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This morning at 8:30 AM on the Power 96.1 radio station in Atlanta, Georgia, I heard a radio ad for M&M in which it was claimed that one out of every one hundred (1/100) peanuts ends up in Peanut M&Ms.

Is there any data behind this assertion or was it just made up for marketing?

Here's an article on PR Newswire which also mentions the statement touted by Mars:

in fact only 1 in 100 peanuts is lucky enough to find its way into a bag of M&M'S Peanut


I tagged this with the nutrition tag because "food" is a synonym.

  • 4
    This question calls into whether making food a synonym for nutrition is a good idea. Or am I being too picky about the nutritional value of M&Ms? – matt_black Jan 17 '14 at 21:20
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    I would read that statement as "only 1 out of every hundred peanuts we buy or examine actually ends up in a peanut m&m." – Chinmay Kanchi Mar 5 '14 at 16:09
  • @ChinmayKanchi The title is not my own. I originally had it vaguer and left open the possibility that it was true in some way, such as in the way you suggest. – called2voyage Mar 5 '14 at 17:47
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The preliminary projection for world peanut production in 2012/2013 is 39.93 million metric tons. In 2006, it was 32.30 million metric tons. That is in-shell weight.

The global shelling percentage (how much peanut is left after shelling, by mass) is about 70% (El Bassam. Handbook of Bioenergy Crops: A Complete Reference to Species, Development and Applications. 2010. At p. 200).

That results in about 28 million metric tons of shelled peanut in 2013, or 23 million metric tons of shelled peanut in 2006.

For 1/100 of that to find its way into Peanut M&Ms would mean that at least 0.28 million metric tons of peanuts are used in Peanut M&Ms per year (or 0.23 million metric tons at 2006 levels of production).

The average mass of a Peanut M&M is 2.59 grams (with a standard error of 0.03 grams). (The average mass of Peanut M&Ms is an upper bound on the average mass of peanut in them. There are other ingredients.)

0.23 million metric tons (the 2006 number) of 2.59 gram units is 88,803,088,803 units. At least 88 billion Peanut M&Ms would be needed to be produced. (For 2013, the requisite number is 108 billion Peanut M&Ms.)

There are about 146 billion M&M candies produced per year. (Sutton and Klein. Enterprise Marketing Management: The New Science of Marketing. 2006. At p. 139). This estimate is still current. I confirmed this by a phone call to Mars. They said:

We make about 400 million M&M pieces every day; that's for all types.

Basically the question comes down to whether it's plausible (or even better, whether there's evidence) that at least 60% (for 2006) or at least 74% (for 2013) of M&Ms are peanut M&Ms.

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    Those back of the envelope calculations seem good enough to show that the figure isn't valid for the whole world's peanuts, but is it valid in any sense? All the US peanuts? All peanuts handled for the purpose of eventually being used in Peanut M&Ms? – called2voyage Jan 14 '14 at 17:38
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    I would actually draw the opposite conclusion from the back-of-an-envelope calculations .Give the uncertainties about the exact numbers (varying from year to year, average peanut size etc.) the fact that the numbers are plausibly close suggests that the claim might actually be approximately true .If they had been out by an order of magnitude or so, I would be much more doubtful, but now I'm thinking the claim is within reasonable bounds of plausible. – matt_black Jan 14 '14 at 18:57
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    Shameful confession: When I realised you had a reference to support this line: "The average mass of a Peanut M&M is 2.59 grams (with a standard error of 0.03 grams)" I had decided to upvote it, even before reaching the conclusion. – Oddthinking Jan 14 '14 at 21:47
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    Excellent research, and plenty of solid facts here. – Sklivvz Jan 15 '14 at 0:06
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    @Articuno your answer is getting better over time. One additional fact that might help: only about 1/4 of the weight of an M&M is peanut (this is from the ingredients declared on European packs). I haven’t tried to verify anything else yet. – matt_black Jan 21 '14 at 17:46
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The "1/100" claim appears to have originated directly from this press release from Mars, the manufacturer of M&Ms, which itself directly quotes Roy Benin, Chief Consumer Officer of Mars Chocolate North America:

“This event perfectly captured our passion for peanuts – in fact only 1 in 100 peanuts is lucky enough to find its way into a bag of M&M’S Peanut.”

This claim appears to be the cornerstone of an ongoing marketing campaign for M&M. The exact wording used in that press release, though, is a bit ambiguous. It could very well mean that only 1 in 100 of the peanuts delivered to Mars makes it into an M&M.

Articuno's answer provides a thorough analysis of the numbers, which I see no need to reproduce. With that said I disagree with the conclusion that the numbers are insufficient to conclude that the 1/100 claim is plausible, because, like most agricultural products, worldwide peanut production varies quite dramatically year over year. For example, the USDA reported almost a 13% increase in peanut production in the US from 2009 to 2010. The data to which Articuno linked predicted over a 5% increase in worldwide production in 2012/2013. Global peanut production in 2006—the year from which the M&M candy production statistic was reported—was 32.303 million metric tons, which is about 20% lower than the cited projections for 2013.

Using the new numbers for 2006, the requisite number of peanut M&Ms produced would be about 124.7 billion units, which is below the total number of M&M sales reported in that year. Therefore, there is a chance that the interpretation that "1/100" means "one out of every hundred peanuts produced in the world" could potentially be plausible, but it is impossible to evaluate the statement's validity because its original wording is ambiguous.

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    All good points! – user5582 Jan 14 '14 at 20:14
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"It's about time we remind the world how irresistible M&M's Peanut really is," Seth Klugherz, senior director of M&M's Chocolate Candies, said in a statement. "Each M&M's Peanut is literally 1 in 100 — meaning we have to sort through 100 different peanuts, just to find one that's lucky enough to make its way into a bag of M&M's Peanut."

http://www.mars.com/france/fr/press-center/press-list/news-releases.aspx?SiteId=94&Id=5446

so, NOT 1% of all peanuts in the world... but that raises a new question of what happens to the 99% of peanuts they don't use? and why are they so bad/what's wrong with all those peanuts?

  • Definitely interesting. This changes the scope a lot. – called2voyage Mar 4 '14 at 12:53

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