February 6, 2007


And the man behind the brand is...
Frank Mars

Frank Mars was a Pennsylvania native who worked his way across America as a candy salesman in Minnesota and Washington state in the early 1900s. It was a meager existence and in 1910 his wife Ethel divorced him on grounds of non-support. She was awarded custody of six-year old Forrest Edward Mars. After that Frank Mars rarely saw his family and only little more regularly sent $20 a month in support payments.

Frank Mars married another Ethel after his divorce. He failed in a Seattle candy business and creditors even took his personal belongings. He started again in Tacoma and again declared bankruptcy in 1914. During the World War I years Mars endured one business disaster after another. Finally he and his wife returned to Minnesota in 1920 with $400 in cash.

Settling in Minneapolis-St. Paul the couple set up yet another candy business. They lived in a one-room apartment over the factory and worked long hours making candy and distributing it in local stores. At the same time Mars was experimenting with candy bars.

In 1923, approaching 40 years of age, Mars developed a recipe for a malted milk bar with a chocolate coating. He called his new confection Milky Way and his sales skyrocketed from $72,800 to $792,000. Mars seized upon his first success and built Milky Way into a nationally distributed candy sensation. By 1929 Mars Inc. had sales of $24,000,000 and profits over two million dollars. Mars moved his factory to Oak Park, Illinois to expand production.

By this time his son Forrest had graduated from Yale University and joined his father's candy-making business. Immediately the head-strong young Mars began criticizing the way his father ran the business and made no secret about his beliefs that he could do better. By 1932 Frank Mars had had it with his son. He gave Forrest $50,000, the recipe for Milky Way and the foreign rights to Mars products and sent him on his way. Frank Mars could not be accused of non-support this time.

Although the Depression cut his sales by almost 2/3 Frank Mars continued to operate a successful business until his death in 1934. Control of the candy company passed to his second wife but she preferred spending time handling the family racing stable on the 2700-acre Milky Way Farms in Tennessee. At her death in 1945, Forrest Mars, who had settled in England and built a pet food and candy colossus on the Milky Way bar, returned to gain control of his father's firm.

Forrest Mars grew into one of the world's richest and most secretive men. He has granted only one interview in his life to date. He established company headquarters in McLean, Virginia, home of the clandestine CIA. As one competitor observed, "Mars may be the CIA for all I know."

1 comment:

Robert said...

Reading of Forrest Mars's secretiveness gives added meaning to their slogan, "The best candies on Earth come from Mars."