though they have head colds. As foods taste blander, the astronauts prefer stronger flavours that include spices and sugar. M&M’s are also compact and self-contained so there’s no chance of biting one in half and creating stray crumbs. And if one or two do go floating away, no problemo – because they’re brightly coloured, they’re easier to find!
According to Vickie Kloeris, the manager of NASA’s Space Food Systems Lab in Houston, they’re always getting flight requests for chocolates and M&M’s are so popular and fun that they’re actually a part of the standard International Space Station menu. To add, they’re also useful when demonstrating microgravity in educational videos for children!
While we could go on and on, we better stop our M&M’s history lesson there. Perhaps we’ll have another M&M’s post where we can discuss other flavours. We can even look at the stores, the countries they’re available in, and make your own M&M’s. The fun is never-ending!