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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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The Top Excuses Employees Give for Being Late to Work
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Expecting staff to just get out of bed and show up on time seems like a low bar for an employer to set, but some workers have trouble meeting this bare-minimum obligation. Their stated reasons can almost sound believable.

Job placement site CareerBuilder.com recently conducted a survey and asked 800 respondents in various age brackets how often they were late for work, as well as over 1000 human resource managers for data on missing workers. Overall, one in four employees admitted to being tardy at least once a month. Those aged 18 to 34 were the most frequently late, with 38 percent clocking in past their expected arrival. Only 14 percent of workers 45 and older were less-than-punctual.

As for excuses: 51 percent said traffic was the most common reason they straggled in. Around 31 percent said oversleeping was an issue, while bad weather (28 percent) and forgetting something and having to return home (13 percent) plagued others.

According to human resources managers, some workers claimed that they were late because their coffee was too hot; that they fell asleep in the parking lot; that it was too cold outside to travel; or that their false eyelashes were stuck together.

Not surprisingly, CareerBuilder also found that 88 percent of workers were in favor of a flexible work schedule.

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14 Secrets of Costco Employees
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Justin Sullivan, Getty Images

Costco has become something of a unicorn in the brick-and-mortar industry. While employees at other chains express concerns over low wages and questionable management choices, the 200,000-plus ground troops at Costco’s massive shopping centers rave about generous pay ($13 to $22.50 hourly, depending on seniority), comprehensive benefits, and pension plans. After one year of employment, the turnover rate is only 6 percent, compared to an average of 16 percent across the retail industry. Not having to incur costs of training replacements is just one reason the company keeps prices low.

It’s no secret that Costco employees are a relatively happy bunch. But we wanted a little more information, so we’ve asked several current Costco workers about everything from pet peeves to nail polish bans to revoking memberships. (All requested we use only their first names to preserve anonymity.) Here’s what they had to tell us about life in the pallets.

1. WORKING THERE IS BETTER THAN GOING TO THE GYM.

Turns out that navigating a warehouse full of goods stacked to the ceiling is kind of like getting an all-day gym pass. “I walk about five to eight miles a day on average, and that's all within the confines of the store,” says Rachael, a Costco employee in Colorado. “When you see pallets stacked with 50-pound bags of flour or sugar or dog food or cat litter, a lot of that stuff had to be stacked by hand by employees before the store opens. Ditto for those giant stacks of shoes and bottles of salsa or five-gallon jugs of cooking oil. It's a lot of hard work.”

2. THEY CAN DO THEIR SHOPPING AFTER HOURS.

Costco shopping carts are arranged together
Brendan Smialowski, Getty Images

While employees typically don’t get shopping discounts, they have something that’s arguably better: the opportunity to shop in a near-empty store. “You can shop after hours, and a lot of employees do that,” says Kathleen, a Costco employee in Washington state. “You just bring your cart to the front register.” The store will keep the member service counter open so workers can check out after other registers have closed.

3. THE GENEROUS RETURN POLICY CAN GET MESSY.

Costco infamously places very few restrictions on returns. Most anything purchased there can be brought back for a refund as part of the company’s overall emphasis on exceptional customer service. Naturally, some members are willing to abuse the privilege. “Members return couches that are over five years old, and interestingly enough, they still have the receipt,” Rachael says. “My guess is that they buy that couch with the intention of returning it someday, so they tape the receipt to the bottom of the couch so they don't lose it. Then, when they've worn it out and want something new, they bring it back and get a full refund.”

Rachael has also seen a member return a freezer that was allegedly no longer working. The store refunded both the cost of the appliance and the spoiled meat inside. “The meat smelled like death,” she says.

4. THEY CAN ALSO TELL WHEN YOU’RE A SERIAL RETURNER.

A shopper at Costco looks at the computer display
Tim Boyle, Getty Images

Costco purchase records typically date back 10 years or so, but employees working the return counter don’t always need to reference your account to know that you're making a habit of getting refunds. “When someone comes in to return something without a receipt and they go, ‘Oh, you can look it up on my account,’ that’s a tell,” says Thomas, an employee in California. “It tells me you return so much stuff that you know what we can find on the computer.”

5. THERE’S A CONVENIENCE STORE-WITHIN-A-STORE.

While employees are generally allowed to eat their lunch or dinner meals in the food court, not all of them are crazy about pizza and hot dogs as part of their daily diet. Many opt for the employee break room, which—in some warehouse locations—looks more like a highway rest stop. Rows of vending machines offer fresh meals, snacks, and sodas, along with a complete kitchen for preparing food brought from home. “[It’s a] relatively new addition that is being implemented at more warehouses,” says Steve, an employee in California. “It's basically like a gas station's convenience store, with both frozen and fresh meals and snacks. The only difference is the prices are more reasonable.”

