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Monday, April 28, 2014

The History of M&Ms

M&Ms are one of the most popular candies in the world, but very few people know the incredible story behind them and how they gained their fame. These chocolates coated in candy shells are now available in several varieties in addition to the original version, which is known as Plain M&Ms.

The Mars Company

The history of M&Ms begins with Forrest Mars, Sr., the son of Frank C. Mars, who founded the Mars Company. Frank Mars established his family candy company in 1902 as a private home business, but in 1911, it officially became known as Mars-O-Bar. When he changed the name from Mars-O-Bar to the Mars Company, he was already producing three chocolate bar staples that remain popular today: Milky Way, Snickers and Three Musketeers.

Frank wanted his son Forrest to be a part of the family business and follow in his footsteps, but the two did not get along very well, which led to Forrest being sent overseas to run the European division of Mars. It is rumored that during his time in Europe, Forrest noticed some of the soldiers in the Spanish Civil War eating small pieces of chocolate coated in hard candy. He discovered that an acquaintance of his from the Rowntree family had been producing the candy in conjunction with Nestle since 1937.

Forrest believed he could improve on the candy, or at the very least, produce a version that could be distributed in the United States since Rowntree’s version was only sold in Europe. He created a recipe for the candy and sought to partner with Bruce Murrie, who was the son of the president of the Hershey Company. Their cooperation resulted in the candies being produced for the first time on March 3, 1941, and they were given the name M&Ms for the last names of the two partners: Mars and Murrie.

The first M&Ms were available in six colors: brown, green, orange, red, violet and yellow. These colorful chocolates became successful the same year they were introduced, and they were so integral to the success of the Mars Company that the name was changed to M&M Mars, Inc.

M&Ms and World War II

By the following year, M&Ms were so popular that the Mars factory in Newark, New Jersey, was producing more than 200,000 lbs. of the candies every week. However, most of them were not being sold to the public but were given to soldiers who were going to fight in World War II. These favorite candies of U.S. service members were considered to be standard-issue gear, and by the end of the war, more than 600,000 lbs. were produced weekly.

In 1947, M&M were sold to the public in quarter-pound bags at a price of $0.15 each, and in 1950, M&M Mars, Inc. began stamping them with their famous m logo so that they were differentiated from the various imitations that had been appearing.

During the 1950s, M&Ms became even more popular than they already had been. The factory was now operating 24 hours per day and producing more than 1 million lbs. every week. Nearly everyone in the country knew of the candies by this time, and they were not even advertised on television until mid-decade.

In 1954, several landmark events occurred in the history of M&Ms. The executives of M&M Mars, Inc. decided to further capitalize on the popularity of their signature candy by introducing a new variety: Peanut M&Ms. In addition, the company began printing the m logo on the candies in white instead of black so that it was more noticeable. This was also the year that the famous M&Ms slogan was coined. By 1958, nearly everyone knew that M&Ms are the chocolate that melts in your mouth, not in your hands.

The Modern History of M&Ms

M&Ms only continued to grow in popularity through the years, and in 1960, three new colors were added to Peanut M&Ms: green, yellow and red. In 1972, the company started a new advertising campaign that turned the iconic chocolates into anthropomorphic characters. Four years later, because of a national scare over food dye, M&Ms did away with red and began producing orange ones to replace them.

In the 1980s, M&Ms began taking trips into space as a regular part of the food carried by astronauts, and in 1984, they became the official candies of the Olympics, which were held in Los Angeles that year. During this decade, M&M Mars, Inc. also began marketing and distributing the candies internationally throughout Europe and Australia, and Almond M&Ms were introduced.

The 1990s marked yet another decade of growth for the candies. Peanut Butter M&Ms were made available in 1990, and a new version was marketed specifically for baking in 1995. The following year, Mini M&Ms were being sold in re-closable plastic tubes, which added an element of convenience.
At the turn of the century, M&Ms became known as the official candy of the new millennium because MM are the Roman numerals for 2000. Today, M&Ms remain one of the best-selling candies of all-time, and it does not appear that their popularity will decrease anytime soon.

Friday, April 4, 2014

The History of Theater Concessions

Concession stands have become a staple of the movie going experience. Popcorn, candy, or soda, concessions bring many theaters nearly half of their revenue and are a huge part of theaters across the world. It may be hard to imagine, then, that in the early days of movie theaters concessions were not sold as they are today.

In fact, many theater owners didn’t allow food and worked hard to keep it out. But, like other crowded events, food vendors saw a chance to make a profit and sold their popcorn and peanuts outside of theaters for people to take inside. Despite theater owners’ best efforts, these foods were wildly popular among crowds and they couldn’t stop the food from entering their establishments.

When nickelodeons went out of style and big, grand theaters were being built across the country, the new theater owners were even more adamant about not allowing food inside. They hated the mess and didn’t want their expensive, high-class establishments to be overrun with peanut shells and other garbage left behind by moviegoers.

Then the Great Depression hit, and theaters needed a way to make more profit from their strapped-for-cash guests. Theater owners saw the demand for food and conceded bringing popcorn machines into their establishments. Because popcorn was so inexpensive, they could sell it at the low price their guests required yet still make a profit from it.

Theater candies during WWII were limited due to sugar rations, but when the war was over and sugar could be bought and sold freely, candy and soda became hugely popular among theater attendees.

Junior Mints, named after Shirley Temple’s Broadway show “Junior Miss,” quickly became a popular candy, as did the teeth-sticking Dots, both of which are still popular today. M&Ms had been popular among soldiers in the war and were introduced in theaters after it ended. They still remain one of the highest-selling theater candies today.

In the 1970s, what we now know as Sour Patch Kids were introduced. They were originally called Mars Men due to the large interest in UFOs and sci-fi movies, but when Cabbage Patch Kids became popular in the 80s, they changed the name to Sour Patch Kids and they have been sold at cinemas ever since. Reese’s Pieces were also introduced late in the 1970s, but didn’t gain popularity until they were used in E.T., one of the most effective movie product placements to this day.

Gummy bears and other fruity candies are popular among children, and sales have remained high since they were introduced. Swedish Fish, Jujubes, and Mike & Ikes are a staple concessions candy both kids and adults love. Large candy companies have kept moviegoers in mind within their brands, creating bite-sized versions of their most popular candy bars, such as Butterfinger Bites.

Miniature-izing the candies and making smaller versions makes them easier to share among groups, and therefore a popular choice in concession stands.

Small candies make a good theater choice and often last longer than larger candies. Gobstoppers and Sprees dissolve slowly, making them an excellent choice for those long movies that seem to be gaining popularity again.

Whoppers and Milk Duds are also popular, with high sales among a wide range of ages. Though nobody seems to like raisins, Raisinets are also a top seller in theaters across the country.

Concession stands have gotten bigger and bigger, offering hot dogs, nachos, pizza, and other food items. Some theaters are now introducing restaurants and full food service, some even offering alcohol to older patrons.

Even as theaters change and moviegoers become accustomed to more and more, they still buy candy at a rapid pace, sales not suffering among the newer, bigger options.

Even with the popularity of popcorn and other foods, the demand for candy in the theater has lasted since its introduction, and it will continue to last even as theaters change. What started as something theaters hated has now become what gives them nearly half of their revenue.

The demands of moviegoers have changed, from popcorn during the Depression to candy and soda after the war, and theaters have managed to change with the times. Candy has stuck around through it all and continues to be some of the most popular choices among theater concession stand sales.