Mars mars perfection with withdrawl of tan M&M’s

As if things were not bad enough

Life lost all joy in 1995, when the place of tan M&Ms was usurped by blue M&M's.

Two things caused me to write this story. One is that Jeff Webster mentioned it in his birthday tribute to me in, and the other is that I saw a commercial on television recently celebrating the 75th anniversary of M&M’s, particularly the old tan or light brown ones.

M&M’s first became available in the United States in 1941, which makes this year their 75th anniversary. Forest Mars Sr. got the idea for M&M’s during the Spanish Civil War when he saw soldiers eating a product called Smarties.

Smarties are a candy first created in Europe in 1937. They have a chocolate center and a hard shell on the outside. The purpose, of course, is that during hot days the center does not melt. They are still made today by Nestle but are only sold in Europe and some other parts of the world.

Mars received his patent March 3, 1941, and went into production with his partner Bruce Murrie, who owned 20 percent of the company. Mars was the son of Frank Mars, the founder of Mars, and Murrie was the son of Hershey Chocolate President William F. R. Murrie.

During this time, chocolate was rationed and Hershey’s controlled the rationed chocolate. M&M’s were first made using Hershey’s chocolate, and during World War II was sold exclusively to the United States military.

In 1950 a black M was printed on each candy. In 1954, the color of the M was changed to white. Also in 1954, peanut M&M’s were introduced along with the tag line, “Melts in your mouth, not in your hand.” Until 1960, peanut M&M’s only came in the color tan. From then on they were also produced in yellow, red and green.

Since that time there have been many other M&M products. Pretzel, dark chocolate, mini, peanut butter, a candy bar, white chocolate, almond, Christmas colors, Easter colors, black and white and many other sweets. I still prefer the original product and also peanut M&M’s. You can also buy specialty M&M’s available with customized messages in 21 colors but not, apparently, tan.

Original M&M’s came in five colors: brown, yellow, green, red and violet. Green M&M’s are claimed by some to be an aphrodisiac. About 1950 violet M&M’s were replaced with tan M&M’s, my all-time favorite variety.

In 1976 the red M&M’s were replaced by orange M&M’s. This was done because of the fear that the dye amaranth (FD&C #2) was a carcinogen. The red candies never did contain this dye but were eliminated to satisfy consumer worries.

I can remember that at this time my mom could not get her favorite flavor of ice cream, cherry nut, because of the same concern. You could not buy maraschino cherries either. In 1986 red M&M’s were brought back, and the orange ones also stayed in the package.

Everything went along fine with M&M’s until 1995. Then someone came up with the bright idea of eliminating the tan M&M’s and having the public vote on a replacement color. Probably some self-appointed do-gooder kid just out of college who thought that changing to a brighter color would make the world a happier and better place.

People should not mess with perfection.

The choices for tan’s replacement were blue, pink and purple. Blue was the winner.

When I tell this story, many people scoff, particularly Sports Editor Jeff Webster. Since I was a little kid, going back to the late 1960s, tan M&M’s always had for me a different taste. To me they had a creamy and smooth flavor. They were always my favorite.

Most people will insist that all M&M’s taste exactly alike no matter what the color. A number of years ago, I called the customer number on a package of M&M’s to tell them of my love of the tan M&M’s. She told me that they are sometimes available in special seasonal promotions but insisted that all M&M’s taste exactly the same.

I could not agree.

My cousin Cindy once told me that she thought the tan M&M’s tasted differently to her, too, and Nancy Dittert posted on my birthday tribute that she thought that the dark M&M’s had a different taste.

I know that it seems funny to claim this, but there must be something in the processing of the color tan that causes them to taste a little different to me than the other colors. I even think that the blue M&M’s have a little different taste than all of the other colors.

Sometime after they quit producing tan M&M’s, my home church in Vinton had an after-church gathering. My mother had put a large bag of M&M’s in the freezer, which contained the tan candies, and they served these during the gathering.

I could still taste the difference in the tan M&M’s. I had not noticed that they were the old version until I ate some. This was the last time that I had tan M&M’s, which was now more than 20 years ago.

We should all band together and contact M&M Mars about the need to start adding tan M&M’s to its packages again.

If you agree with me, call 1-800-627-7852. They are asking for comments, and what better comment could be made than to state your love for tan M&M’s and request that they be produced again?

M&Ms are a popular summertime treat.
M&Ms are a popular summertime treat.


  1. The reason the green ones were considered aphrodisiacal was because of the rules of Back Seat Bingo, a game popular with young couples since back seats were invented. If your young lady pulled out a red candy, all familiar activity ceased. We young men would commence negotiations if any other color but red or green was extracted. Green meant Go! Go! Go!

  2. Douglas, Douglas, Douglas … You and I have been over this ground 5,000 times. I even called the M&M toll free number and was told that the food coloring used by Mars has NO taste — every “color” is, therefore, tasteless, with only the chocolate and the candy shell having a discernible taste. That same day, I called the 800-number for Tootise candy and learned there was never any kind of give away regarding the “Indian Chief” on the wrapper of the Tootsie pop.

  3. Oh, Jeffrey, there are none so blind as those who will not see. We have gone over this many times. Although miniscule, the ingredients and process issue to make red M&M’s varies slightly from the ingredients and processes for green M&M’s, which varies slightly from the ingredients and processes to make tan M&M’s. Thus the flavor may vary a little. Science supports this fact. Right, Jim?

    • Doug, I can neither confirm nor deny the facts in dispute in this matter. But as the antique Roman said, De gustibus non disputandum est, that is, there is no disputing taste. You like chocolate, and I like vanilla. Neither of us is right or wrong, or rather we are both right. Standards of judgment in these matters seem to be absolute. At the same time, are there not questions of more moment that readers of are expecting you to address? You told readers a few months ago whom they should not vote for, but what they really need to know is whom they should vote for. The field has narrowed a lot since last you ventured an opinion. By the way, unlike tastes in candies, standards of judgment in these weightier matters are almost infinitely disputable, and opinions can surely be right or wrong.

  4. I’m not taking either side in this argument. Speaking of sides, some of us will swear the left side of a Twix bar tastes better than the right.

  5. Five years later . . . yes, I noticed the difference in taste when I was probably 8. Tan were the best ones!

  6. Right before I opened this article I was thinking to myself, ” I truly loved the tan M&M. It was my favorite.” I never thought about why it was my favorite. Perhaps it was different in flavor. I was 11 when they cut it out of my life. I guess I’ll never know why. If I remember correctly, the printed M didn’t stay behind, nor did the tan one get “rough/granular” when melting in the mouth. Just memories of food for thought.


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