Two things caused me to write this story. One is that Jeff Webster mentioned it in his birthday tribute to me in ThePerryNews.com, 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 ThePerryNews.com 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?