A look back on M&Ms military history

A look back on M&Ms military history

Jon Oliveros

Red, one of the many anthropomorphic M&M mascots, dressed in military fatigues.  Image Source.


Regardless of whether or not you have friends or family serving in the U.S. Armed Forces or you yourself are a proud member of the Armed Forces, it should be of no surprise that service members enjoy discounts, promotions, and other military-exclusive benefits in society not presented to ordinary civilians. Everything from free tickets to the zoo, to discounts at restaurants and stores is presented to those who sacrifice the conveniences of a normal lifestyle to serve their country.

But did you know that the M&Ms candies we enjoy were once a military-exclusive treat?

Circa-1940’s promotional ad for M&Ms milk chocolate candies. Image Source.

During World War II, the U.S. military sought to figure out a way in which troops could transport high-energy, low-volume consumables exposed to a variety of temperatures and adverse weather conditions. The idea of the modern-day M&M stemmed from encased chocolate pellets consumed out in the battlefield by soldiers who fought in the Spanish Civil War. The hard outer shells of these chocolate pellets were comprised of tempered chocolate and were implemented to prevent the chocolate filling contained within from melting unless the outer shells were compromised. It was from this that Forrest Mars Sr., the founder of the Mars Company, devised the earliest iterations of the modern-day M&M.

M&Ms originally came packaged in cardboard tubes. Image Source.

The first iteration of the popular milk chocolate candy first came packaged in small, easy-to-carry cardboard tubes. They were released to the public in 1941, but a very short time later that same year when the U.S. entered World War II, they became exclusive only to the military where they were packaged and issued with military C-rations and sold in base exchanges and aboard ships in their service stores.

It was not until the end of the war in 1945 when M&Ms were re-released to the public and it was not until 1948 when it was packaged in the earliest iteration of the brown pocket-sized pouches we commonly associate with enclosing milk chocolate M&Ms.

The earliest iteration of the brown M&Ms milk chocolate pouch. Image Source.

Over the next several decades and into the present-day, variations of the popular milk chocolate pellets emerged; the first of which is the original Peanut M&Ms, which debuted in 1954 and continues to be sold alongside the original milk chocolate variant up to this day. At one point, even the cylindrical tubes made a return, featuring M&Ms “mini-er” variant (M&Ms minis) in plastic tubes.

M&Ms made their way back into cylindrical tubes with the 1996 release of M&Ms minis. Image Source.

Today M&Ms are enjoyed by millions of people around the world. As a result, even regional and holiday variants of the milk chocolate pellets have appeared on the market. In fact, in the spirit of the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election, Mars is looking to add another variant of their Peanut M&Ms onto the market and they need YOU to vote for one! Click here to read more!