The Simple Way M&M's Got Its Name

Ah, M&M's: the tiny hard-shelled chocolate morsels known for their colorful appearance, beloved animated characters, and domination of candy aisles everywhere. Owned by Mars, Incorporated, these chocolates have made historical strides within their 80 years of production, becoming a modern classic and staple within the candy industry. 

Since their initial plain milk chocolate debut in the 1940s, M&M's have expanded greatly in style and flavor. What started with the peanut has grown into various flavor combinations, such as "Chili Nut" and "Caramel Cold Brew." In 2000, while still branding its classic "m" logo, M&M's was known as the "official candy of the new millennium." It has since proved this statement, with Mars, Inc. becoming the top global candy producer in 2021, according to Statista

But despite their unassuming nature and generic design, the world would be much different without the candy-coated chocolates. Trail mix would just be a bland blend of salty peanuts and raisins, Super Bowl commercials would be lackluster, and M&M's Fruit Chews, later developed into Starburst, wouldn't exist. Like the hidden pretzel, fudge brownie mix, or hardened caramel tucked away in each piece, there's more to these chocolates than meets the eye.  

The duo who started it all

M&M's stands for Mars & Murrie, the creators of the chocolate candies. According to The New York Times, the idea to create the colorful hard-shelled delights came about when Forrest Mars saw Spanish Civil War soldiers feasting on tiny chocolates blanketed in a sugar encasing. The most intriguing part? They wouldn't dissolve in the heat. Mars felt that this was the perfect solution to the age-old issue of melted summertime candy and had the potential to become an international success. He just needed a bit of manufacturing help, and who better to ask than William F. R. Murrie, the then-president of Hershey's chocolate? 

The duo's first production of M&M's Plain Chocolate Candies appeared in 1941, and thus began the epic journey of M&M's: the candy that "melts in your mouth, not in your hands." By the 1950s, M&M's was so popular it had to rebrand and stamp each chocolate with a large black "m" on the front to stand out from competing brands. This transitioned to the trademark white "m" in 1954.

Today, the Mars, Inc. empire rests at a reported net worth of $94 billion, according to Business Insider. It's also one of the world's largest candy manufacturers, producing approximately 400-600 million M&M's daily in the United States, according to NJ Spotlight. Though the M&M's origin is as simple as its design, Mars and Murrie have created a lasting dynasty that will continue to dominate the candy industry for years to come.

The mascots that saved M&M's

M&M's anthropomorphic characters have made the candy into what it is today. Red, known for his sarcastic personality, began appearing in early M&M's commercials in 1954 alongside Yellow, his peanut-filled and kind best friend. With the international release of M&M's in the 1980s, the brand skyrocketed — literally. In 1981, M&M's were the first chocolate candies launched into outer space while aboard the Columbia, per

But as the years passed, M&M's wild success began to decline. In 1995, per Business Insider, M&M's paired with ad agency BBDO to revitalize and revamp the brand, bringing it back from its place of dormancy on the grocery shelves. With the addition of "cool" Blue, a color chosen by popular consumer vote for the new year, BBDO created the famous CGI "spokescandies" fans know today (per Muse by Clio).

One of the most well-known characters is Green. She and her fashionable go-go boots made their official debut in 1997. According to Snopes, Green's sultry features and traits were inspired by a decades-long rumor that green M&M's were aphrodisiacs — the color historically symbolizing health and fertility. She soon began appearing on merchandise and commercials and even modeled on the back cover of "Sports Illustrated" between 2009 and 2014. The newest addition to the M&M's character lineup is Purple, who was released in October.