Stick with me on this. It’ s going somewhere, I promise.

M&M candies were first produced in 1941, by a company owned in partnership by Forrest Mars, son of Mars Candy Company founder Frank Mars, and Bruce Murrie, son of Hershey Chocolate’ s then-president William Murrie. (Hence the name.)

The little confections became hugely popular with soldiers during World War II and, in fact, for a time during the war were available only to the military because of chocolate rationing. In the post-war years, the product remained essentially the same, except that a black “M” was imprinted on the previously-plain candy’ s surface starting in 1950.The “M” was changed to white in 1954.

Also in 1954, the company’ s famous, “Melts in your mouth, not in your hand” commercial slogan was introduced. More importantly, in that same year M&Ms underwent their first “product expansion” with the creation of Peanut M&Ms which contain (duh) peanuts. That was pretty much it for the next 30 years, except for some color shuffling and a brief period in the 1960s when Almond M&Ms were produced.

But in the ‘90s, and even more so in the twenty-first century, the once-humble product line has (no pun intended) gone nuts. It’ s expanded to include the following varieties of M&Ms: Milk chocolate, white chocolate, dark chocolate, peanut, almond, peanut butter, dark chocolate peanut, strawberry peanut butter, strawberry nut, mint chocolate, cinnamon, pumpkin spice, white chocolate peppermint, holiday mint, gingerbread, mint crisp, pumpkin spice latte, mocha, coffee nut, honey nut, chili nut, orange chocolate, cherry, raspberry, cherry cordial, pineapple, coconut, candy apple, pretzel, birthday cake, white chocolate candy corn, red velvet, dulce de leche, carrot cake vanilla shake, crispy, tres leches, pecan pie, and caramel. I make the product count at 39.

Add to that Mega M&Ms, which are three times the size of the original candies and M&M Minis, which are far smaller. Some of these varieties, of course, are available only during specific times of the year or in limited market areas. And no single candy counter would carry all of the ones available. (If they did, they wouldn’t have room for anything else!) And M&Ms are not the only product to undergo such wild variation. (Coca-Cola and Oreo cookies come to mind as additional examples.)

The question remains, though: Why? I heard an advertising professional say once that the two most powerful “selling propositions”were novelty and familiarity. In other words, people want something new and different that they know and trust, or maybe something familiar and comforting that’s like nothing they’ve ever seen before. This explains not only the explosive proliferation of consumer products, but also why, on a recent week, eight of the top-ten best selling books on The New York Times bestseller list were sequels or part of a series. (The other two were by authors so well known as to be “brand names” in themselves.) It also explains the preponderance of remakes, adaptations, and sequels on television and in movie theaters. And it goes a long way toward explaining our nation’ s current political situation.

Think about it.