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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

My obsession with the M&M

It seems very hard to believe, but Halloween is less than two weeks away. It won't be long now before we start lighting our jack-o-lanterns with glowing candles and seeing groups of children decked out in costumes going door-to-door for candy, chocolate, potato chips, and other delicious treats.

I do enjoy Halloween as an adult, but for some reason, it just always seemed much more fun as a child. Of course, part of that could have been that my favourite part of Halloween as a kid was the actual trick-or-treating part.

I was the type of kid who had a major sweet tooth. In some ways, that sweet tooth still exists, although I'm trying to cut back on sweets for health purposes. Key word trying.

As a result of this sweet tooth, I was the kid who would leave the house trick-or-treating as early as possible (usually after dinner ended, which was around 5:15pm), and stay out as late as possible (which was usually around 9:00pm). While most kids used those plastic pumpkin baskets and foil bags to collect their candy treasures, I would steal a pillowcase from my bed, and collect all the candy inside of it. I was pretty much set for candy until Easter Sunday!

Out of all the candy that I would get from various houses on my trick-or-treat routes, I definitely had my preferences. And considering that I had two older sisters who were too old to go trick-or-treating at the time I went out, I would have to make sure that those favourite candies got gobbled up by me before they got their hands on it.

(Yeah, whenever I was out of the house, they raided my candy stash. Had the situation been reversed, I probably would have done the same.)

I definitely had my favourite Halloween treats. Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, Hershey Chocolate Bars, Cheetos, and Chiclets Fruit Flavoured Gum were some of my favourites. Sun-Maid Raisins, Glossette Peanuts, Eat More Chocolate Bars, and those nasty fake peanut butter like Halloween kisses...yeah, those immediately went to the reject pile.

Then there is the subject of today's blog post. A chocolate candy that supposedly melted in your mouth and not in your hand, and came painted in a variety of bright colours. A candy that comes in all sorts of varieties and flavours.

One that I have a little bit of an obsession with.

As far back as I can remember, I have always loved the chocolate candy known as the M&M. M&M's are one of my favourite comfort foods of all time, and I know it sounds crazy, but every time I have M&M's, it immediately perks me up. If I was ever having a bad day, I knew that if I had a package of M&M's nearby, it would make me happy, albeit temporarily.

Consider it candy-coated chocolate Prozac.

Back when I was younger though, they were just a tasty treat that I indulged in. Mind you, growing up in Canada, we also had Smarties, which were the Canadian version of the classic M&M candy, but for some reason, I just preferred M&M's more.

Back in those days, there were only two kinds of M&M's. There were the peanut M&M's, which had a peanut in the middle of the candy, but I liked the plain M&M's much better. And whenever I found that signature dark brown package of plain M&M's inside my stash of Halloween candy, I was in heaven.

Of course, my love for M&M's has developed into a little bit of a mini-obsession. Over the years, I seem to have accumulated a small collection of M&M related memorabilia. These items include an M&M beach towel, a stuffed green M&M toy, a lime green M&M candy dish, and a couple of these M&M watches listed below.

I currently own both the blue and red watches, but neither one have the original wristband on them. They fell apart after wearing them so much. I kind of want the yellow one next though.

It seems hard to believe, but this year, M&M's celebrates its 70th anniversary. Created in 1941 by Forrest Mars Sr. and Bruce Murrie of Hershey's (the name came from the initials of the last names of the founders), the candies have undergone a number of changes over the years, and what started off as a candy with just one flavour has evolved into at least a dozen.

Here's a few facts and figures about the creation of the M&M, as well as some trivia about the various flavours and reasons behind colour changes.

#1 – The idea for the M&M was born in the 1930s after Forrest Mars Sr. saw soldiers who fought in the Spanish Civil War eating chocolate pellets with a hard shell of tempered chocolate on the outside, which prevented the candy from melting. This became the prototype for what would become the modern M&M.

#2 – The patent for the M&M process was granted on March 3, 1941.

#3 – Instead of the plastic bags that M&M's are now packaged in, the M&M's were packaged in cardboard tubes.

#4 – The five original colours of M&M's that were introduced when the candy debuted in 1941 were brown, green, red, violet, and yellow. Of these five original colours, brown, yellow, and green are the only ones to have been present during the company's entire seventy year history.

#5 – The violet M&M's were changed to the colour tan by the end of the 1940s.

