History of M&M's sweets

Written by kim kenney
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History of M&M's sweets
M&M;'s were originally manufactured as a treat for US servicemen. (Image by Evan Amos; Wikimedia Commons.)

Since their introduction in the US in 1941 and in the UK in the 1980s, M&M's have become a popular sweet for everyone to enjoy. The name is an abbreviation for their creators -- Forrest Mars and Bruce Murrie. For decades, consumers could only choose between chocolate and peanut M&M's, but sine the 1990s, Mars has introduced a variety of speciality flavours. In 1998, M&M's became the "official candy of the Millennium," because MM means "2000" in Roman numerals.

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The Mars Company began producing M&M's chocolate during World War II for the troops. They originally came in small, cylindrical tubes (like Smarties in the UK). The bag design, in a deep chocolate brown, was introduced in 1948 and remains the same today. The first M&M's were not stamped with an "M" until 1950. At that time, the M was stamped in black.


Mars introduced the Peanut M&M in 1954, which was a significant year in the sweet's history. The famous slogan "melts in your mouth, not in your hands" was introduced, and Mars unveiled the popular animated M&M's characters in television adverts.


In 1960, M&M's were available in yellow, green and red. Orange was added in 1976. Mars created a marketing campaign to add a new colour in 1995 where people could vote on their favourite shade. Blue was the winner. Another "election" in 2002 added purple to the mix. In 1996, custom M&M's colours were introduced. Today, every shade of the rainbow is available to commemorate anything from weddings to births to graduations. Special messages can also be printed on the M&M's. Seasonal colour mixes are available in red and green for Christmas and pastels for Easter.


Mars began marketing M&M's in a number of foreign countries in 1980, including the UK, Japan, Hong Kong, France and Germany. In 1982, astronauts took them into space for the first time.

Speciality items

Until the debut of M&M's Minis in 1996, the sweet only came in one size. The minis were packaged in small tubes, reminiscent of the original packaging. Three years later, Mars brought out Crispy M&M's, the first new flavour since peanut M&M's were introduced 45 years earlier. Other flavours today include almond, dark chocolate and peanut butter. A line of M&M's Premiums, introduced in 2009, features gourmet flavours like raspberry almond, mint chocolate and mocha.

M&M's characters

The M&M's animated characters have taken on a life of their own. Mars introduced Green in 1997 as the first female animated character. Orange, the paranoid crispy M&M, joined the gang in 1999. Red and Yellow continue to be the most popular characters, and appear in many TV ads together, including a holiday classic where the pair encounters Santa. Today, an online game allows visitors to create their own M&M's characters using different eyes, hairstyles and accessories.

M&M's and sponsorship

M&M's became a sponsor of NASCAR (the US equivalent of F1) in 1990, but the characters did not appear on a car until 1999. They quickly became a fan favourite, so M&M's became a primary NASCAR sponsor. Famous drivers of the M&M's car have included Ken Schrader, Elliot Sadler and Kyle Busch.

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