Which confection was invented as a clever way for soldiers to eat chocolate rations without melting?

And the answer: M&Ms.
Photo credit: public domain. 

During the Spanish Civil War, Forrest Mars Sr. came across British soldiers eating "beads of chocolate" that had a hard candy shell on the outside. When he returned to the States, he sought to collaborate with the son of a Hershey executive, Bruce Murrie. Throughout World War II, M&Ms were sold exclusively to the U.S. military as chocolate rations.    

Although we tend to think of chocolate candies as sweet treats, they were once strategically fed to soldiers for their caffeine and high calorie content. However delicious they were, though, these reliable sources of energy for soldiers on the front weren’t very reliable at all when the weather got warm, as any chocolate left in the heat would melt into a soupy mess. That is, until Forrest Mars and Bruce Murrie dreamed up a candy that wouldn’t melt in your hands.

Originally, M&Ms didn’t actually have the classic “M” in the center, and were sold in cardboard tubes. Additionally, the colors were slightly different—in 1941, the colors were red, yellow, green, brown, and purple. Today, M&Ms come in a large variety of colors, ranging from anything like hot pink to polar blue. Despite the changes in color over time, however, it’s been proven that all M&Ms are made of the same ingredients, and thus all taste the same.

Fun fact!

These discrete yet delicious chocolates are so versatile that they have been brought to space more than any other candy! In 1981, the chocolate treats were included on Space Shuttle Columbia in the astronauts’ food supply, and they’re still taken on space missions today. In the zero-gravity environment, astronauts will often use them as entertainment—throwing them into the air and catching them in their mouths.

Learn more about the history of M&Ms here.

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