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M&M's Candy's Colorful History

Lars HindsleyBy Lars Hindsley Wed 20 Mar 2013 12:06 PM EST | 8102 Views
It’s Just a Candy!  With History…
(DL) – What is it with M&M’s and the way we associate them with everything from health to sex drive? They are after all just a color coated chocolate candy – a candy with a colorful heritage.

The M&M began its dubious existence in 1940 taking its name from the parent company Mars.  The owners names were Forrest Mars and Bruce Murrie.

It was Forrest who created the recipe for the candy. The hard shell candy that melts in your mouth not in your hand was created after Forrest witnessed Spanish infantrymen snacking on chocolate covered pellets coated in a hard shell (sugar) as to keep melted chocolate from sticking to their fingers.  After all this was time without air-conditioning. Storing chocolate and keeping it from melting was a task. Soon American GI’s were issued the candy. 

So how is it that so many myths and practical uses of M&M’s exist now?  Let’s start with health and work our way to the myths.

The Blue M&M That Heals
In  2009 CNN reported that blue M&M's are responsible for helping with spinal cord injuries. This is no joke. Apparently researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center conducted a study where they injected the color compound for the blue M&M into rats with spinal cord injuries.

Where do they get the rats with spinal cord injuries? Do the lab techs break the rat’s backs or do they wait for a rat to take a terrible fall which would otherwise leave the rat bedridden for life?

Next, I had to have the answer to who was the genius that said, "Hey! I got an idea!  Let's see if the colors of M&M's can be used as medicinal cure!" While you wait for the answer, rest assured the result of injecting the rats with the 'brilliant blue' compound (that's what it is really named), enabled them to walk again immediately after injury yet with a limp.

OK... next question.  How did they ascertain the rat was mildly injured or severely injured? The truth is it’s not that the turned to the blue in the blue M&M thinking that would make the difference in rats health.  What’s going on here is back in 2004 researches learned that a molecule in BBG (Brilliant Blue G) called P2X7 allows an energy source called a nucleotide ATP (adenosine triphosphate) to attach itself to motor neurons thus blocking chemicals that kill them. It’s not all good, the side effect is like similar to the outcome of taking steroids. The metabolic stress over-stimulates healthy motor neurons causing them to die. It’s a science still in the works. Besides, the treatment temporarily turns you blue. No kidding.

You can also find BBG in blue Gatorade. So if you read carefully you learned real story is the P2X7, but doesn’t Blue M&M’s make for a better read? What’s cute is this story began in 2004 but has life now because the BBG exists in M&M’s.
The Red M&M That Kills?
If you are old enough, and you don’t need to be that old you know that Mars stopped making the Red M&M for a few years.  It happened back in 1976 when the red dye used in the color coating on red M&M’s was thought to be a cancer causing agent.  The level of hysteria in our country caused Mars to stop producing red M&M’s even though the red dye (red dye #2) wasn’t even used in their candy coating. Mars used red dye # 3 and  red dye # 40.

During that time the public began to ask where’s the Red M&M’s?  By 1985  and after an 11 year absence a student from the University of Tennessee by the name of Paul Hethmon began a campaign to restore the red M&M while working for his school paper.  Paul created a grass roots campaign and The Society for the Restoration and Preservation of the Red M&M. Yep, only in America folks. 

The Green M&M Makes You Horney
There is no other word for it. Ask anyone what it does and the word used is horney. Now for the myth of the Green M&M which is that they make people horny or should it be said green M&M's act as an aphrodisiac? Green M&M’s have reached mythical status. Why? No one really knows where this urban legend started, but even Mars the makers of M&M’s rides the marketing story.  In 1997 Mars Candy introduced the female M&M to their line up in commercials.  In turn some speculate the reason they allegedly make you horny is due to the green M&M is the only female among the male M&M’s. 
Green M&M's
There is an actual story behind the green M&M. In 1992 Wendy Jaffe, developed a green M&M look-a-like candy. She sold her brand the ‘Green Ones’ under the name Cool Chocolates. If you don’t know Mars, they are a secretive and litigious company. Mars went after Wendy of course.  Fortunately Wendy is also an attorney. She settled with Mars change the name of her candy. She has a better more apropos name for them; Greenies. Perhaps the dog treat company that sold “Greenies” went after her next as you can’t no longer find Greenies sold, (unless you want a dog treat).  Wendy is back to lawyering.

The Disdain over the Brown M&M
Who doesn’t hate the brown M&M? They are so plain! But they are the yin to the color counterparts yang.  You need them in each pack to give the colors contrast and excitement – or do you?  If you are old enough you will recall the story in 1982 of Van Halen’s concert rider.  A rider is a document performer’s supply to their concert producers outlining their needs for each event.   Van Halen’s rider is now legendary among performers and inspired many outrageous requirements from subsequent followers. What made that rider so outrageous? Van Halen insisted that among their snacks M&M’s be supplied – with all brown M&M's removed. Some thought think  this is  an urban legend.  It’s not, see copy of actual rider below: 
Did you know?
Did you know that M&M’s originally came in a tube? They were plain without an “M” and only came in one color. Quick… before looking at an M&M candy, do they have two M&M’s stamped on the shell or one?   Prior to 1980 M&M’s were known in Europe under the Mars brand name Treets.  They were not sold under the name M&M in countries like Australia France, Japan, England or even Canada until 1980. M&M’s did make it to the moon just two years later in 1982 and have been a shuttle staple ever since.

Did you know that a 50’ M&M statue sits in New York harbor? Did you know that co-founder of Mars Bruce Murry was the son of Milton S. Hershey’s partner William Murray?

Did you know that teachers through the U.S. issue class assignments to report on the distribution of how the colors of M&M’s are in each bag?  Now if you purchase a bag of M&M's, Mars insists that the ratios are: Blue: 24% Orange: 20% Green: 16% Yellow: 14% Brown: 14% Red: 13% but guess what, Mars’s doesn’t mean that those percentages apply to each bag. No, they mean that’s the percentage of colors based on what they produce. What ends up in a bag is random off the production line. Your 1.69 oz bag of M&M’s could have all brown, or all blue or blue and red, or greens, orange and brown – you get in your bag what just so happens to fall into the bag in whatever color combination occurs as they funnel into the package.

We tested this assertion and our results did not agree with Mar’s claim. Here are the results of three samples randomly purchased at the same location. We found that no bag had the exact same amount so we used the middle figure of 56 as our benchmark since M&M’s doesn’t give an exact number of how many are in a bag. 










24% (13)

20% (11)

16% (9)

14% (8)

14% (8)

13% (7)

Estimate 56

Package 1

11% (6)

16% (9 )

24% (14)

12% (7)

12% (7)

24% (14)

Actual 57

Package 2

17% (10)

9 (16%)

17% (10)

7% (4)

19% (11)

23% (13)

Actual  56

Package 3

20% (11)

25% (14)

20% (11)

16% (9)

5% (3)

13% (7)

Actual  55

Now our analysis is basic, if you want a detailed, perhaps even over-the-top analysis, check out Josh Madison’s effort: complete with pie charts, graphs and breakdowns of various type sized packages.  It’s nuts; or should I say it’s M&M’s. 

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