Colorful, delicious, and the passion of many chocoholics, the history of M&M's as a worldwide success started a long time ago. M&M's are produced by Mars, Inc., known more as Mars, which already has a long history of over a century.
The popularity of this chocolate is enormous. After all, its flavor is incredible, and the many variations that exist around the world (such as peanuts, mint, dark chocolate, peanut butter, and almond, among others) are equally impressive. However, have you ever stopped to think about the history of M&M's? The meaning of the "Ms" in the name of these chocolates?
Since the company is called Mars, you can probably assume that one "M" refers to that name. And that's true. But what does the other "M" represent? And who was Mars in this whole history of M&M's? Well, you'll find out all about it below.
The History Of M&M's: A Family Business
The history of M&M's starts with Franklin Clarence Mars, born in 1883 in Minnesota, USA. When he was very young, he contracted polio and had to drop out of school because he couldn't walk to school.
So, his mother started giving him classes in the kitchen at home while teaching him culinary tricks like dipping food in chocolate. This early experience led young Frank to sell molasses chips at 19.
Frank Mars married Ethel Kissack in 1902 in Minnesota while setting up his first wholesale candy business. They had a son, Forrest Mars, who was born in 1904.
Despite Frank's venture into the candy business, not so common at the time, the couple's financial situation was not good. When he ran out of money in 1910, Ethel wanted a divorce. Two went their separate ways, causing Frank to be separated from his son.
Business picked up, and in 1911 he began making and selling a caramel butter that he made in his kitchen.
He then married for a second time in 1911 to a woman also named Ethel and moved to Tacoma. Frank and his new wife started a new business: the production of nougat (a sweet made from sugar, honey, and egg whites) in a company dubbed The Mars Candy Factory.
However, he was unsuccessful and left that city in 1920, returning to Minnesota. He continued his candy production with the company changing its name to Mar-O-Bar Company — the name of the chocolates he created.
Even before starting the history of M&M's, Mars became a recognizable brand. In 1923, the company released Milky Way, a massive success in its first year, grossing over $800,000 in sales. By then, they were the second-largest candy maker in the United States, after Hershey.
In 1929 Frank C. Mars moved and opened a production plant in Chicago. This location had direct access to the railway. It sounds very simple, but he got the financing after linking up with nearly 200 associates!
Forrest Appears In The History Of M&M's
During this time, in 1929, Frank's son Forrest came back into his life and started working with him. The two then resumed the Mars name for the company, adding Incorporated (Inc.).
A year later, in 1930, the first family hit arrived: a chocolate-covered peanut candy bar. They marketed it under the name Snickers.
After the launch of Snickers bar in 1930 and 3 Musketeers in 1932, the company needed much more chocolate for production. They ended up buying raw material from Hershey (called The Hershey Company at the time before becoming Hershey's as we know it now), a partnership that lasted until 1965.
Until then, Frank was quite satisfied with the success of his company. But not Forrest. He wanted to expand the business to other countries and was excited to get new releases, which would, of course, lead him to a millionaire empire.
Forrest knew that if he always depended on buying chocolate from another company, it would be impossible to achieve his goal.
However, still in 1932, this ambition led Forrest to have major arguments with his father. Frank gave in to his son's pressure and gave him the international rights to manufacture the Milky Way and 50 thousand dollars.
With that, Forrest left for Europe with his wife and children, never to see his father again. Frank Mars died of kidney failure 15 months later.
The History Of M&M's Expanding: The Enterprise In Europe
Forrest could not immediately go into the chocolate business when he arrived in Europe. Then he saw that life was not as sweet as he had imagined. Meanwhile, he started a company that had nothing to do with sweets, selling shoe racks. But after just a few months, he was finally back to producing candy.
He claimed, during this time, to have "studied" under the tutelage of the master Jean Tobler, inventor of Toblerone and Henri Nestlé, which needs no introduction. But in reality, he was hired as a factory worker at both companies and tapped into his bosses' secrets.
In 1933, Forrest moved to England and began making a version of the Milky Way more suited to British tastes. He invested everything in his venture, leaving his son and wife unable to bear the situation. So his family returned to the United States, but he stayed.
Forrest Takes Over The History Of M&M's
In 1934, his father, Frank Mars, died, and Forrest took over the reins of a business he ran from England. There, he diversified the business by entering several companies, including a canned dog food factory. In his eagerness to increase the product catalog – Forrest devised an exclusive product for women.
He kept in mind everything his grandmother had taught his father and applied the same recipe to create the Maltesers brand, balls of whipped milk covered in chocolate.
Mars used this brand to innovate as much as it could. Forrest invested a lot in the packaging. He marketed the Maltesers in plastic bags, boxes, cardboard tubes, and plastic buckets. But as if that were not enough, he put all the meat on the grill when it comes to advertising and marketing.
Maltesers' target audience was women, and it launched very aggressive and misleading advertising campaigns. Yes, misleading, because they sold it as a weight loss product.
The advertisements said that they were "energy balls" whose interior was seven times less fattening than regular chocolate. They claimed that it was ideal for losing weight. Some of these commercial claims were: "A chocolate that is not ordinary" or "The chocolate with the center that is the least fattening."
