Chloe Effron
Chloe Effron

15 Melt-In-Your-Mouth Facts About M&M's

Chloe Effron
Chloe Effron

Red or green? Milk chocolate or peanut? Mega or mini? You may know your favorite color and variety of M&M's, but there’s still a lot you probably don’t know about the candy that melts in your mouth, not in your hand. Here are a few colorful facts to snack on.

1. SPANISH CIVIL WAR SOLDIERS PROVIDED THE INSPIRATION.

Forrest Mars Sr., son of the Mars candy company founder, had a falling out with his illustrious father, and in 1932 went to England to try and go it alone in the confectionery business. The story goes that on a visit to Spain during the country’s civil war, he observed soldiers eating chocolate candies encased in a hard, sugary shell. This was a revelation to Mars who, like any good candy maker, knew that chocolate sales plummeted during the summertime, for obvious reasons. But it may also be a cover for a much less revolutionary truth: That Mars copied the idea from another company. English candy maker Rowntree’s of York came out with Smarties, the hard-shelled chocolate candies, in 1937, during Mars’ prolonged stay. The early success of Smarties may have caused a light bulb to go off in Mars’ brain. Whatever the case, Forrest Mars developed a manufacturing process for M&M's Chocolate Candies, patented it, and in 1941 began making them out of a factory in Newark, New Jersey.

2. THE TWO M’S STAND FOR “MARS” AND “MURRIE.”

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After Mars came up with the idea for M&M's, he approached Bruce Murrie, son of Hershey’s Company president William Murrie, about going into business together. In addition to a financial partner, Murrie turned out to be a strategic ally for Mars since Hershey’s dominated the production of rationed chocolate during World War II. Murrie received a 20% stake in the company, and for several years M&M's were made using Hershey’s chocolate. The two M’s didn’t see eye-to-eye on the company’s direction, however, so in 1949 Mars bought out Murrie for $1 million and took control.

3. THE “M”S WEREN’T PRINTED ON THE CANDY AT FIRST.

M&M's originally came in five different colors: red, orange, yellow, green and violet. The signature “M,” however, wasn’t stamped on the candies until 1950, and in black rather than white (that switch happened four years later, in 1954). Mars demanded that the “M” appear perfectly in the center of the candy, and would go around buying bags to ensure this was the case. Considering his split with Murrie one year earlier, this could be interpreted as Forrest Mars stamping his authority as the one true “M.”

4. THEY ORIGINALLY CAME IN CARDBOARD TUBES.

It turns out the plastic tubes that M&M's Minis come in today are the closest thing the company has to its original packaging. The cardboard tubes M&M's originally came in made them easy to pour and ship, and it added to their durability. They were a hit with World War II soldiers, many of whom carried them around in their rations and remained loyal after the war was over. Not until 1948 did Mars come out with the dark brown bags that are used today.

5. PEANUT M&M'S CAME OUT IN 1954.

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Nowadays M&M's are available in everything from dark chocolate to pretzel varieties, and in sizes that range from mega to mini. But the first spin-off was the tried-and-true peanut M&M, developed by Mars less than 15 years after his original candies began rolling off the production line. They were only available in tan at first, then in 1960 came available in the same colors as the plain variety. Fun fact: Mars was actually allergic to peanuts, and so he never actually got to taste his creation.

6. RED M&M'S DISAPPEARED FOR A DECADE.

In the early ‘70s, a Russian study came out linking the red food dye amaranth (also known as Red No. 2) to cancer in humans. Subsequent testing never proved the ingredient to be dangerous, but in 1976 the Food and Drug Administration, erring on the side of caution, decided to ban its use in America. Although red M&M's didn’t actually contain amaranth, the company pulled the color and replaced it with orange to avoid any confusion. For 10 years the now-iconic red M&M stayed on the bench. Its comeback began in 1982, when an undergrad at the University of Tennessee named Paul Hethmon decided to create the Society for the Restoration and Preservation of Red M&M's. The organization was a spoof on junk-mail campaigns that were popular at the time, and asked people to send $.99 for a lifetime membership. The joke quickly caught on, and in 1983 Hethmon received a membership application from none other than the PR manager at M&M's Mars. Four years later the red candies were back in circulation (they kept orange around, too).

7. THE COMPANY PASSED ON ONE OF THE GREATEST PRODUCT PLACEMENT OPPORTUNITIES EVER.

While preparing to film the movie E.T., Steven Spielberg approached Mars asking if he could use M&M's in the scene where Elliott lures the shy alien out from the forest where he’s hiding. It’s not clear exactly why Mars passed on the opportunity—everything from “ad budget was full” to “they thought the movie would tank” has been forwarded—just that they did. So Spielberg took the idea to Hershey’s, who pounced. Apparently Spielberg wanted to use Hershey Kisses, but the company insisted he use its new Reese’s Pieces candies. The result was a massive success for Hershey’s, with sales of Reese’s Pieces shooting up at least 65% in the two weeks following the film’s premier.

