All this month we're looking at some different treats that offer interesting variations. Last week we looked at Reece's Peanut Butter Cups, and before that we looked at Pocky and Kit Kats. Today we're looking at a fairly unique treat, that's been around so long we might forget how unique it is, M&Ms. Unfortunately M&Ms are a copycat candy, they likely were inspired by the British Smarties. Smarties are a candy coated chocolate that was created several years before the M&M. The real difference in the two candies is the choice of colours (although with custom M&Ms this might not be true), thickness of the shell, and in some cases the flavour. M&Ms have also branched out a lot more than Smarties.
Smarties have really only come out with one variety, and that's putting their popular candy into a chocolate bar. M&Ms on the other hand have branched out a great deal. M&M's might also be considered one of the first candy companies to produce a variation. M&Ms peanut came out in 1954, just under 15 years after the original "plain" M&Ms came out. This variety proved to be very popular, and today is considered just as original as the milk chocolate filled variety. While M&Ms diversified fairly early on, they didn't get extremely experimental till much more recently.
In the last 15 or 20 years there has been a renaissance in the M&Ms variety world. It started with adding a few different nuts to the center, and has expanded ever since. Similar to the Kit Kat, M&Ms have two different kinds of variations, long term and limited edition. Since starting out with variations M&Ms have introduced a few varieties that have stuck around. Peanut butter, Almond, and crispy M&Ms are still around, and are likely not going anywhere soon. There have also been a few varieties that are limited edition, and many that seem to be tied in with movies. Some of these movie tie-ins make sense, like Ogre sized M&Ms that tie in with the movie Shrek. However a few of the limited edition movie tie-ins are not so clear, like Peanut Butter and Jam M&Ms tied in with Transformers, and mint crisp M&Ms tied in with Indian Jones.
So far I've tasted 11 different variety of M&Ms, and the one thing I can say about almost all of them is that they've never really deviated from their original format. With some of the other treats I've discussed in this series there have been some variety that are almost so different that you might have a hard time saying they're a variant as opposed to being a completely different treat all together. M&Ms variants seem to stick to the format, a small candy coated candy, often with chocolate involved. With this limitation, it's surprising not only the number of variations, but in the diversity of each of these variations. There are different textures and flavours in most of these treats, and you'd likely have no problem telling them apart in a blind taste test.
In fact that would be really fun. Take a bag of every variety of M&M ever made and put them in one bowl. Then spend the night randomly picking out M&Ms and guessing what variety they are.