So when you were a kid, you have probably had one of those delicious candied shelled chocolate delights known as M&M’s. But where did these candies come from and how many flavors are there?
M&M candy is created by the Mars Corporation, which was originally founded by Forrest Mars. The company was originally founded as M&M Limited. One of the two “M’s” was for Forrest Mars Sr., the company founder. The other “M” was for Bruce Murrie, the son of William Murrie who owned a little known Chocolate company, that we know as the Hershey Corporation, who put up some of the capital for the projected new candy-making operation. This arrangement allowed for the candy to be filled with Hershey Chocolate.
Forrest Mars Sr., having been raised in the shadow of a world of candy-making, had gotten the idea for M&M’s in a visit to Spain during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939). He’d encountered soldiers eating pellets of chocolate encased in a hard sugary coating which prevented them from melting.
In 1941 Mars patented the very first M&M’s candies. Shortly after the company began production as “M&M’s Ltd Newark NJ” the tiny chocolates became a favorite of American GIs serving in world War II. Packaged in cardboard tubes, they were quickly adapted by the military who included them in American soldiers’ C-rations because they withstood extreme temperatures. In the hot tropics, these candies were especially practical.
In the war years, the company’s advertising was largely on billboards, which reflected the wartime theme in these two versions accompanied by this overprint: “Now Entirely at War”
The Milk Chocolate M&M’s are the oldest form of these shelled candies. The Milk Chocolate M&M first came out in 1941, and sponsored a black “M.” The hard coated candies originally came out in five colors: yellow, red, green, brown, and violet. Instead of the wrapper you see today the candy came out in a cardboard tube similar to the Smarties tube (see Picture). The compact tube allowed for easy production and distribution to our troops during World War 2. The white “M” replaced the black “M” in 1950.
Wouldn’t it be nice to take these tubes back into production again? So you can have your M&M’s shown to the public on Re-enactment events and give yourself a treat…
M&M Landmarks and Innovations
1941 – M&M begins production in Newark and first M&M’s go on sale. They are described as “Plain Chocolate Candies.”
1942 – America enters World War II and Armed Forces incorporates M&M’s into soldiers’ C-Rations.2 They are also sold in Post Exchanges and Ships Service Stores.
Company, known as “M&M Ltd Newark NJ” incorporates statement in advertising: “Now 100% at War.”
1946 – World War II over, M&M’s become available to general public again.
1947 – Quarter-pound package of M&M’s advertised for sale at 15 cents.
1948 – Original cardboard tube packaging is changed to the clear see-through cellophane packaging still in use today.