8. VAN HALEN INCLUDED THEM IN THEIR RIDER.

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Many people know about the band’s notoriously picky rule, which required venues to provide M&M's backstage with all the brown candies taken out. Many people at the time saw this as further proof that rock stars were all pompous, juvenile idiots. But years later, lead singer David Lee Roth revealed that the stipulation was actually a test. A venue that couldn’t remove brown M&M's, after all, might not be attentive enough to the security needs or the exact sound specifications the band needed to perform. If a venue failed to remove all the brown M&M's from the band’s stash, Van Halen would abruptly cancel, and often trash the place for good measure.

9. THERE ONCE WAS A COW MADE OF 67,000 M&M'S.

Mars may have missed the boat with E.T., but its promotional savvy has been consistent over the years. Case in point: “Candy” the M&M cow, made from 67,000 M&M's, all of which were painstakingly placed by hand. Created for display at the 1990 Erie County Fair, Candy was also photographed and written up by Newsweek and various other publications, and made an appearance on Live with Regis and Kathie Lee. It’s estimated the low-cost stunt had a $1 million promotional value for the company.

10. GREEN M&M'S ARE RUMORED TO BE AN APHRODISIAC.

It’s not clear when, exactly, this playful rumor started, or how it came about, but Mars has adamantly denied adding anything to green M&M's that might… arouse its customers (although chocolate itself can be an aphrodisiac). That said, the company isn’t above playing along. In 1997, it introduced the vampy green M&M to its lineup of promotional characters. The campaign name, “What is it about the green ones?” gave a sly wink to the rumor. In 2008, Mars launched limited-edition all-green bags of M&M's to coincide with Valentines Day, adding in a press release that “the brand celebrates the myths, rumors and innuendo surrounding green M&M’s.”

11. THERE’S A LOT OF NOSTALGIA FOR TAN M&MS.

In the mid ‘90s, Mars decided that having both a tan and brown M&M was redundant and a bit too dreary for a modern candy brand. So the company decided to replace tan with pink, purple or blue in a consumer voting campaign that proved immensely popular. Fans eventually chose blue, of course, but 20 years later there are those who look back fondly on tan as a muted relic of a bygone era. In the spirit of Paul Hethmon, there have even been a few online petitions for the company to bring back tan.

12. THEY’VE PLAYED A MAJOR ROLE IN DIETING RESEARCH.

Partly due to their popularity, and partly due to the fact that they’re small, durable and divisible by color, M&M's have been used in all sorts of dietary studies aimed at revealing the bad eating habits we’ve relied on over the years. One study revealed that participants given a wider range of colors ate more than those given a limited range, while another showed that imagining eating M&M's before having access to them cut down on the quantity eaten. Another study had several very fortunate participants watch action movies while eating M&M's, and found that the chaotic diversion made people consume more than if they watched, say, Charlie Rose.

13. THE COMPANY DOESN’T WANT YOU TO EAT TOO MANY.

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Knowing that consumers these days are increasingly less likely to down M&M's by the handful while watching Die Hard on repeat, Mars has taken a more pragmatic approach. In a letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Agriculture, Mars said it supports government recommendations to limit sugar to 10% of consumers’ daily calorie intake. It also voiced support for a proposed labeling initiative that would list the amount of “added sugars” in candy and other foods. Candy companies typically fight increased regulation tooth and nail, so this is kind of a big deal. At the same time, Mars is trying to stay competitive with other manufacturers like Nestle, which recently announced it will remove artificial flavors and colors from its chocolate.

14. GOOGLE EMPLOYEES HAD AN M&M PROBLEM.

Working at Google comes with all sorts of perks, from generous vacation time to free shuttle rides and gym memberships. Employees also have unlimited access to M&M’s, which created something of a problem back in 2012. Apparently workers were eating too many of the chocolate candies, driving the multibillion-dollar company deep into debt (actually, Google was just concerned about their health). To investigate the issue, Google came up with a very Google-esque plan: Dispatch a team of PhDs to study the M&M problem and develop a solution steeped in data. What they found was that the candy’s prominent placement led to lots of drive-by snacking. So the company squirreled the M&M's away in opaque jars and put healthy foods like figs and nuts in highly visible areas. The results: 3.1 million fewer calories consumed over a seven-week period among the New York office’s 2000 employees.

15. THE COMPANY’S NEW JERSEY FACTORY PRODUCES 2 BILLION M&M’S EVERY EIGHT HOURS.

That’s more than 4 million made every minute, or 69,000 every second.

