It’s a number of almost astronomical magnitude, more suited to light years or parsecs than brightly colored buttons of candy. But as others have noted, it is what it is. Further stretching the limits of incredulity, Mars, Inc. claims that the same number of M&Ms are consumed every day. If that’s an accurate assessment, it goes a long way to explaining Americans’ struggle with the scale.
As to how so many M&Ms are made each day, give or take a few million, your guess is as good as ours. Mars could give the NSA lessons in secrecy: When Forrest C. Mars Sr., son of the founder, died in 1999, the company did not acknowledge he had died or that he worked for the company. The Mars family still owns the company in its entirety.
M&Ms got their sweet start in life in 1941, based on coated candy eaten by soldiers in the Spanish-American War that, in the manufacturer’s unforgettable 1949 marketing tag, “Melts in your mouth, not in your hand.”
During WWII the candy was only sold to the military. Post-war demand led to a larger factory in Newark and an even larger facility in Hackettstown in 1958, the site of one of 22 U.S. manufacturing facilities. The company HQ is located in Newark and Hackettstown.
Originally, M&Ms came in five colors: brown, yellow, green, red and violet, which was swapped for tan in 1949. Red was briefly dropped from production in 1976, in the wake of the red dye scare, to be replaced by orange, but came back in 1987, bringing to six the number of colors in the M&M rainbow. And thus it stayed until 1995, when the company ran the M&M’s Color Campaign, which let consumers decide on a new color to replace that dowdy tan so easily outshone by its companions. Blue took the popular vote, and one of the ways the company trumpeted its arrival was to have the Empire State Building illuminated in blue.
For the record, every M&M, regardless of color, contains an identical milk-chocolate center. This has not stopped grade-school kids from conducting countless taste tests to identify nonexistent varieties in flavor. To the best of anyone’s knowledge, green M&Ms are not an aphrodisiac, a persistent urban legend among older teens.
If you truly feel a need to go down the M&M rabbit hole, the double ‘M’s represent the names of the Mars family and Bruce Murrie, son of Hershey Chocolate’s president William F. R. Murrie, who had a 20% share in the original product.
Each traditional milk-chocolate candy weighs roughly 0.032 ounces and has about 4.7 kilocalories of food energy.