Do you know what the “Ms” of M&M’s stand for?

Colorful, delicious and a treat for chocoholics, M&Ms are a global hit and have been on the market for a long time. The popular treat is produced by Mars, Inc., known only as Mars, a company with a long history dating back more than a hundred years.

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Mars Makes M&M's

The popularity of this chocolate is enormous. After all, its flavor is incredible and its variants of peanuts, minis and so many others that exist around the world (mint, dark chocolate, peanut butter, almond, among others) are equally incredible. But have you ever stopped to think about what the Ms” in the name of these chocolates mean?

Since the name of the company is Mars, you probably deduce that one of the “Ms” refers to this same name. And that’s right, but what does the other M stand for? Well, you’ll find out below. To begin with, we will say that in all this history the name of the company comes from Forrest Mars, son of Frank Mars, the founder of the company.

Family history.

Sentenced to life in a wheelchair due to a terrible childhood polio, Frank Mars married Ethel Kissack in 1902, in Minnesota, when he was just starting his first candy wholesale business, and they had a son, Forrest Mars, who was born in 1904.

Despite Frank’s efforts in the candy business, which was not so common at the time, the couple’s financial situation was not good and, when it went bankrupt in 1910, Ethel filed for divorce and the two went their separate ways, causing Frank to be separated from their son.

Forrest Mars
Forrest Mars

Frank married a second time in 1911 to a woman also named Ethel, and moved to Tacoma, where he started a new business: the production of nougat (a candy based on sugar, honey and egg white) in a company they both named The Mars Candy Company.

However, he was also unsuccessful in this business and left the city in 1920, returning to Minnesota, where he followed up his candy production with the company that was renamed the Mar-O-Bar Company – which is also the name of one of the chocolates he created.

Milky Way

During that time, the son Forrest came back into Frank’s life and began working with him. It was then that the two picked up the Mars name for the company, Incorporated (Inc.) adds. In 1923, father and son launched the Milky Way, which was a resounding success during its first year, yielding more than $800,000 in sales.

By this time, the Mars family was already the second-largest candy manufacturer in the United States, after Hershey. After the launch of the Snickers bar in 1930 and the 3 Musketeers in 1932, the company needed so much chocolate for production that it ended up buying the raw material from Hershey (still known at the time as The Hershey Company), a business that lasted until 1965.


Until then, Frank was very satisfied with the success of his company. But it wasn’t like that for Forrest. He wanted to expand the business to other countries and was excited to get new launches which would obviously lead him to a million-dollar empire. However, he knew that if he always depended on buying chocolate from another company, it would be impossible to achieve his goal.

Meanwhile, as late as 1932, that ambition led Forrest to have major arguments with his father, Frank, who finally gave in to his son’s pressure by granting him the international rights to manufacture the Milky Way in addition to $50,000.

With this, Forrest embarked for Europe with his wife and children, never to see his father again. Frank Mars died of kidney failure 15 months later.

Entrepreneurship in Europe.

Upon his arrival in Europe, Forrest did not have immediate success in the chocolate business. Then, he saw that life was not as sweet as he imagined. In the meantime, he started a business that had nothing to do with his industry, selling crabs. It was only after a few months that he finally returned to sweets.

M&M'S Chocolate

He claimed, during this time, to have “studied” under the tutelage of the Swiss chocolate companies of Jean Tobler, inventor of the Toblerone, and Henri Nestlé, who needs no introduction. But, in reality, he was hired as an operator in a factory of both companies and basically probed the secrets of his bosses.

In 1933, Forrest moved to England and began a version of the Milky Way more suited to the British palate. He invested everything in his venture, leaving his children and wife unable to endure the situation. For this reason, his family returned to the United States, but he stayed.

Forrest made his products from chocolate sourced from Cadbury, and eventually his company began to grow. By 1939, Mars was the third largest manufacturer of confectionery in Britain.

Return to the United States.

M&M'S Mini

However, at the dawn of World War II, the British government began taxing foreign business owners. With that, Forrest opted to leave the country rather than pay taxes that were excessive, leaving Colin Pratt, his senior British businessman, in charge of the business.

But he did not return to the United States empty-handed. Mars knew that chocolate didn’t sell very well in the summer months, as it melted in the heat. Then he had an idea: chocolate that wouldn’t melt in your hands. The man wanted to do this on American soil.

Now, this is the point where the story takes a mysterious turn. There was already a sweet treat, made in Britain, that was very similar to the one that would eventually become the M&Ms. These were produced by Rowntree and were called Smarties. And yes, they were small round pieces of chocolate lined with colorful sugar shells.

M&m's Mani

Did Forrest know about Rowntree’s product? Of course! Actually, some claim that he and George Harris, Rowntree’s boss, were very good friends. In addition to this, they say Forrest had already traveled to Toronto, where Rowntree was planning its new factory in Canada, to offer advice and discuss partnerships with some candies.

Anyway, the partnerships ended up not happening, but regardless of that, many argue that the inspiration for M&Ms was Smarties. Sources say Mars had the idea as early as the 1930s, while watching soldiers in the Spanish Civil War, who ate tiny pieces of chocolate wrapped in sugar so they wouldn’t melt on their fingers.

When Hershey entered (again) history.

Even with his idea of chocolate that “melts in your mouth and not in your hands,” Forrest again enlisted Hershey’s help. He went to the desk of William Murrie, who had been left in charge of the company’s operations after Milton Hershey, and told him of his plans.

Some sources claim that he brought Murrie a sample of the Smarties, but Mars always denied any connection to that. William Murrie agreed, but passed responsibility for the partnership to his son Bruce Murrie. And so, the origin of the M&Ms was given. The first “M” stands for Mars and the second “M” stands for Murrie.

M&M'S deposit
Reservations from one of the M&Ms stores around the world.

It was then that this new company began its functions in 1940 under that name. Hershey contributed chocolate, 20% of the capital, manufacturing equipment, as well as engineers to get production ready.

After the factory began operations, Forrest paid no attention to Murrie, ignoring all his ideas, until, in 1949, Mars bought the partner’s share for a million dollars. At the time, M&Ms were already a huge success, with $3 million in annual sales. And you already know the rest of the story: a variety of this colorful and delicious chocolate being sold all over the world.