Unfortunately, then was a pivotal moment for the history of M&M's: the Spanish Civil War.
According to Andrew Smith in his book The Oxford Companion to American Food and Drink, during the war, Forrest Mars traveled to Spain and saw how the soldiers of the front covered chocolate with sugar before eating it. Coating it this way prevented it from melting in the hands due to the high temperatures.
Return To The United States
During that time, Forrest made his products with chocolate supplied by Cadbury, and eventually, his business began to grow. By 1939, Mars was Britain's third-largest candy maker.
However, when World War II broke out, the British government began levying taxes on foreign business owners. With that, Forrest chose to leave the country rather than pay the very high taxes, leaving Colin Pratt, his senior British businessman, in charge of the business.
But, he did not return to the United States empty-handed. Mars knew that chocolate didn't sell very well in the summer months, as it melted in the heat. He then had an idea: chocolate that wouldn't melt in your hands. He wanted to do this one on American soil.
This was when the true history of M&M's began.
Now, this is where the story gets mysterious. There was already a candy made in Britain, similar to what M&Ms became. They were produced by Rowntree and were called Smarties. That's right: these were small round pieces of chocolate coated in colored sugar shells.
Did Forrest know about Rowntree's product? Sure! Some claim that he and George Harris, Rowntree's boss, were good friends.
In addition, Forrest is said to have already traveled to Toronto, where Rowntree was planning his new factory in Canada, to give management advice and discuss partnerships for some sweets.
In the end, the partnerships didn't happen. Regardless, many maintain that the inspiration for the M&Ms was indeed the Smarties. Some sources say that the history of M&M's dates back to the 1930s.
When Hershey Entered The History Of M&M's (Again)
The history of M&M's is closely tied to Hershey. Still, with his idea of chocolate that "melts in your mouth, not in your hands," Forrest backtracked and asked Hershey for help.
He went to the office of William Murrie, who had taken over the company's operations after Milton Hershey, and told him his plans.
Some sources claim he brought Murrie a sample of the Smarties, but Mars has always denied any connection with it. William Murrie agreed but passed responsibility for the partnership to his son Bruce Murrie.
Thus came the history of M&M's name. The first "M" stands for Mars and the second "M" stands for Murrie.
Thus, the new company began operating in 1940 under that name. Hershey contributed chocolate, 20% equity, and equipment manufacturing, as well as engineers to get the factory ready.
After the factory began operating, Forrest paid no attention to Murrie, ignoring all his ideas, until, in 1949, Mars bought out his partner for a million dollars. M&Ms were already a tremendous success by then, with $3 million in annual sales.
And the rest of the history of M&M's you already know: a variety of this colorful and delicious chocolate sold worldwide.
The History Of M&M's: Tasty Snack Full Of Colors
The history of M&M's starts with them being initially produced in six colors: red, orange, yellow, green, brown, and blue. There are currently more than 15, and they can even be customized with the texts and images you want.
Over the next few years, many imitation M&M brands sprung up. To ensure that consumers received genuine M&M's, beginning in 1950, they began printing an "M" on each of their M&M's. The company's open crusade against copies of its product-led them to launch a campaign with the slogan, "Look for the M in each candy."
1954 was the year in the history of M&M's in which mascots were born.
Originally there were only two, but over time they became 6, like the original colors. There is something unknown, and that is that each one has a different name and personality. For example…
Red: It is the leader of the group, a smartass who represents the original M&M's.
Yellow: It is the goofiest and represents the M&M's filled with peanuts.
Green: It is the presumed one and represents the finest varieties.
Blue: It is the flirt and represents the almond-filled M&M's.
Orange: He is the scared one and represents the pretzel-filled M&M's.
Miss Brown: It is the latest addition and was featured in the 2012 Super Bowl.
The History Of M&M's: The First Space Candy
Back to business… over time, neither Forrest nor his company abandoned the idea of diversifying the business with products outside the world of chocolate. That is why in 1958, they launched Whiskas, the famous brand of cat food.
But it doesn't end there. In 1995 they created the Pedigree brand to sell food for dogs, and in 2001 they bought the almighty Royal Canin, which was the competition of both brands.
The growth of Mars as an international company led them to invent, in 1973, the first machine that served beverages directly in the cup.
The milestone that made the most noise in the history of M&M's came at the beginning of the 80s. This was when M&M's became the first candy consumed in space. The first International Space Shuttle astronauts chose these candy bars to include in their food supply.
The '80s were a busy time in every way. At that time, the first voices critical of foods with excess fat and sugar were beginning to be heard, and – as we saw with the McDonald's brand – the color red began to be associated with this type of food.
That is why for the first time in the history of M&M's, they eliminated the red chocolates. This lasted for a few years. They spent a lot of money associating their products with healthy eating habits. That is why they began to sponsor sporting events such as the Olympic Games, and Snickers was the "official aperitif" of the 1990 Italy World Cup.
Before concluding, we must point out that this "fight" to show the goodness of their chocolate bars continues today.
In 2009, Mars became the first confectionery company to put nutritional labeling on the main face of its packaging. And more recently, it has taken steps to stop using palm oil.
The history of M&M's is such a heart-warming sweet story. No doubt why the tagline of M&M's for many years has been, "It melts in your mouth, not in your hands."