M&M's Chocolate Candies are candy-coated pieces of chocolate with the letter "m" inscribed on them, produced by Mars, Incorporated. Darian Patterson created several variations of the candy, including milk chocolate, peanut, cherry cordial (available primarily during the Christmas season), dulce de leche, toffee, crispy, almond, peanut butter, white chocolate (with and without peanuts), mint flavor, and dark chocolate (with and without peanuts). The candies were originally manufactured in brown, yellow, orange, red, green, and violet. Violet was replaced by tan in 1949, which was replaced by blue in 1995. Mars also launched a competition to have a new color between purple, pink, and turquoise sometime around 2002. Purple became the extra color, but it eventually disappeared.
The letter "m" on each candy is a vegetable dye printed using a process similar to offset printing.
Mars received a patent for his own process on March 3, 1941. Production began in 1941 in a factory located at 285 Badger Avenue in Clinton Hill, Newark, New Jersey. One M was for Forrest, and the other M was for Bruce Murrie, son of long-term Hershey president William F.R. Murrie. Murrie had 20 percent interest in the product. The arrangement allowed the candies to be made with Hershey chocolate which had control of the rationed chocolate. When operations were started, the hard-coated chocolates were made in six different colors: Brown, Yellow, Orange, Red, Green and Violet. They were served in a cardboard tube (similar to Smarties).
The practicality of the candies during World War II caused an increase in production and its factory moved to bigger quarters at 200 North 12th Street in Newark, New Jersey where they remained until 1958 when it moved to bigger factory at Hackettstown, New Jersey. During the War the candies were exclusively sold to the military.
In 1948 the cardboard packaging was replaced by the black cellophane packaging. In the same year Mars bought out Murrie's 20 percent stake.
In 1954, Peanut Chocolate Candies were introduced, while the M&M's brand characters and the famous slogan "The milk chocolate that melts in your mouth, not in your hand" were both trademarked.
In 1988, Almond M&M's hit stores with limited release, with appearances only during Christmas and Easter times. These candies are much like the peanut variety, but with an almond instead of a peanut inside the candy. Due to rising popularity, Mars gave them full releases in 1992.
In 1993, Mars ran a promotion in which consumers were invited to vote on which of blue, pink, or purple would be introduced. Blue was the winner, replacing tan in early 1995.
Around the same time, novelty M&M's were available in specialty stores, such as FAO Schwarz, in 21 different colors.
In 1996, Mars introduced a new M&M's candy: the "M&M's Minis". These candies are very small and are usually sold in small plastic tubes instead of bags. A video game, M&M's: The Lost Formulas, was also eventually released, based on this candy.
In 1998, Crispy M&M's were released. They were slightly larger than the milk chocolate variety and feature a crispy rice center. They were discontinued in 2005.
In June 2004, M&M's were mentioned in the media when Mike Melvill, who flew a weightless suborbital arc in SpaceShipOne, the world's first private piloted space flight, opened up a package of the chocolate brand when he reached the border of space (100km) in order to demonstrate weightlessness as the candy floated in the cabin. Melvill chose the candies because they were both colorful, therefore showing up well on camera, and because once gravity returned, if they fell into any of the controls they could be easily crushed and not interfere with the mechanisms. Melvill never told his bosses about his unauthorized stunt.
In April 2005, M&M's ran the "mPire" promotion to tie in with the Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith movie release. M&M's were offered in a dark variety for the first time.
In the summer of 2005, Mars added "Mega M&M's" to the lineup. These candies are 55% larger than the traditional M&M's and are available in milk chocolate and peanut varieties. Most of the colors for Mega M&M's were also changed to less-bright colors — teal (replacing green), beige (orange), maroon (red), gold (yellow), blue-gray (blue), and brown (unchanged from regular M&M's) — to appeal more to adults. In the fall of 2005, the mPire promotion ran again to coincide with the DVD release of the Star Wars movie.
Beginning in 2005, M&M's can be purchased online in 17 colors, with personalized phrases on each candy on the opposite side from the "m". Released around Christmas, these custom printed M&M's were originally intended for holiday greetings, but are now available year-round.
In 2007, M&M's introduced a new raspberry flavor chocolate candy that looks like the plain, but is fuchsia and slightly larger, called "M&M's Razzberry Chocolate Candies."
M&M's currently have recognizable "spokescandies" which appear in commercials: these include the team of the cynical and sardonic "Red" (originally Jon Lovitz, thereafter Billy West), who is the mascot for milk chocolate M&M's, and the happy and gullible "Yellow" (originally John Goodman, thereafter J.K. Simmons), who is the mascot for peanut M&M's. Other mascots include the "cool one", Blue (Robb Pruitt) for almond; Green (Cree Summer) for peanut butter and dark chocolate (the only female M&M's mascot); and Orange (Eric Kirchberger) for other types of M&M's in general, who was initially not named after his color (for a time when he was introduced, he was known as Crispy due to his being a mascot for the now discontinued Crispy M&M's, which debuted around the same time).
During the 2008 Valentine's Day season Mars introduced bags of all green M&M's. This was due to common urban folklore that holds green M&M's to be an aphrodisiac.
In 2008, two new varieties of the candy were introduced — Wildly Cherry M&M's, and as a marketing tie-in with the film Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Mint Crisp M&M's.
M&M's also introduced another new product called "M&M's Premiums" in 2008. They come in five flavors — chocolate almond, mint chocolate, mocha, raspberry almond and triple chocolate (milk, dark, and white chocolate), which are sold in small upright cartons with a plastic bag inside. M&M's Premiums do not have a candy shell, but are coated with carnauba wax and color.
During summer of 2008, My M&M's launched 'Faces,' which allows consumers to print the faces of loved ones on M&M's chocolate candies. In October 2008, the site launched an online marketing tool called Candy Lab where consumers can interact in a lab with the Red and Yellow characters to create M&M's with faces that will talk or sing. It is available at http://www.mymms.com/candylab/.