My M&M's: Sweet Idea but Hard Sell

Mars Offers Cassic Brand in 21 Colors; Now it Needs a Place to Display Them All

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NEW YORK ( -- Playing off its successful efforts of offering customized colors and messages for its M&M's brand online at a premium price, Mars plans a national rollout in January of a retail version of My M&M's. But getting space-strapped grocery retailers to give up the prime property it will take to carry 21 different colors and special-occasion messages might be tough.

Mars has been testing the My M&M's concept in six stores, among them CVS and Bed Bath & Beyond, offering milk chocolate M&M's in single colors and with pre-printed messages in 8 oz. white bags. The goal was to gain insight as to how to display the line for maximum profit. The company was also looking for a way to highlight the candy's "entertaining, decorating and gifting possibilities," said spokeswoman Joan Buyce.

The rolling launch in January, backed by an estimated $15 million integrated campaign from My M&M's agency FCB, will feature premium, stand-up packages and wedding, baby and birthday blends, and will be limited to select retailers. Wal-Mart and Target are expected to be among the chosen few.

But the breadth of the line will make it a "tough sell for grocery, even though it's a great idea," said one executive close to Mars. And for those who do buy in, the space-especially the coveted end-of-aisle real estate Mars is asking for-doesn't come cheap.

"I wouldn't have any interest in [My M&M's] unless they made it attractive enough for me," said one East Coast retail executive, indicating that a little green could go along way toward driving his interest.

The cost of placement will likely be offset by increased profit margins for the candies, which will retail for $4.69 for the 7 oz. bags (vs. roughly $3.50 for a 12 oz. bag of regular M&M's). Already, Ms. Buyce said, results from retail tests show that My M&M's has driven "significant growth" for the brand. Information Resources Inc. data shows M&M's sales in food, drug and mass outlets (excluding Wal-Mart) grew 2% to $509 million for the 52 weeks ended May 21.

Allen Adamson, managing director at Landor Associates, said the My M&M's strategy fits well with consumer's increasing demands to "have it my way." And he noted that the My M&M's idea adds "sizzle and fashion to a brand that's been around forever."
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