Where’s the Coconut in Coconut M&M’s?

Mars, the parent company of M&M’s, is constantly innovating with this winning brand. From a business perspective, you’ve got to hand it to them, they’re keeping a 70 year old brand young, bold, and alive. This strategy includes new flavors every once in a while.

For the last 12 months or so, Coconut M&M’s have been offered “for a limited time only.” This is a well known marketing tactic that creates a sense of scarcity to prompt more purchases, yet enables a noble disappearance if the product shootoff does not succeed. Kind of like a pilot TV episode.

On M&M’s website, the product page for coconut flavor includes a tidbit of information called “coconut facts”:

In some cultures, coconuts are used to ward away the evil eye. Imagine the power of coconut and chocolate combined!

So mouthwatering…we decided to check it out.

What you need to know:

From a flavor perspective, meh. And much to our dismay, no coconut was to be found, despite the hype.

Here’s the ingredient list, try to find the coconut yourself:

milk chocolate (sugar, chocolate, skim milk, cocoa butter, lactose, milkfat, soy lecithin, salt, artificial flavors), sugar, cornstarch, less than 1% – corn syrup, dextrin, coloring (includes yellow 5 lake, red 40 l ake, blue 2 lake, yellow 6 lake, yellow 5, blue 1, red 40, yellow 6, blue 1 lake, blue 2), artificial flavor, gum acacia.

No coconut. So where does the flavor come from? We’ve conveniently marked for you the magic words “artificial flavor” in the ingredient list. And then noticed that on the package, in tiny indiscernible letters under the big bold COCONUT, are the words “artificially flavored.” Insurance against consumer lawsuits…

Did we say marketing?

We won’t do a nutrition analysis on this chocolate candy because, well, it’s candy. Obviously it’s not a health food, and like all treats should be enjoyed only occasionally.

But as treats go, you may want to choose something with less or no artificial colorings. As we’ve recently written, yellow 5, blue 1, red 40 and their friends may cause various neurological problems for kids.

Bottom line: Next time you see artificial flavoring on a product you contemplate buying, be warned – the sweet / savory / scrumptious flavor you believe is coming from wholesome ingredients, may actually have been manufactured in a lab. Natural flavors, by the way, are not much better. They are still made in labs.

What to do at the supermarket:

As finger snacks for kids, M&M’s is a multi-generation tradition. My kids love it, but we have never bought any for them. Our policy – if they eat some at a birthday party or get some for trick-or-treat, so be it. At home we prefer to provide them snacks with less artificial colors. Even plain milk chocolate can do the trick.

As for natural / artificial flavors, when you see them in an ingredient list, ask yourself why the manufacturer had to add them? Couldn’t the other fine ingredients stand up to the taste test?

  • Jason

    I think they left out a word in the blurb on their product page, “Imagine the power of coconut FLAVOR and chocolate combined!”

  • http://www.foodhuntersguide.com The Food Hunter

    this is great…I love that you are pointing these things out to everyone!!

  • http://www.sheletthemeatcake.com Maggie

    Another amazing and informative post. You guys always make me think. Thanks for doing all of the legwork so we can feed our kids and ourselves better!

  • http://foodtrainers.blogspot.com Lauren Slayton

    Is there really chocolate in these or is that manufactured too? Not surprising but sad for sure. Sunspire makes a similar candy (as well as dark chocolate covered almonds) that are great for children when they want a treat, as is real chocolate as you mentioned. I hope parents put the artificial colors on their radar, they’re certainly a problem for behavior and health.

  • http://www.getfitwithgreg.com Greg

    This stuff makes me mad. I shouldn’t be mad at the manufacturer but more at the consumers that buy this. sure, I’ve had M&M’s but don’t buy them anymore and eat pretty clean. I feel so much better too. Coincidence? :-0

    • Buck

      Maybe! Correlation doe not imply causation.

  • Miranda

    Ever take a squint at a bottle of Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup?
    or something like that – I’ll bring home a bottle from work, so as to be exact….

  • debu_chan

    Would it be safe for someone with a coconut allergy? My cousin can’t have real coconuts, which is kind of sad…

  • workerB

    “Limited Time”? Tell me it at so! I’m in Choco/Coconut heaven. Please keep this flav alive!

  • http://profiles.google.com/strachan33 malcolm strachan

    “As for natural / artificial flavors, when you see them in an ingredient list, ask yourself why the manufacturer had to add them? Couldn’t the other fine ingredients stand up to the taste test?”

    They stood up to the taste test, but not to the cost test! ;-)

  • Sskidd1143

    There is not even the FLAVOR of coconut in the coconut M&M’s –they taste exactly like ALL M&Ms do.