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The Mars Family Business

Mars, Incorporated is one of the most prominent producers of brands in the world. This family-owned company generates more than 30 billion dollars in sales every year. The foundation of their success is not money, but rather the company's constant creativity and sharp instinct for trends that have continually brought Mars forward, step-by-step, after almost a century of business, from a small family business to a flourishing multinational.

From kitchen candy to global player

The story begins in 1911 in Tacoma, a harbour in the Pacific Northwest of the USA. Frank C. Mars had 400 dollars in his pocket and definitely knew how to make chocolate candies. He founded a "Candy Factory", where his own kitchen began producing a modest income. That was not enough for this young candy maker. He wanted to make something different, something completely new – a chocolate that would make people stand in line. In 1923 – the family was now back home in Minnesota – Frank had his brilliant idea. Together with his son, Forrest, he combined three treats popular at that time: chocolate candy, chocolate bars and malted milk, a new drink back then, but with a taste of caramel. Their creation was longer and thicker than any piece of candy or chocolate bar at that time. The added taste of caramel was stronger than in a malted milk. Here was a thick, creamy, chewy, filled chocolate bar that sold more than in their wildest dreams. This was the first stone in the foundation leading to a global company: Mars, Incorporated.


Delicacies for Pets

After Mars had become a household name in the USA, the company decided to make the big leap across the Atlantic to Europe. Back to the roots, so to speak, as the Mars ancestors originally came from the Netherlands. Forrest Mars went to England in 1932 and founded "Mars Confectionery" in Slough. After only three years he realised that like his father, he also had a nose for emerging trends. With capital from the chocolate business he purchased a small company named Chappel Brothers, which was producing food for dogs. Most people at that time thought it very strange indeed to be feeding a pet anything other than table scraps. However, dog owners were soon won over by Mars and their brand Chappie. Mars soon began producing petfood on a large scale from their own recipes based on scientific nutritional standards.

Civilian Use of Military Ideas

Forrest Mars met some soldiers during the Spanish Civil War (1936–1939). They had covered their chocolate with a hard, sugary shell to keep it from melting. Once back home, Mars began research on developing chocolate candy covered with a coloured sugar coating. They would "melt in your mouth, not in your hand": M&M's®. The first customers were soldiers in the US Army. Forrest Mars continued his search for future trends, this time in 1941 together with Gordon Harwell, owner of a company named Converted Rice. Harwell was producing rice where the grains remained loose during cooking while still retaining all its vitamins. The good contact Forrest Mars had with the army resulted in some thankful customers: American soldiers fighting in WWII. Why wouldn't this high quality rice also be appreciated in civilian kitchens? During a business lunch, Harwell and Mars were talking about "Uncle Ben's", a brand Harwell had begun using in the 1930s. Forrest Mars realised that Uncle Ben needed a face. The photograph, still seen on today's packs, was the needed breakthrough.

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