Chocolate in space? I hear you cry. What WAS the first chocolate in space?
M&Ms became the first solid chocolate products to go into space in 1981 when they went on a mission with the first space shuttle astronauts.
M&Ms were launched in 1941 by the Mars company but didn’t get the little printed M trademark until 9 years later. This was introduced to ensure customers were buying ‘the real thing,’ inspiring the slogan: ‘Look for the M on every piece.’
In 1981, the astronauts chose to take M&Ms (or ‘candy coated chocolates’, as NASA diplomatically refers to them!) into space on the first shuttle mission. Yet ironically in 1982, Mars rejected the idea of a tie in to the E.T franchise and inclusion in the film – while Hershey agreed to the inclusion of their Reese’s Pieces (similar to M&Ms), and saw a dramatic increase in sales.
M&Ms have since gone into space on 130 missions – including the final Atlantis shuttle mission in July 2011. Members of the team were presented with special blue, red and silver M&Ms. They had the usual “m” on one side but on the reverse was either an image of the shuttle orbiter, “3… 2… 1… Lift Off!” or “July 8, 2011”. These special M&Ms remained on the ground, but the astronauts had the almond version on board to snack on.
But M&M fame and glory doesn’t stop there. In 1984 M&Ms were one of the official Olympic snacks along with Snickers, and in 1990 they were a sponsorship snack for the Soccer World Cup in Italy along with Mars Bars. When blue M&Ms were introduced In 1995, the top of the Empire State Building was bathed in blue light to mark the occasion, and in 2000 M&Ms became the official ‘candy of the new millennium’… because MM represents 2000 in Roman numerals!
Today, M&Ms are available in Milk Chocolate, Peanut, Dark Chocolate, Dark Chocolate Peanut, Almond, Peanut Butter, Pretzel and Coconut, and M&Ms World Stores in New York, Orlando, Las Vegas, London and Shanghai are visited by millions of people every year.