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Two of the Last Blockbuster Stores Are Closing
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The fact that Blockbuster still has three stores in the U.S. may come as a surprise, but the video rental chain's days are numbered. The brand's two branches in Alaska will be closing up shop next week, leaving only one last holdout in Bend, Oregon, according to Engadget.

"If you'd asked me 14 years ago, there's no way I'd thought we'd be the last one," Sandi Harding, General Manager of the Oregon store, tells Engadget. "It just seems a little crazy.”

Blockbuster filed for bankruptcy in 2010 but continued to license its logo to franchisees. In 2013, there were 13 remaining Blockbuster stores, and by 2016 there were nine. Many of these branches were located in Alaska, where internet is costly and many areas lack a broadband connection, making streaming difficult.

This alone wasn't enough to keep Blockbuster's Fairbanks and DeBarr Road locations in business, though. The stores will close July 16, but they'll reopen the following day for an inventory sale that will last until the end of August.

John Oliver, host of Last Week Tonight, became an unlikely champion of the DeBarr Road outlet last April when he bought the jockstrap worn by Russell Crowe in Cinderella Man for $7000 and donated it to the store in hopes of generating interest and foot traffic. It worked for a little while, but the effect was temporary and business dropped off once again. Indeed, the age of Netflix marks the end of an era.

[h/t Engadget]

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11 Facts About 7-Eleven on 7/11
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Happy 7-Eleven day! Don't forget to pick up a free Slurpee—and while you're enjoying the iconic slushie, read up on little-known tidbits about the popular company.

1. 7-ELEVEN STARTED IN 1927.

That was when Joe Thompson, an employee of the Southland Ice Company in Dallas, Texas, began selling eggs, milk, and bread from a makeshift storefront in one of the company’s icehouses. These bare necessities were kept cold thanks to the ice Southland produced, and local residents liked the convenience of avoiding the crowds and aisles of a regular grocery store if they only had to pick up a few items.

Thompson eventually bought out the ice company and started opening convenient little stores all over Texas. Shortly after, a company executive brought a souvenir totem pole back from a trip to Alaska, and set it in front of one of the busiest locations. Soon, the spot had earned the nickname the “Tote’m Store,” not only because of the totem pole, but because customers toted away their purchases. The company officially adopted the name and decorated their locations with an Inuit-inspired theme to match. The name changed to 7-Eleven in 1946 to reflect their new store hours—7:00am to 11:00pm—in order to capitalize on the post-World War II economic boom.

2. 7-ELEVEN'S NEW SCHEDULE WAS UNHEARD OF AT A TIME WHEN GROCERY STORES CLOSED MUCH EARLIER IN THE EVENING.

No one thought there would be demand for a store that was open 24/7—until one night in Austin in 1962. The local 7-Eleven had seen such a rush of students following a University of Texas football game that they were forced to stay open until dawn the next day. Sensing a trend, the store continued to stay open all night on the weekends, and soon more and more locations adopted the new schedule as well.

3. 7-ELEVEN IS ONE OF THE WORLD'S LARGEST FRANCHISE COMPANIES. WITH MORE THAN 55,000 LOCATIONS.


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They beat out McDonald’s in 2007 and have since outgrown them by about 20,000 stores. Japan is the largest market with more than 20,000 stores under the name “Seven & I Holdings,” the parent company of 7-Eleven since 2005 [PDF]. America ranks among the top with 7896 locations, along with by Thailand and South Korea with more than 11000 and 7000 stores, respectively. And the company keeps growing, with a brand new store opening somewhere in the world every two hours of every day.

4. 7-ELEVEN RAN THE FIRST TELEVISION ADVERTISEMENT FOR A CONVENIENCE STORE IN 1949.

The ad touted their curbside grocery delivery service, and an animated rooster and owl reminded customers that the store was open early and closed late.

5. THE SLURPEE WAS INVENTED AT A DAIRY QUEEN.

In the late-1950s, Omar Knedlik of Kansas City owned a rundown Dairy Queen. When his soda fountain went on the fritz, he improvised by putting some bottles in the freezer to stay cool. However, when he popped the top, they were a little frozen and slushy. Folks loved them and started requesting "those pops that were in a little bit longer." Realizing he had a surprise hit on his hands, Knedlik built a specialized machine using the air conditioning unit from a car, and cranked out slushy soda by freezing a mixture of flavored syrup, water, and carbon dioxide to make it fizz. He called it an ICEE, but when the drink concept was licensed to 7-Eleven in 1965, the company’s marketing department renamed it the Slurpee after the sound made while sipping it through a straw.

