Sometimes, it's best not to know how your favorite foods are made. As the old saying goes, once you know what's in the sausage, the whole thing becomes far less appealing. The same is just as true for candy. From rumours of beetles in the colouring to chemicals in the chocolate, few brands have escaped the rumor mill that inevitably comes with popularity. However, it turns out that not everything becomes immediately less appetizing once you know what's in it.
A report from Business Insider has detailed what really goes on inside the M&M factory, and fortunately for everyone, it's safe to continue eating the world's favorite crunchy chocolate treat. Manufactured by candy and pet food kings Mars Incorporated at the excitingly named Chocolate North America Campus in Hacketsville, New Jersey, it seems as though consumers have very little to fear from "the chocolates that melt in your mouth, not your hands."
The report in Business Insider details the manufacturing process from beginning to end. Before even being permitted entry to the 460,000 square-foot factory floor, all guests have to remove jewellery and nail polish in order to prevent contamination.
Next, hairnets, hats, gloves, masks and a Mars-branded lab coat are put on to complete the surgical look. Disappointingly, there's far more health and safety here than at Willy Wonka's, and considerably less Oompa-Loompa activity.
While there may be no chocolate rivers or errant children running about, there is still a good deal of magic going on at the Chocolate North America Campus. First, chocolate is tempered and "conched" in order to reach the desired consistency and shape. Vast cylindrical cooling tunnels ensure the sweets are ready for coloring, before huge barrels of rotating pigment give the candy their signature look. The scale of the operation is undeniably impressive.
Millions of individual M&Ms are made at the factory every day. The air is heavy with the noise of thundering machinery, and thick with the saccharine smell of sweetly-scented candy.
Though the initial Business Insider report does not describe the atmosphere as unpleasant, an interview with an associate reveals that "the odor gets into your clothes, and it might be pleasant now, but once you get home it smells more like spoiled milk". Clearly, it's not all fun and games working in a chocolate factory.
Nor is every stage of the process fit for public consumption. According to Business Insider, there are a number of stages that the interviewing team are not given permission to witness. Perhaps most significantly, this includes the mystery behind how Mars are able to imprint an individual "M" on every single chocolate. Though it seems unlikely that anything untoward occurs at this stage, you can never be too careful.
Perhaps more remarkable than any other element of the M&M's manufacturing process is the fact that it has been largely unchanged for over 70 years. Aside from the introduction of the Blue M&M in 1995, the sweet's success has been in its consistency. That the candy still tastes exactly as it did in 1941 helps to explain why M&M's continue to be among the world's best selling candies.