M&M’s Began as a Treat for the U.S. Military

By | October 12, 2022

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Only military members could enjoy M&M's for the first few years of its history. (nj.com)

One of America’s best-loved candies, M&M’s, was first introduced in 1941 but not to the general public. In fact, average citizens couldn’t get their hands on the chocolatey morsels until 1947. For the first six years of the candy’s history, it was only available to members of the U.S. military service overseas in World War II. Let’s take a look at the early beginnings of M&M’s.

Forrest Mars

Forrest Mars’ was the son of Frank Mars, the founder of the Mars, Inc., a candy company, but he didn’t see his father much as he was growing up. His parents had divorced, and he was estranged from his father. As an adult, he reconnected with his father and worked for him at Mars, Inc. It was not a happy reunion. Forrest Mars butted heads with his father and grew frustrated that the elder Mars dismissed his ideas for new products or expansion opportunities.

In 1933, Forrest Mars broke ties with his father and moved to England. He took jobs with Nestle and Tobler, and later purchased a company that produced canned meat for dog food. He spent time in Spain in the mid to late 1960s during the Spanish Civil War. It was there that he made an important observation. 

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Forrest Mars (lolwol.c0m)

Chocolate Morsels

Forrest Mars noticed that soldiers serving in the Spanish Civil War enjoyed eating a chocolatey treat called Smarties – not to be confused with the non-chocolatey candy Smarties we have today. These Smarties were a British-made candy that was basically a morsel of chocolate with a hardened sugar syrup coating surrounding it. The hard sugar coating prevented the chocolate morsels from becoming a big, melty mess.

When Forrest Mars returned to the U.S., he started his own food production company, Food Products Manufacturing, and launched the Uncle Ben’s line of rice dishes and Pedigree dog food. But he didn’t forget about the little chocolate morsels called Smarties. He began to experiment with making a similar candy-coated chocolate treat.


On March 3, 1941, Forrest Mars received a patent for the process developed for making candy-coated chocolate. He changed things up a bit by coloring the sugar syrup shell in bright colors. He began to manufacture his new candy treat, which he called M&M’s after his own last name and the last name of his business partner, Mars and Murrie. He packaged the candies in little cardboard tube, like the ones used for M&M minis today.