M&M’s has announced it is adding a new fixture to its lineup of tiny chocolates with a candy shell: Starting in May 2017, a caramel-filled version of the candy aisle staple will hit store shelves under the name M&M’s Caramel – skipping any sort of limited edition status like M&M Crispy or a trial run like the brand’s recent exploration into flavors like Chili Nut, Honey Nut and Coffee Nut. Caramel will go straight into M&M’s permanent lineup alongside Milk Chocolate, Peanut and Peanut Butter.
The brand is calling this new launch one of the biggest in its history, and with over a half year of lead time, this announcement is definitely being given the gravitas of a Hollywood blockbuster. According to Business Insider, the development of the new product was a major undertaking: Figuring out how to get that caramel center just right has been a two year journey which included the 2014 opening of a $270 million plant in Topeka, Kansas, built specifically for product innovation – a plant where Mars will produce all M&M’s Caramels.
In fact, as one company rep admits, the candy is still somewhat under development, which also explains the distant launch date. “It was a big technological challenge for us," Hank Izzo, vice president of research and development for Mars Chocolate, told CNN Money. “We never before had a M&M lentil with a true soft center, so we had to figure out how to not make the chocolate too sticky or too soft that it could collapse…. Because it is a brand new production, we're still in the process of finishing the manufacturing setup.”
So why caramel and why now? “Caramel is extremely trendy,” Izzo was also quoted as saying. “It's a $2.2 billion flavor segment and the fastest growing segment in food right now.” Let’s just hope for Mars’s sake that caramel is still trendy six months from now. It’s the 21st century: I’ve owned smartphones that went obsolete faster than that.