How do they make M&Ms? December 20, 2009Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
Tags: Hershey's Kisses, history of Hershey's Kisses, history of M&Ms, M&Ms
It’s me, Richard Saunders of Poor Richard’s Almanac fame, here today with a question I know you’ve all been wondering about: How do they make M&Ms? Actually, probably nobody wonders about this. But maybe, like me, if you find yourself lying awake in the dead of night, you sometimes start to wonder about the wackiest things. Last night, it was “How on earth do they make M&Ms?” followed quickly by “How on earth did Hershey’s Kisses get their name?”
For once, I actually remembered these questions this morning, so I determined to find out. First, I went to the website of that wizard of wacky uses, Joey Green (www.wackyuses.com). Over the years, I’ve learned a lot about the history of various brands from Joey’s books (to name just two, Joey Green’s Magic Brands and Polish Your Furniture with Pantyhose), not to mention any number of unauthorized but intriguing uses for the products. Joey doesn’t appear to have anything to say about M&Ms, but if you want to have some fun, I recommend that you check out his website. You may not decide to replace your furniture polish with SPAM or use Coca-Cola to clean your toilet, but at least you can amaze your friends with your newfound knowledge.
Moving on, I visited Wikipedia, which failed to tell me how M&Ms were made but provided a lengthy and interesting history of the little candies that “melt in your mouth, not in your hand.” I suggest that you read the entire Wikipedia entry—it’s fascinating—but to sum up, the idea for M&Ms was born during the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s, when Forrest Mars, Sr., founder of the Mars Company, saw soldiers eating coated chocolate candies. Mr. Mars began producing M&Ms in 1941 in the States.
What about that name, M&Ms? The first M is for Mars, but the second is for the son of the president of Hershey Chocolates, Bruce Murrie. Why name your candy after the scion of a rival company? Simple: Hershey was apparently given the sole license to make chocolate in the U.S. during World War II, when everything was rationed, so the first M&Ms used Hershey chocolate for the centers. Bruce Murrie obviously saw a great opportunity and owned 20% interest in M&Ms, an interest that Mars later bought out.
What were the original M&Ms colors, you’re asking? How about brown, yellow, red, green, orange, and violet. (Violet?! It was replaced by tan in 1949.)
Unfortunately for me, Wikipedia didn’t go into the manufacturing process. It was time to move on. Continuing my search, I was directed to a site called Everything (http://everything2.com/), where someone going by the name of quantumlemur had taken the time to answer my question. Apparently, first the chocolate centers are tumbled in a machine to make them smooth and round. Then they’re transferred to a large “drum” (another site described this as looking like a cement mixer), where the chocolate centers are coated with the hard sugar coating we all know and love. Once the coating is thick enough, it’s given a final color coat, then moved to a conveyor belt where they stamp on all those little “M”s. (Now white, the original “M”s were apparently black.)
A little more digging turned up an answer from JR on Yahoo! Answers, which revealed that at one time, the official M&Ms site had included a “How We Do It” page that was subsequently deleted. But JR comes to the rescue: If you’d like to see how M&Ms are made, you can watch an episode on the Food Network’s “Unwrapped” (http://www.foodnetwork.com/food/show_cw/).
Whew! I finally had an answer to my first burning question. But what about the name of those Hershey’s Kisses? You’d think a teardrop-shaped candy would be more logically named “Hershey’s Tears.” But someone had a much brighter idea. Fortunately for me, Wikipedia and the official Hershey’s website (www.hersheys.com) proved far more forthcoming this time. Hershey’s Kisses make M&Ms look like mere youths, having been invented in 1907. The name apparently derives from the sound the chocolate makes when being dropped into the “kiss” shape during the manufacturing process—or at least, that’s everybody’s best guess. (No one really knows for sure.)
So, folks, there you have it. Do you have any burning candy questions of your own? Give a shout, and I’ll try to find out.