The history of Mars Chocolate is not as well known as other candy companies, primarily because it has always been a privately owned family company and thus does not have to disclose information to stockholders.
The history of Mars Chocolate starts with the founder, Frank C. Mars. Mars began selling candy in 1911 at age 19 from a recipe his mother had handed down to him. His first attempt in Tacoma, Washington was a bust. But he didn’t give up.
He moved to Minneapolis, MN and started again, this time under the name Mar-O-Bar which later became Mars, Inc. He made several different kinds of candies before introducing his first hit, the Milky Way, in 1923.
In 1929, Frank Mars moved the company to Chicago as that city offered a central geographic location and a strong railway presence. The factory built there still turns out candy bars today.
In 1932, Mars’ son, Forrest opened the first European branch in Scotland with a $50,000 loan from his father and the recipe for Milky Way bars. The first Mars bar was produced in this Scottish factory. Other brands first conceived in Great Britain before their introduction to the United States include Snickers, Skittles, Starburst, Twix, and Topic.
In 1939, the history of Mars took another giant step as it began advertising on the radio. It sponsored a local trivia show called Dr. IQ and produced a candy bar by that name as well. This is one of the first examples of tying a product to advertising.
M&Ms were first introduced in 1941 in a paper tube to prevent melting on the shelf. In 1950, the letter “M” was first printed on the candy. Peanut M&Ms followed in 1954.
In addition to candy, Mars got into the vending business. Their Klix unit introduced the first in-cup vending drink machine in 1973.
Several bars are marketed under different names in the U.S. and abroad. For instance, The original Mars bar was just a variation of the U.S.’s Milky Way. What we knew as the U.S. Mars bar is now called Snickers with Almonds. The European version of the Milky Way is known as 3 Musketeers in the states.
In 1980, M&Ms became the first candy in space when astronauts specifically requested that it be included on their missions.
M&Ms have been the official candies of the 1984 Summer Olympics and the 1990 Soccer World cup. Snickers was the sponsor of the 1994 Soccer World cup in the USA. And, the company declared M&Ms to be the official candy of the new millennium in 2000 as the letters MM are Roman for 2000.
In the history of Mars chocolate, many different products have been produced. These include perennial chocolate bar favorites such as Snickers, Milky Way, M&M’s, and Twix bars, cat and dog food such as Whiskas and Pedigree, Aquarium Pharmaceuticals, Uncle Ben’s rice, and Promite, a sandwich spread similar to vegemite.
Recent history of Mars chocolate has included protests by vegetarians when Mars changed the composition of the candy bars they produce. They now use whey made with the lining of animal’s stomachs in their candy.