#6 – The reason why red M&M's were eliminated in 1976 was because of health concerns over the use of red dye. Specifically with the dye amaranth, which was a suspected carcinogen. While the red M&M's did not contain this dye back in 1976, consumer fears prompted the company to pull the red M&M's off the market as a precaution. That same year, the red M&M's were replaced with a safer orange colour. The red M&M's were eventually brought back out in 1987.

#7 - The creation of the blue M&M came about through a people's choice vote. In late 1994, the decision was made by M&M to eliminate the tan M&M with another colour. Throughout the first few months of 1995, people could vote for what colour M&M they wanted to replace the tan M&M's by calling 1-800-FUN-COLOR, and making their choice known. The three colour choices were blue, pink, and purple. Blue won by a large majority vote, and by the summer of 1995, blue M&M's had become a permanent colour. In 2002, Purple M&Ms were temporarily added as a colour in an online vote between pink, purple, and aqua.

#8 – For the first thirteen years of the company's existence, M&M's only came in the Plain milk chocolate variety. It wasn't until 1954 that the Peanut M&M's were first introduced, although back then, the peanut M&M's only came in the tan colour. The coloured Peanut M&M's weren't introduced until the early 1960s.

#9 – Other varieties of M&Ms have been introduced over the years. Some have become permanent flavours, some were only available in certain regions, and some were discontinued completely. The list of the various kinds of M&M's, as well as their respective coloured packages are as follows.

Plain M&M's (changed to Milk Chocolate M&M's in 2000) - 1941
Peanut M&M's – 1954
Almond M&M's – originally 1960s, reintroduced 1988
Peanut Butter M&M's – 1991
M&M's Minis – 1996 (the packages were different colours)
Crispy M&M's – 1999 (discontinued in 2005)
Dulce de Leche M&M's – 2001 (discontinued in 2003)
Dark Chocolate M&M's – 2005
Mega M&M's – 2005
White Chocolate M&M's – 2006
Razzberry Chocolate M&M's – 2007 (limited edition)
Wildly Cherry M&M's – 2008 (limited edition)
Mint Crisp M&M's – 2008 (limited edition, though Mint M&M's still are sold)
Strawberried Peanut Butter M&M's – 2009 (limited edition)
Coconut M&M's – 2009 (became a permanent flavour in 2010)
Pretzel M&M's – 2010

Quite a lot of flavours, isn't there?

#10 – Part of the reason behind the success of M&M's in the world is because of the many forms of advertising that the company has come up with. Besides print ads such as this one below...

...a part of their charm involved having each colour of M&M (save brown) be represented by a spokescandy around the time that the blue M&M was introduced. Although celebrities such as Jon Lovitz, Phil Hartman, and John Goodman did the original voices for the spokescandies when first introduced, the current crop of voice actors include...

Red – Billy West
Yellow – J.K. Simmons
Green – Cree Summer
Blue – Robb Pruitt
Orange – Eric Kirchberger

#11 – One of the longest running M&M's commercials that still has select airings today is this holiday ad from the 1990s.

#12 – M&M's teamed up with a number of movie releases to promote their products. Some of the movies that used the candies as a method of advertising include Star Wars Episode III: Return Of The Sith, Shrek 2, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

#13 – M&M's ran an interesting promotional gimmick for the 2008 Valentine's Day season. That year, the company released a bag of all green M&M's, as a response to the urban legend that green M&M's were an aphrodisiac of some sort.

#14 – M&M's were sold only in the United States until 1980. In 1980, the candies became available for the first time in Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, Europe, Malaysia, Hong Kong, and Japan. As of 2011, the candy is sold in over one hundred different countries.

#15 – M&M became an official sponsor for NASCAR in 1990. Some of the drivers that have driven the M&M's car include Ernie Ivan, Ken Schrader, Elliot Sadler, Ricky Rudd, David Gilliland, and Kyle Busch.

#16 – M&M's were named the official candy of the new millennium in 1998 (reason being that the roman numeral for the year 2000 is MM).

#17 – A study was done in the summer of 2009 that a dye similar to the one used to colour blue M&M's showed benefits in helping paralyzed rats learn to walk again. Imagine that!

#18 – M&M's World shops first began appearing in 1997. The first location opened up in Las Vegas, Nevada, and since that time, stores have also opened up in Orlando, Florida, New York City, and London, England. The location in New York City's Times Square is currently New York City's largest candy store. In addition to being able to purchase M&M's in every colour under the sun, customers can buy M&M themed clothing and other merchandise. (And, yes, I do want to go to one of these stores!)

Oh, and just to conclude this post off, one final trivia factoid.

My favourite M&M's are the Peanut Butter M&M's.  What's yours?

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