© 2024 WKNO FM
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

World Leaders Gobble Up M&M's Imprinted With U.N. Goals

U.N. Sustainable Development Goals printed on M&M's will melt in your mouth, not on your hands.
Josh Loock
U.N. Sustainable Development Goals printed on M&M's will melt in your mouth, not on your hands.

Sometimes it's hard to get people to pay attention to the biggest problems of the world — poverty, hunger, disease. But what if they were printed on M&M's?

That was the idea that a U.N. promotional group called Project Everyone proposed to Mars, Incorporated, the maker of M&M's as a sweet reminder of what diplomats, policymakers and world leaders were there for. The first customized candies were made in 2015. This year's U.N. General Assembly gobbled up the biggest batch ever for U.N. week: 5,000 tins totaling more than 100,000 individual M&M's.

"These are some heavy topics," says Andy Pharoah, vice president of corporate affairs at Mars. "It was about bringing a little bit of play and fun to it."

The customized candies, donated by Mars, come in seven colors, representing seven of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals — the U.N. plan to end extreme poverty, abolish inequality and improve the environment, among other things, by 2030.

Each of the goals has the official U.N. icon for the goal imprinted on the candy. The bright orange M&M, for example, pictured a city skyline — the symbol for Goal 11, sustainable cities. The yellow one had a sun with an "on" button for Goal 7, clean energy. And the baby blue one had fish and waves of water — Goal 14, ocean conservation.

The U.N. M&M's mark the first time that Mars has created custom candies for a political arena or a cause, says Pharaoh — other than the candies they make for the president on Air Force One, a tradition since Ronald Reagan. But anyone can order customized M&M's, he says. "We've gotten orders for Superbowl parties and events for brands like The Financial Times. They got pink ones [in honor of the color of their newspaper]."

While you won't be able to buy the Sustainable Development M&M's at a shop or online, you could find them at most U.N. events this week. "We gave a lot to the U.N., the diplomatic missions, the climate groups, pretty much anyone who asked," says Pharaoh. "We're not gonna be leaving with any tins of [Sustainable Development Goals] M&M's, I can tell you that."

So was anyone eating them?

At the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation's Goalkeepers event on Wednesday, which included guests like former President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, men and women in black and gray power suits hovered around a side table. On it were tall glass containers filled to the brim with Sustainable Development Goals-themed lapel pins and of course, the M&M's.

Little white paper cups in hand, the guests scooped out the candies and munched.

World leaders, they're just like us!

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Malaka Gharib is the deputy editor and digital strategist on NPR's global health and development team. She covers topics such as the refugee crisis, gender equality and women's health. Her work as part of NPR's reporting teams has been recognized with two Gracie Awards: in 2019 for How To Raise A Human, a series on global parenting, and in 2015 for #15Girls, a series that profiled teen girls around the world.