Appears in

Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

By Darra Goldstein

Published 2015

  • About

M&M’s, with their shiny, colored candy coating protecting the chocolate inside, are the perfect embodiment of childhood. Each pellet-sized piece is like a special present just waiting to be opened and enjoyed. But the candy was never intended as a child’s treat. Ironically, it was born out of war, made specifically for the soldiers of World War II who were stationed in tropical climates where chocolate bars would melt. The man who developed the M&M brand, Forrest E. Mars Sr., first saw confections like these on the battlefields of the Spanish Civil War in the mid-1930s. According to legend, Mars was traveling through Spain with a member of the Rowntree family, famous British confectioners whose business rivaled Mars’s own. Both men were intrigued by the lentil-shaped chocolates the soldiers kept tucked away for a quick pick-me-up. Upon discovering the candy, they supposedly entered into a gentleman’s agreement whereby Rowntree would take the idea back to the United Kingdom, introducing it as a product called Smarties, and Mars would bring the candy to the United States—where it became M&M’s.