How M&M's is winning back millennials

by Monica Watrous
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M&Ms flavor vote
Mars' new promotion pits the Original Peanut M&M’s candies against three new limited-edition varieties: Chili Nut, Honey Nut and Coffee Nut.

CHICAGO — Millennials are buying less chocolate candy, and the company behind the category’s leading brand is intent on fixing that. Mars Chocolate North America, a division of Mars, Inc., launched the M&M’s Flavor Vote promotion in March to engage 15- to 35-year-olds, a consumer segment the company found has declined in penetration and buy rate in the chocolate category over the last four years.

The promotion pits the Original Peanut M&M’s candies against three new limited-edition varieties: Chili Nut, Honey Nut and Coffee Nut. Through June 17, consumers may purchase the products in stores and vote on-line at peanutflavor.mms.com or by texting the word “vote” to 87654. The winning variety will be announced in August and remain on shelves nationwide.

The three flavors were on display at the Sweets & Snacks Expo, held May 24-26 in Chicago.

Tim Quinn, Mars Chocolate
Tim Quinn, vice-president of trade relations at Mars Chocolate North America

“We know when we do anything with the M&M’s chocolate candies in a voting, whether it’s vote for your favorite color or flavor, it just gets tremendous amount of votes,” said Tim Quinn, vice-president of trade relations at Mars Chocolate North America, in an interview with Food Business News. “The last time it happened during a presidential election year, it was ‘vote for your favorite color’ and it got significantly more votes than the actual presidential election itself did.”

The promotion is expected to garner nearly 1 million votes and already ranks in the top third of items at major retailers, according to the company. Mars said consumer engagement with M&M’s Flavor Vote social media content is nearly four times higher than usual.

The three new flavors were chosen based on trends and consumer research. With “sweet heat” named a top-five flavor trend in 2015, chili was a leading flavor concept in focus groups, and honey was the most frequently requested flavor, according to Mars. Coffee had the overall highest purchase intent in quantitative testing.

The promotion was designed specifically for millennials, who seek to collaborate with brand manufacturers on new products and are four times more likely than other consumer demographics to share opinions on social media, according to Mars.

M&M's vote for your favorite color campaign
When Mars held its  ‘vote for your favorite color’ M&M's campaign during a presidential election year, it got significantly more votes than the actual presidential election.

“It’s just a fun thing to do and a good way to get consumers to interact with your brand in fun, new ways and get them engaged,” Mr. Quinn said.

M&M’s is the leading candy brand in the United States, with sales of $616.5 million in the past year, according to Information Resources, Inc. This year, the brand celebrates its 75th anniversary, having started in 1941 as a wartime treat for U.S. soldiers. The hard candy shell was devised to prevent the chocolate from melting during transport.

“When the soldiers came home, they were looking for M&M’s in the United States, and that business just took off,” Mr. Quinn said. “And after 75 years, it’s absolutely the largest candy brand in the world by a long shot. We’re really proud of that.” 
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READER COMMENTS (5)

By Vianneliz 6/21/2016 10:24:58 AM
Nunca he ganado no me preocupa ganar ni perder pues hay que llevar todo para ensalada de ganar y la de perder sólo sé que con lo poco que tengo sobre vivo para mis hijas y con eso soy la mujer más feliz del mundo no pido nada más

By Connie Vallee 6/7/2016 4:36:38 PM
Recently saw your ad for the 3 new flavors. Actually it was April 4th at Walmart store. They had no coffee flavored M&M's but being a coffee lover I started to loon for them. I have checked many, many stores- Walmarts- Target-Winn Dixie- CVS- Walgreens and more! No one has them!! What's up??!! I know there was a vote promo but if a person can't find them to try them it is impossible to vote! Not smart to run a promo without product. Help! Everyone I ask had either no heard about the promo Otha's heard about it but did not find the new M&M's in stock.

By Margie Calvert 6/1/2016 10:34:18 PM
coffee nut sounds good

By Margie Calvert 6/1/2016 10:30:56 PM
the coffee nut

By Jenny Emming 6/1/2016 8:03:20 AM
Love the Coffee!