Chances are you’ve heard of Mars Inc.
It’s the fourth largest privately held company in the world and responsible for some of the greatest candy creations of all time.
We’re talking about candy bars like the Milky Way, Snickers, 3 Musketeers, Twix, and handheld candies like M&Ms and Skittles.
Mars Inc has been in the candy industry for over 100 years and in that time, has only become more popular as its product lines have expanded and it has taken over other food industries with recognizable brands like Combos, Uncle Ben’s, and Dolmio. Not to mention the brand also owns pet food companies like Pedigree, Whiskas, Nutro and Royal Canin.
We were curious how Mars Inc became a candy giant, so we dove into the history of Mars and came to find 9 sweet facts that you probably never knew. Check them out!
9 Sweet Facts You Never Knew About Mars Candy
Frank C. Mars, founder of Mars Candy, learned how to hand-dip candy in his early childhood.
- Before there was the candy king Mars Candy Company, there was Frank C Mars. Born in 1884, Frank contracted polio at a young age leaving him unable to walk. Due to his illness, he spent much of his young childhood at home with his mother who taught him how to cook and hand-dip chocolate. This was the start of Frank’s initiation into the candy world, where by the time he was 19 years old, he had started his own candy company selling chocolate-dipped sweets locally.
The first official Mars Candy Factory company was started in Tacoma, Washington.
- By age 27, Frank Mars had married his second wife Ethel V. Healy, and moved to Tacoma Washington where they started their first candy company called Mars Candy Factory in 1911. At the time, each and every piece of buttercream candy was made and sold on the same day due to no refrigeration. Mars and his wife would go on to grow the candy company to 125 employees selling sweet treats up and down the Pacific coast in penny candy stores.
Mars Inc has had three different names since its inception.
Mars candy has tried its hand at a few different names over the course of its 110-year history. In the early years, Frank Mars sold candy under his own name in both Minnesota and Washington. After moving back to Minnesota from Washington in 1920, he changed the name to “The Nougat House”. This name lasted only a year when he changed it to MAR-O-BAR. Named after Mars chocolate-dipped candy bar, this name was the inception of what would become Mars Inc. Due to fragility, the MAR-O-BAR struggled in transportation, leading to the creation of the wildly popular Milky Way candy bar.
The Milky Way candy bar was invented by Frank C. Mars’ son, Forrest Mars Sr.
Frank Mars' son wanted to find a way to take the full flavor of a milkshake and condense it down into a bite-sized candy bar. In 1923, he created the first version of the Milky Way candy bar and advertised it as “chocolate malted milk in a candy bar”. This confectionery innovation would catapult Mars into the mainstream and make it one of the most popular candy bars ever sold by the company.
Snickers candy bars were named after the Mars Family’s favorite horse.
- In 1930, Frank Mars wanted to capitalize on the success of the Milky Way bar so he set out to create another tasty combination this time using nougat, peanut, and caramel. Other candy makers were dabbling with these ingredients, but nobody had ever thought to cover them with a milk chocolate coating. After much testing, Mars finally released the Snickers candy bar in 1930. The Mars family was known to have a deep appreciation for horses, one of which was named Snickers, which became the name for the iconic candy bar we all know and love today.
Mars Inc had its own separate candy company based in the UK.
- It’s well known that Mars Inc produces a few candy bars that you can only get your hands on in the UK and Europe. The most popular of which is called the Mars Bar. Similar to that of a Milky Way, the Mars bar was created by Forrest Mars Sr. when he decided to try his hand at running his own candy business in Slough, UK. With little to no money, Forrest Mars Sr. moved across the pond, purchased a small factory, hired four employees, and began producing his version of the Milky Way. The ingredients were adapted over time to align with European taste which came from locally sourced chocolate in the UK resulting in a close taste with a different dispersion of ingredients. After the passing of his father, Forrest Mars Sr. took over Mars Inc and consolidated the U.S. and UK brands to make one cohesive brand that served both markets.
Forrest Mars Sr. started a gourmet chocolate candy company in retirement.
- When Forrest Mars retired from running Mars Inc in 1973, he moved to the Nevada desert to enjoy his time away from candy. Having grown bored rather quickly his entrepreneurial spirit kicked in and he started another gourmet chocolate business called Ethel M. Chocolates, named after his late mother in 1980. This candy company focused on creating hand-made chocolate recipes that Mars’ mother used to make when he was a kid. The company hired master chocolatier Jin Caldwell to lead product innovation, creating over 48 different handmade gourmet chocolates, some of which included liquor-filled cordials—something only a few states offered at the time. Five years after starting the venture, Forrest Mars Sr. sold the company to Mars Inc who continues to produce the gourmet chocolate today.
Mars partnered with Hershey to create the iconic M&M candy.
- When Forrest Mars Sr. was working under his father at Mars Inc, he remembered a trend that he saw during the Spanish Civil War, where soldiers ate bite-sized candy called Smarties. These aren’t the same Smarties that we know and love today, but instead small chocolate pellets covered in hardened sugar shell that prevented the milk chocolate middle from melting. Mars thought this was a great idea that he could improve upon so he set out to create his own patent process and product that would be sold commercially. He partnered with Bruce Murrie (son of Hershey’s President William F.R Murrie) who had a chokehold on the chocolate industry back in the 1940s to create M&Ms using Hershey chocolate. The name came from a combination of the two founders last names (M&M) and when the copycat candy companies tried making the same product, Mars started stamping each and every candy with the iconic M. From there, the candy exploded onto the market and was quickly snatched up by the U.S. Army to be used in military rations.
Mars Inc owns the Wrigley Gum.
- Everyone knows the classic chewing gum company Wrigley, right? As it turns out, Wrigley is actually owned by Mars Inc. The acquisition happened in April of 2008 for an astounding $23 billion dollars thanks to financing from Berkshire Hathaway, JP Morgan, and Goldman Sachs. In 2016, Mars Inc merged Wrigley with its chocolate operations to create a new subsidiary called Mars Wrigley Confectionery. Today, Wrigley products are sold in over 180 countries, and have 21 production facilities worldwide.