Premium M&Ms: Affordable luxury or candy-coated blasphemy?

One of the sacred memories of an American childhood is going upscale. M&Ms, those much-loved candy-coated bits of chocolate that could salve any ouchie, are now going premium, which means fancier coatings, fancier flavors, fancier packaging...all at a much fancier price. Why? Blame it on the fancy chocolate market.

My wife is a premium chocolate junkie, which means that, in the eight or so years that we've been together, I've learned more than I ever thought possible about chocolate. I have absorbed information about chocolate liqueur, cacao percentage, cocoa mass, cocoa solids, country of origin, and all the other variables that separate the Dagoba from the Valhrona, the Scharffen-Berger from the Hershey's and the top-of-the-line from the bottom of the barrel.

Personally, though, my tastes have always tended toward the more proletarian. While I appreciate the occasional bar of 72% cocoa solids, dark Belgian chocolate, I still get a big kick out of a couple of Reese's cups, a packet of Kit-Kats, or a handful of kisses. Most of all, like millions of other Americans, I have a big, warm, candy-coated spot in my heart for M&Ms.

Over the years, M&Ms have gone through quite a few transformations. Originally given to soldiers in World War II, the peanut and chocolate candies with a hard shell were later joined by solid chocolate, almond (1988), peanut butter (1990), dark chocolate (2005), and crisped-rice (1998-2005) candies. They have been mixed with a variety of flavorings, super-sized, and even shrunk to miniatures.