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.
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.
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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