the m on an M&M
How do they print that little m on the M&M?
It is a tale fraught with emotional highs and lows, as is any tale worth inventing. Be warned, there is a some profanity in this tale. All told there is a fuck and two cunts but as they only appear in this paragraph you are past them now. (thank you again Monty Python)
M&M originated in the US in 1941 and are now sold in over 100 countries. Literally millions of the little guys are made every. What’s interesting, assuming you have a liberal view of the word interesting, was that the little m wasn’t printed on them until 1950.
From 1941 to 1949 the Mars Company was trying to figure out how to do it.
Originally they did it by hand and Forrest Mars Sr., founder of the company, employed hundreds of immigrants to individually paint each m on. The floor of the factory where this work was done stretched the length of 3 football fields and the entire thing had to be chilled to 50 degrees to stop the little chocolate pellets from melting. A quick review of the costs involved in applying the m in this fashion put the total at over $14 per M&M. Given an average bag held 35 it put the price tag at $490 before the bag, printing, shipping and handling were added. At the time a bag of M&Ms sold for 5 cents… so that solution clearly wasn’t going to work.
Next came the mass production fix. Mr. Mars found a stamping machine that at one time had been used to stamp hood ornaments out of sheets of steel. He figured with a little tweaking he could have the M&M being spit out like clockwork. Problem was that the little candy shell wasn’t strong enough to survive the hammering down of this powerful apparatus. In fact, the brown stain that came out the other end of the conveyor belt wasn’t even recognizable.
Obviously they needed a stronger shell.
Years of expensive research went by before they finally came up with a shell that could survive the stamping press, all the while the Mars Company was forced to lose $489.95 for every bag of M&Ms sold. The conditions were grueling and it was said the only people left to work on the project were those scientists into S&M&M.
The new candy shell was introduced but the reception was frosty at best. Turned out that to survive the application of the m the company was forced to switch from tempered chocolate to a compressed allotropic carbon. The process, including the 5000 metric ton multi anvil press required, put the final cost of each M&M at over $3000… but there was a slight savings in cost due to the fact that it became unnecessary to fill them with chocolate due to the fact that it was impossible to crack the new coating. Unfortunately the public was not willing to swallow a candy that tasted like a ball bearing and would crack the porcelain of any toilet that was used in passing them.
Then someone at the factory suggested that perhaps they were going about it all wrong and that maybe buying a different machine to apply the m might make more sense. That employee was, of course, promptly fired and never worked in the confectionary again. Still, the idea stuck and soon a machine was found that did exactly what they wanted.
It applied a little m to each M&M in a safe and inexpensive way.
Ironically, in the 70’s they discontinued making M&Ms in the color red due to the perception that the dye used was amaranth Red #2, a suspected carcinogen, when in fact in wasn’t. The company didn’t want to worry consumers. Red candies were later reintroduced after the scare was over… using a dye containing Allura Red AC, a chemical not recommended for consumption by children and banned in many countries.
What that has to do with the little m on M&Ms I don’t know.