6. THERE’S A GOOD REASON THERE ISN’T AN EXPRESS CHECKOUT LANE.

A Costco shopper goes through the checkout lane
Joe Raedle, Getty Images

Walk into a Costco and you’ll probably notice an employee with a click counter taking inventory of incoming members. According to Rachael, that head count gets relayed to the supervisor in charge of opening registers. “They know that for a certain amount of people entering the store, within a certain amount of time, there should be a certain amount of registers open to accommodate those shoppers who are ready to check out,” she says. If there aren’t enough cashiers on hand, the supervisor can pull from other departments: Most employees are “cross-trained” to help out when areas are understaffed.

7. THERE’S A METHOD TO THE RECEIPT CHECK.

Customers sometimes feel offended when they’re met at the exit by an employee scanning their receipt, but it’s all in an effort to mitigate loss prevention and keep prices low. “We’re looking for items on the bottom of the cart, big items like TVs, or alcohol,” Thomas says. Typically, the value of these items might make it worth the risk for a customer who's trying to shoplift—and they're worth the double-check.

8. THEY TAKE SAFE FOOD HANDLING TO A NEW LEVEL ...

A Costco employee works in food preparation
Justin Sullivan, Getty Images

At Costco, employees are expected to exercise extreme caution when preparing and serving hot dogs, pizza, chicken and other food to members. “If an employee forgets to remove their apron before exiting the department, they must remove that apron, toss it into the hamper, and put on a fresh apron because now it's contaminated,” Rachael says. “Or, let's say a member asks for a slice of cheese pizza. We place that piece onto a plate, with tongs, of course, then place the plate onto the counter. If the member says, ‘Oh darn, I've changed my mind, I'd rather have pepperoni pizza,’ then we have to toss the pizza that they didn't want into the trash. Once it hits the counter, it can't come back.” Some store protocols even prohibit employees from wearing nail polish in food prep areas—it could chip and get into the food.

9. ... BUT WORKING AT THE FOOD COURT CAN PREPARE THEM FOR ANYTHING.

Costco employees who find themselves behind the counter at the chain’s food court say it's one of the few less-than-pleasant experiences of working there. For some members, the dynamic of waiting on food and peering over a service counter can make them forget their manners. “Usually members are rude when they are waiting on their pizza during a busy time,” Steve says. “If an employee can excel in the food court, any other position in the warehouse is pretty easy by comparison.”

10. THEY GET FREE TURKEYS.

Costco’s generous wages and benefits keep employment applications stacked high. What people don’t realize, Kathleen says, is that the company’s attention to employee satisfaction can result in getting gifted a giant bird. “We get free turkeys for Thanksgiving,” she says. “I didn’t even know that before I started working there. It’s a nice perk.”

11. THEY CAN REVOKE YOUR MEMBERSHIP.

Shoppers go down an aisle at Costco
Gabriel Buoys, AFP/Getty Images

But it’s got to be a pretty extreme situation. According to Thomas, memberships can be terminated if a member is caught stealing or having a physical altercation inside the store. For less severe infractions, employees can make notes under a “comments” section of your membership. They’ll do that for frequent returns, if you’re verbally aggressive, or if you like to rummage through pre-packaged produce looking for the best apples. (Don’t do that.)

12. MANAGERS GET THEIR HANDS DIRTY.

During peak business times on weekends and around holidays, the influx of customer traffic can get so formidable that managers jump in with employees to make sure everything gets taken care of. “Most people would be surprised if they realized that the person who just put all of their groceries into their cart at the registers or who helped load that huge mattress into their car was actually the store's general manager,” Rachael says.

13. EVERY DAILY STORE OPENING IS CONTROLLED CHAOS …

Shoppers appear in front of a Costco store
Scott Olsen, Getty Images

Like most any retail store, Costco prides itself on presenting a clean, efficient, and organized layout that holds little trace of the labor that went into overnight stocking or display preparation. But if a customer ever happened to see the store in the last hour before opening each day, they’d witness a flurry of activity. “It's controlled chaos with loud music along with the blaring of the forklift sirens,” Steve says. “Employees are rushing to finish and clean up, drivers are rushing to put merchandising in the steel [shelving], and the floor scrubber slowly but surely makes its way around the warehouse. It truly is a remarkable choreography that happens seven days a week.”

14. … AND EVERY CLOSING IS A SLOW MARCH.

To avoid stragglers, Costco employees form a line and walk down aisles to encourage customers to move toward the front of the store so they can check out before closing. Once the doors are locked, overnight stocking begins in anticipation of another day at the world’s coziest warehouse. “Our store has over 250 employees altogether,” Rachael says. “If all of us do our little bit, then it's a well-oiled machine that runs without a hitch.”

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