How did they figure out the M&M color mix?

Dear Cecil:

Why, in a bag of M&Ms, are there always lot of "dark browns" and "yellows," but only a few "light browns" and "greens"? And what does "M&M" stand for, anyway?

Cecil replies:

M&M stands for the two confectionery geniuses, Mars and Murrie, who founded the firm back in 1928 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, which also happens to be the home of the 3M company (why does this seem significant?). M&M is now a wholly owned subsidiary of Mars (hmm …) Candy Corporation, manufacturers of such venerable teeth rotters as Milky Ways, Three Musketeers, and … Snickers. Shoot. For a second there I thought I had evidence of another Illuminati plot.

M&Ms are colored strictly for eye appeal. Contrary to popular mythology–generations of pre-schoolers have lusted after the elusive “greens”–there’s no difference whatever in flavor between the colors. M&M’s market research has revealed that one particular blend–roughly 60 percent dark brown, 30 percent yellow, and 10 percent “other”–is irresistible to the candy consuming public.

Editor’s Note: Since this column was published in 1976 the color mix has changed.  There are many sites on the internet where people have counted M&Ms in any given bag and published their own results.  An internet search will give you much to evaluate, but our favorite is a project you can do with your kids or just for your own edification. Please see Saturday Science Club/M&M Statistics.  The site also includes a reply from M&M Mars Chocolate North America discussing the issue. 

Send questions to Cecil via cecil@straightdope.com.

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