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M&M'S show their true colors

By DAR HADDIX, UPI Business Correspondent

HACKETTSTOWN, N.J., March 10 (UPI) -- On New Year's Eve, the M&M'S lost their colors -- and on Thursday night they will get them back. As the M&M'S Great Color Quest concludes, the candy gets to show off its new colors, packaging and a new logo, the first in more than 60 years, after enlisting candy fans to help bring all the colors back into the fold.

"When we were created 60 years ago we were the first candy that brought color to chocolate," Jeffrey Moran, M&M'S spokesperson told United Press International. "The various promotions we do invariably deal with color," as well as the absence of color, apparently. "We had done a lot of brainstorming about what it would be like if the color was removed," Moran said.

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So how did fans take the new look? "Most of them were a little shocked, probably," Moran said laughing.

"The M&M'S Black and White period was designed to bring the brand and the chocolate candy itself back to basics, in preparation for a new and exciting look and feel," said Doug Milne, senior marketing manager for the M&M'S brand. "By involving consumers in the process of reclaiming color through a nationwide contest, we've made the brand transformation into a fun and interactive process, and by taking color away from M&M'S, we've demonstrated just how important it is to have it back."

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After Thursday's color comeback, M&M'S will come in the same six colors, just "a little brighter, a little bolder and a little fresher," Moran said.

Hidden within the more than 37 million bags of black and white M&M'S were six bags filled with either red, blue, green, yellow, brown, or orange M&M'S. The six winners who found the bags also received $20,000 in cash, a Volkswagen Beetle in the same M&M'S color they found, and a trip to Los Angeles to claim their prizes.

Reactions to the ad campaign varied from dismay to deep thoughts. "Adults were like, 'Bring back the color!" Kids had more fun with it," Moran said.

Teenagers and 'tweenagers' saw cultural significance in pairing the black-and-white candies. "We got some calls and some letters from teens and tweens ... who saw it as harmonious race relations," Moran said. "It's nice to think that the product has become such a beacon in consumers' minds that they look at it as a reference to culture."

Winners came from all over the United States. One M&M'S fan, expectant mother Corina Balderas in Midland, Texas, came upon her bag of blue M&M'S because her pregnancy causes her to crave the candies. Theresa Vargas of Keaau, Hawaii purchased a bag of peanut candies for her children while out shopping. As soon as her children saw the green candies in the package, they knew their mother had won. Vargas also cares for several foster children in addition to her own three kids, all of who will get to go to Los Angeles with their mother. And 14-year-old Kira Jankowski of Green Bay, Wisc. will split the $20,000 prize with her sister; they will each donate $1,000 to their favorite local charity.

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M&M'S in color will be reintroduced during the Thursday, Mar. 11, primetime line-up on NBC in an series of advertisement that trace the story of how color returns to the M&M'S characters. A national advertising campaign, "River of Chocolate" will also start on March 11, featuring ads inspired by artists including Nancy Stahl, Alex Weil, Alexander Gelman, Jonathan Adler, Mark Morris and Michael Rios, the company said.

This is hardly the first color change M&M'S have seen. The original M&M'S introduced in 1941 were red, yellow, green, brown, orange and violet. In 1949, tan replaced violet. In 1995, blue replaced tan. M&M'S Peanut Chocolate Candies were introduced in 1954 in all brown. Red, green and yellow were added in 1960. Orange was added to the M&M'S peanut candies in 1976 and replaced with blue in 1995. M&M'S Peanut Butter Chocolate Candies and M&M'S Almond Chocolate Candies, are red, yellow, blue, green, and brown. M&M'S Crispy Chocolate Candies include red, yellow, green, blue, orange, and brown. And, the candy comes in seasonal color mixes for several holidays including Christmas, Easter, Halloween and Valentine's Day. One can even order custom-colored candies for special occasions.

Despite this amazing range of colored candy choices already available, Moran said that after the Great Color Quest, the candy "really speaks to color way more than it ever did before." The candy will have more colorful packaging, and even the boxes the candy is shipped in will be colored. The candy bits will also sport a larger 'M' logo.

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But the biggest surprise, he said, is going to be the advertising the company starts to run, Moran said, including a new tag line, "Chocolate is better in color." M&M'S never had a tag line before, he pointed out.

The goal is really to secure the market niche. "The biggest thing we aim to get out is that we want to reenergize people as they think about a colorful candy. We are now kind of staking our claim when we say, we ARE color candy," Moran said.

M&M'S is a product of Masterfoods USA. Headquartered in Hackettstown, N.J., it is a unit of Mars, Inc.

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