A Look at M&Ms Peanut Processing

A visit to the New Jersey village of Hackettstown reveals how M&M’S Chocolate Candies are made.

By Mike Pehanich, Plant Operations Editor

While factories near Chicago and Elizabethtown, Pa., also make the famous candies, the New Jersey village of Hackettstown is the real home of M&M’S Chocolate Candies.
Peanut M&M’S were the order of the day when we visited. The process for regular M&M’S and developing other varieties is similar.

The process begins with two primary steps: the roasting of peanuts and “conching,” the chocolate refining process of mixing, agitating, and aerating heated chocolate.
The conch processes are divided into dry conch and wet conch cycles, the latter adding cocoa butter to the mix. Eleven vats produce three types of chocolate: a milk chocolate, a chocolate for peanut coating, and a semi-sweet baking product chocolate.
A chocolate spray renders a chocolate-covered peanut that is then subjected to one of the 17 candy coat colors. Six of these are the standard colors of the M&M’S peanut candies. The others are seasonal colors selected for the special holiday blends of Halloween, Christmas, Easter and Valentine’s Day or the special run products, including those of My M&M’S.

Product from dedicated tributary lines enter the mix area via overhead conveyor. They are dumped into a hopper and subsequently metered out onto a short ascending sifting belt positioned at an obtuse angle to the mainstream blending belt. Essentially rounded product rolls directly onto the blending belt, but product that fails to achieve a standard (rounded) shape due to compression or fusion with a second candy ascends to the top of the (discharge belt) where it is discharged into a defect bin.

Product on the blending belt continues to the defining step, the printing of the “M.” It is a proprietary process that positions candies in recessed compartments on a revolving drum for the application of the edible “ink” used for the M&M imprint.

“We have upgraded the technology and provided manufacturing solutions to improve the quality of our product, particularly in the packaging area,” says Dodge. Self-ready display cases and zippered pouches are among the team’s packaging achievements.
The M&M’S lines run on a 24-hour, five-day schedule with color changeover occurring at roughly two-week intervals.

“We’re continuing to work to cut changeover time in half,” says Dodge, acknowledging the importance of uptime on assets utilized for such high-volume output. “We’re also working to move immediately to 100-percent capacity rather than slow ramp up.”

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