“The milk chocolate melts in your mouth, not in your hand.”

It’s everyday knowledge that many of our modern comforts and accessories actually originated in military circles. Developed for troops and adapted for citizens, we have come to accept everything from dehydrated food products to Hummers as facts of civilian life. You can also add M&M’s to that list.

The son of the Mars Candy company founder got the idea for M&Ms while serving in the Spanish-American War. He noted that the English troops were given small chocolate pellets wrapped in a candy shell called Smarties (not to be confused with Smarties). Thanks to the shell, the chocolate didn’t muck up their hands, nor their weapons.

Forrester Mars brought the idea home after the war and named his version M&Ms, using the initials of he and his business partner, R. Bruce Murray. At first, M&Ms were only available to US Servicemen, due to WWII food rationing. The public would have to wait for the hostilities to end before they got their hands on the chocolate treats.

The candies were originally available in six colors – red, orange, yellow, green, brown, and violet (tan replace violet in 1949). A black “M” was first printed on the shell in 1950, but it was changed to white four years later, just as it still appears today.

That’s not all that happened in 1954 though. Mars introduced an equally popular follow up to the original candy, Peanut M&Ms. They also unveiled a friendly, bipedal candy mascot and a one of the best known candy tag lines of all time, “Melts in your mouth, not in your hand.” Both the slogan and the mascot are still used to sell M&Ms to this day.

Those things have stayed the same, but that’s not to say that the product line hasn’t grown over the years. Today, you can buy red and green M&Ms during Christmas, or pastels during Easter. A long list of alternatively-flavored M&Ms have also been introduced over the decades, including dark chocolate, coconut, candy corn, cinnamon, pumpkin spice, birthday cake and gingerbread M&Ms. There is an M&M candy for any mood or occasion.

Speaking of moods, there is one particular shade of M&M that maintains a rather sultry reputation. Just about every kid who attended high school in the 70s and 80s learned of the supposed aphrodisiacal qualities of green M&Ms. Wishful thinking? Perhaps, but the rumors didn’t go unnoticed by the company, who introduced a sassy green female counterpart to the original mascot. M&Ms also introduced bags of all-green M&Ms for Valentine’s Day. Probably just coincidence.

The brown M&Ms have a different reputation all together. Don’t get them anywhere near the rock band, Van Halen. In a well-publicized story from yesteryear, it was reported that the band had a clause in their backstage rider that required M&Ms to be present backstage, but all of the brown ones were to be removed. This was purportedly so that the band could tell at a glance whether their terms had been honored. David Lee Roth reportedly demolished a dressing room once upon discovering the offending color in a candy bowl.

It’s a handy little candy, one that has served its country’s heroes and its rock stars. And, though the original version has plenty of offspring now, those traditional M&Ms still serve our purposes well, just as they have for over six decades now.

If you have a particular fondness for M&Ms candy, we’d love to hear all of your thoughts on these little chocolate tablets of goodness in our comments section below.

2 Responses to “M&Ms”

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  1. Have always loved these…my fave candy of all time, will always enjoy them…have to pick some up right now!

  2. Ben Goozner says:

    Hey, does anybody here remember when they stopped making red M&M’s?

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