A company that is mostly known for its confectionery products is a family owned business that prides itself on its high-quality products and inventions. With almost $35 billion in sales, it was founded by the Mars family and controls a quarter of the U.S. candy market. Forrest Mars Sr., son of Franklin Mars, was known for his risk-taking innovation, the most famous one being M&M’s. After a trip to Spain, where he witnessed civil war soldiers eating sugar coated chocolate pellets (smarties), he adopted the idea for himself and brought it back to the United States.
The idea behind it was that a hard shell would prevent the chocolate from melting, which is an obstacle that typically kept most chocolates from southern climates. Forrest Mars Sr. accurately predicted that there would be a chocolate shortage in World War II, and saw an opportunity to capitalize on it with his new product.
He invited Bruce Murrie, who was the son of Hershey’s president to join his new business which ensured him a continuous supply of cocoa throughout World War II.
In 1941, they set up shop in Newark. NJ and under the name M&M, which stood for Mars & Murrie, began manufacturing the candy-coated drops. The candy was an instant success and was sold exclusively to soldiers who praised the fact that they could carry chocolate in tropical climates without it melting. The good reviews were a tremendous boost to the companies’ popularity. After the war ended in 1945, Mars bought out Murrie for $1 million and continued as the sole founder.
While there are many rumors about the reason for his departure, the most common one is that he disliked working with Mars, who was known for his temper tantrums and wanted to move on pursue other projects.
In 1945, M&M’s became available to the public and in 1948, they went from the brown cylinder tube packaging to the brown paper bag packaging that we all know today. In 1950, the famous M appeared on the candies. 1954 was a big year for M&M’s brand, as this year brought the introduction of the famous peanut M&M’s, the birth of the famous “melts in your mouth, not in your hands” tagline that is still in effect today, and the television debut of world famous M&M’s characters. (4) The M&M’s characters are very likable and using them in advertisements really helped promote and formulate the brand’s image. Ads would play on commercials, during the super bowl, in box offices and even globally, once the company grew. Mr. Plain and Mr. Peanut were known as the two original spokesmen of and would run during Micky Mouse Club and the Howdy Doody show. Sales were booming and by 1956, they topped $40 million, ranking them as the most popular candy in America. (3)
In 1976, there was an issue where the FDA banned red dye #2 from being used in edible foods after an alarming study correlated it to cancer. Despite the fact that M&M’s actually used red dye #40 in their famous red M&M, they decided it would be safer to remove the M&M so that they would not alarm the public, which is a good adaptation to suit the alarmed general environment. The ’80s were a big decade for M&M’s, beginning with their international introduction to Australia, Europe, Canada, Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia, and the UK. In 1982, they made history by being launched into orbit with the Columbia space shuttle, earning its name as the first candy in space, and are now on display at the space food exhibit of the National Air & Space Museum in Washington, DC.
They have been a part of astronauts food rations since. Only two years later, M&M’s candies were announced, alongside Snickers, as the “Official Snack Foods of the Olympic Games”. In 1985, a UT freshman going by the name of Paul Hethmon had too much time on his hands and decided to start the ‘Society for the Restoration and Preservation of Red M&M’s’. The red scare had been mostly forgotten about; however, Hethmon and a few of his friends were determined to bring back the red M&M and sent several letters to the Mars president, who was Ronald Reagan at the time, and the FDA demanding for its return.
The demonstration was responded to with humor on behalf of the M&M companies public relations chair and by Christmas of 1986, red M&Ms were back, making up 20% of the colors in each bag, and bringing with them an onslaught of advertisements and hype surrounding the brand. This increased peoples fondness of the brand and was a great strategy to promote their brand’s name during the Christmas season. M&M’s growth did not stop there, in 1990, they signed on to be official sponsors of NASCAR, backing famous drivers such as Kyle Busch, Elliot Sandler, and Ken Shrader. This was a great promotion strategy due to the fact that Nascar fans are three times as likely to purchase sponsors’ products (7). The M&M characters started appearing on licensees cars in 1990 and NACAR affiliated merchandise. (targetted towards women)/ (go on to talk about M&M World)