6. EVERY YEAR SINCE 2002, 7-ELEVEN HAS GIVEN AWAY FREE SMALL SLURPEES TO CELEBRATE THE COMPANY'S BIRTHDAY ON JULY 11(7/11).

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On this one day, 7-Eleven gives away about 500,000 gallons of Slurpees ... in North America anyway. In Australia, where the ice cold drink is also very popular, Slurpees are given away on November 7 (written Down Under as 7/11) to the tune of about 270,000 gallons.

7. ALMOST ALL SLURPEE FLAVORS ARE CONSIDERED KOSHER PAREVE (FOOD THAT IS NEITHER MEAT NOR DAIRY).

There are a few, such as Diet Pepsi and the Jolly Rancher mixes, that are considered kosher dairy (due to the chemical tagatose in the artificial sweetener), while others, like the popular Piña Colada drink, are not certified at all. Some 7-Eleven stores get the machines themselves certified kosher as a selling point for their Jewish customers.

8. FOR 14 YEARS RUNNING, THE RULING SLURPEE CAPITAL OF THE WORLD HAS BEEN MANITOBA, CANADA.

The province has an average of over 188,000 Slurpees sold in five regional stores every month. According to 7-Eleven, Calgary—and America’s #1 Slurpee market, Detroit—are closing in on the champs, though. Maybe next year, guys.

As for the biggest-selling single Slurpee location in the world, that title goes to the 7-Eleven in Kennewick, Washington, which locals have dubbed “The Slurpee Factory.” But 7-Eleven crowns more than just a Slurpee king. According to 7-Eleven, Maryland is the leader in hot dog sales, Long Islanders drink the most coffee, and Utah residents can’t go anywhere without a Big Gulp in their cupholders.

9. SINCE THE 2000 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION, 7-ELEVEN HAS RUN A PROMOTION CALLED "7-ELECTION."

Customers vote by purchasing special red or blue coffee cups printed with each candidate's name. The cups are scanned at check-out and automatically entered in this unscientific, but surprisingly accurate poll—in 2000 and 2004, the number of coffee cup votes and the number of actual popular votes for both candidates was only off by 1 or 2 percentage points. While 2008's 7-Elections results were still correct, they gave the election to Obama by a landslide—60 percent to 40 percent—when the margin was really only about 7 percent. The trend continued in 2012, as caffeine addicts went blue to the tune of 59 percent for Obama to 41 percent for Romney, while the actual vote wound up being 51 percent to 47 percent.

10. TO PROMOTE THE RELEASE OF THE SIMPSONS MOVIEIN 2007, 12 SELECT 7-ELEVENS IN NORTH AMERICA WERE CONVERTED INTO KWIK-E-MARTS.

That's the convenience store in Springfield owned by Apu Nahasapeemapetilon. At a cost of about $10 million, the 7-Eleven stores had their exterior signs replaced to reflect the fictitious store name and many of the products inside were modeled after those seen on the show. For example, customers could buy Krusty-O’s cereal, a limited edition Radioactive Man comic book, six packs of Buzz Cola, and even Squishees, the Simpsons version of the Slurpee. Sadly, Homer’s favorite swill, Duff Beer, was not available as the film being promoted was rated PG-13. Instead, they had a Duff Energy Drink with a label very similar to the animated brew. While not all locations were transformed into Kwik-E-Marts, special Simpsons merchandise was available at all 7-Eleven locations, including Homer’s own Woo-Hoo Blue Vanilla Slurpees with collectible straws.

11. 7-ELEVENS ARE DIFFERENT ALL AROUND THE WORLD.

In America, we see 7-Eleven as little more than a convenient place to grab a quick cup of coffee before work or a Big Gulp while we’re out running errands. But in other parts of the world, the shops are a lot more important to the local population. In Indonesia, for example, 7-Elevens are more like a hip, upscale coffeehouse where 65 percent of customers are under the age of 30. The stores offer free Wi-Fi, plenty of tables and chairs inside and out on the sidewalk, and often feature live musical performances. Young people gather there late into the night to socialize, work online, and eat local favorites like fried rice, tiny sandwiches filled with cheese or chocolate called pillow bread, and chicken katsu, a Japanese-style fried cutlet.

In Taiwan, 7-Elevens are more common than Starbucks in Seattle. In the capital city of Taipei, there are more than 4000 locations in a city of 23 million, with many city blocks capable of sustaining more than one location. Aside from purchasing local food and Slurpees, customers can pay credit card and utility bills, book travel arrangements, and buy small electronics like iPods. It’s also not unusual for people to have packages delivered to their closest 7-Eleven instead of their home, because it’s more convenient to pick it up late at night instead of trying to coordinate with a deliveryman. The government has even given into the popularity of the shops by allowing people to pay traffic tickets and property taxes there, and using them as a hub for special programs like health screenings.

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