New M&M’s All-Female Packaging Gives Way To Heated Controversy

New M&M packaging featuring the three female M&M's - purple, green, and brown - has spawned controversy on conservative new channels like Fox, with one anchor stating their belief that the packaging is distracting the US from China taking the bulk of the world's mineral deposits.

By Kari Apted | Updated

M&M's characters

Brands and how they’re marketed change with the times, but these changes aren’t always well-received. M&M’s is facing a culture war controversy with its new all-female candy package dedicated to women. The new pack stars Purple, its latest addition to the M&M character lineup, and the other two female characters, Brown and Green.

Source: Mars Wrigley

The limited edition all-female M&M’s pack also shows the characters upside down, a tribute to celebrating women who are “flipping the status quo.” The new Purple character is the brand’s first in a decade and they describe her as a singer who has traded her high heels for lace-up boots. Purple is a peanut M&M said to have a quirky, confident personality.

“The M&M’S brand is on a mission to use the power of fun to create purposeful connections, as we work to create a world where everyone feels they belong,” said Gabrielle Wesley, chief marketing officer for Mars Wrigley North America. Jane Hwang, M&M’s global vice president, said that Purple had been on the drawing board for years.

Lovers of M&M’s can get the all-female purple-banded packs in milk chocolate, peanut, and peanut butter flavors. Mars Wrigley said that a portion of the profits will go to organizations dedicated to uplifting and empowering women. Beneficiaries include She is The Music and We Are Moving the Needle, two nonprofits that support women in the music industry.

The female-dedicated M&M’s pack sparked culture war arguments on various right-wing news networks and social media channels. Republican-turned-Democrat Ron Filipkowski shared a tweet where Fox News anchor Martha MacCallum expressed frustration over the focus on the new purple packaging. She said the candies could actually empower China instead of American women.

“If this is what you need for validation, an M&M that is the color that you think is associated with feminism, then I’m worried about you,” anchor Martha MacCallum said. “I think that makes China say, ‘Oh, good, keep focusing on that. Keep focusing on giving people their own color M&M’S while we take over all of the mineral deposits in the entire world.’”

Other changes have happened at M&M’s lately. The 82-year-old brand has tweaked its logo, and modernized its six characters. Although every character still has white legs and white shoes, the company has changed them somewhat by giving most of them new shoes.

Green, who formerly wore go-go boots, now dons basic sneakers. Brown, the third female character, traded her high heels for sensible shoes with lower heels. Orange tied his shoelaces, while Red and Yellow added laces to their shoes, and Blue’s shoes remained relatively unchanged.

Green’s change of footwear sparked an oversized reaction last year, as thousands signed a petition to keep Green M&M’s sexy. The Washington Post shared an opinion piece stating that there was nothing wrong with the original go-go boots and swapping them for plain sneakers was anything but progressive. Rolling Stone went so far as to call the change “slut shaming” stating that Green could be sexy and a feminist at the same time.

M&M’s/Mars Wrigley executives were surprised by the strong response Green’s footwear switch sparked on social media. Hwang called the candy reaction unprecedented and said they were “incredibly overwhelmed.” She added that the reactions proved that the M&M’s brand was a true cultural icon. Additionally, Hwang said that M&M’s had no plans to switch Green’s appearance back to her racier, sexier self. She said that the change represented the way that the candy characters were evolving to reflect the real world we’re living in. Hwang also hopes that consumers will appreciate the M&M’s character lineup for more than what they’re wearing on their feet.