The Mars Advanced Research Institute (MARI) connects Mars with emerging science and technology to spark discoveries with the potential to re-invent the future of our business.
Comprised of scientific experts in fields relevant for sustainability, health and wellness, and computational science, the MARI team seek out scientific and technological opportunities to develop breakthroughs for Mars, our people and the planet. Our science and technology strength translates into business impact, opening doors for Mars and the wider industry.
MARI connects with hundreds of external academic, research and scientific partners in areas of strategic interest working together to provide our business with the capabilities, connectivity and resources needed to transform ideas into action.
All we do acts in support of the Mars mission to deliver the world we want tomorrow, today.
MARI was founded in 2013 as part of the Mars Corporate R&D ecosystem. It was established to enhance the Mars approach to driving transformational innovation and to build a scientific and technological foundation that goes beyond the capabilities of the Mars segments.
MARI seeks out emerging discoveries with the potential to transform our business, industry and society for the better.
Mint flavor compound mapping research
Mint essential oils are used extensively across the food, cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries.
But the future of the mint crop, and these essential oils, are under threat. Climate change, stagnant yields and the impacts of pests and disease are endangering the long-term supply of this amazing aromatic and making it more difficult to match growing demand for mint-flavored products.
To protect the future of mint and mint flavors, MARI, Mars Wrigley and the Technical University of Munich, collaborated for the development of a new method to identify and quantify the key aroma, taste and cooling compounds in mint. While sampling mint flavor profiles was previously time and labor intensive, requiring a large amount of sample material and using complex analytical methods, the new method has brought tremendous benefits.
As new breeds of mint are developed that face up to threats to the mint supply chain, the results of MARI, Mars Wrigley and TUM’s research will help to make sure these crops have the most desirable flavor profiles possible!
Discovery of a natural cyan blue
In nature’s food palette, no color is more difficult to reproduce and replace than blue, especially the most commonly used blue synthetic colorant Brilliant Blue (FD&C Blue No. 1, a cyan blue). It’s a challenge that has puzzled the food industry for years and has become even more important as an increasing number of consumers look for natural alternatives to artificial dyes in their food.
For over a decade, MARI and Mars Wrigley worked with a global team of researchers from the University of California, Davis, the Ohio State University, Nagoya University, the University of Avignon and SISSA University to find a natural cyan blue dye. This research discovered a unique anthocyanin, a type of naturally occurring pigment, in red cabbage that can be used to produce a food-source blue colorant. For consumers, Mars, and the food industry more broadly, it means that there’s now a viable, natural alternative to artificial blue.
Watch here to learn more.
Eradicating a foodborne carcinogen with online gaming
Aflatoxin is a type of mycotoxin, a poisonous natural product made by certain fungi that can cause a toxic response when eaten. If consumed by humans, even in low concentrations, aflatoxins can have a staggering health impact, causing stunting in children and thought to play a part in up to 28% of liver cancer cases globally.
MARI launched the Foldit Aflatoxin Challenge in collaboration with several partners, including the University of California, Davis, Thermo Fisher Scientific and the Partnership for Aflatoxin Control in Africa. Gamers worked to redesign and improve an enzyme with the potential to degrade aflatoxin and reduce its toxicity.
Since the Challenge launched, players have designed more than 1.6 million enzyme models to potentially tackle aflatoxin, spending more than 50,000 hours playing - the equivalent of 100 people in full time work for a year! Although there is still much work to be done, scientists are already seeing progress, and it is only a matter of time before synthetic biology produces an enzyme that can do the job. If efforts are successful, the positive impacts will largely be felt in young economies, where aflatoxin unfairly burdens society.