Hershey, Pa., is not the only chocolate town around.
In the Musconetcong Valley in northwest New Jersey the scent of cocoa floats in the air.
Welcome to Hackettstown.
Now, admittedly, this Warren County burg does not have the brand-name recognition that Hershey does, what with its Hersheypark, Hotel Hershey, Hershey School and, of course, Hershey chocolates.
But Hackettstown still is the home of an American candy icon: M&M's. At a rate of 150 million a day, chocolate M&M's and peanut M&M's in red, green, yellow, brown, orange, blue and purple roll off the conveyor belts at the modern plant on Route 517. And at Halloween, plenty of them ended up in trick-or-treat bags around the country.
"It put us on the map, in a sense," said Raymond A. Lemasters, Hackettstown's historian and a lifelong resident. "When someone asks, 'Where's Hackettstown?' you mention M&M's, and there it is on the back of the pack."
But Hershey and Hackettstown have little in common besides candy and a country setting.
There are no Chocolate or Cocoa Avenues in Hackettstown, and although Masterfoods USA, a Mars Inc. subsidiary and the maker of M&M's, is the biggest company in town, this is not a company town.
Hackettstown was incorporated more than 100 years before the M&M plant arrived; Hershey grew up around the factory that Milton S. Hershey built in Pennsylvania farmland in 1905.
Hackettstown is named after John Hackett, a landowner who managed iron furnaces and other New Jersey interests for Philadelphia businessmen William Allen and Joseph Turner in the mid-18th century. But there is no evidence that Hackett actually lived on the land he owned that now is part of the town that bears his name.
Lemasters said Hackettstown residents see M&M's as a good neighbor, not a dominating presence.
Masterfoods employs about 1,200 people at its Hackettstown plant and headquarters building, said spokeswoman Marlene Machut.
There is nothing to indicate that candy is made at the facility except for a large, inflatable yellow M&M at the front door.
On Main Street, a single, yellow M&M's vending machine is the most visible hint that this is the candy maker's hometown.
M&M's hit the market in 1941. They were created by Forrest Mars Sr., who, as legend has it, on a visit to Spain during the Spanish Civil War, saw soldiers eating chocolate pellets encased in a hard sugary coating to prevent them from melting. ("Melts in your mouth, not in your hand" was a longtime slogan for M&M's.)
Mars, son of Frank Mars, a Midwest candy maker who created the Milky Way, Snickers, 3 Musketeers bars, went into business with Bruce Murrie and started making M&M's in Newark, N.J.
Mars later bought out Murrie, and the operation moved to what was farmland in Hackettstown in 1958.
The candy grew to be such a hit that it is now also made in Cleveland, Tenn., as well as France, the Netherlands, Australia and Brazil.
Machut said the Hackettstown site was chosen because of the space and its proximity to Pennsylvania, supplier of most of the plant's milk.
The factory's tons of cocoa come from ships that dock in Camden or Philadelphia, a two-hour drive away, some of it on winding country roads.
Before M&M's arrival, Hackettstown's biggest businesses had been two leather companies and a machine maker. Even earlier, the town, located on both the Lackawanna Railroad and the Morris Canal, had been known for its many carriage makers, said Lemasters, the historian.
Lemasters, who was 16 when M&M's came to the 3.7-square-mile town, said the candy maker's arrival and the completion of nearby Interstate 80 spurred a population growth that saw the number of residents grow from about 4,000 in the 1950s to 10,000 now.