The Chocolate Cult: Who was Forrest Mars?

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Who was Forrest Mars?

Forrest Mars, Sr., 1919
If you know the Mars brand, then you should know about Forrest Mars, Senior, because he was the force that turned an American candy company into a mover and shaker in food industry. He introduced several of the brands iconic candies and expanded their offerings into non-candy categories of food. This expansion was not always smooth and there was a period when the brand could have been destroyed. Today, March 21, 1904, was his birthday so in honor of that, let's learn more about him.

Mars, Inc., was a solidly American company but Forrest wanted to expand it into the European market. In 1932, Forrest rented a factory in England and created the Mars bar which resembled the Milky Way bar except it used Cadbury chocolate coating. After too many clashes with his father, Frank C. Mars, the founder of Mars, Inc., Forrest let his father buyout his share of the company and moved to England in 1933. Forrest worked at both Nestlé and the Tobler company for brief periods of time but ultimately he was driven to create his own business that fit with his goals.

In 1934, Forrest bought a dog food company and used it capture the market on canned meat for dogs. He returned to American and created Food Products Manufacturing for products like Uncle Ben's Rice and Pedigree for pet food products.

Back in England, Forrest was still working with candy and by 1937 he had introduced Maltesers. This became popular in Europe but was not available until 2017 in the USA. Forrest also partnered with other candy makers like Bruce Murrie and the two took a Spanish idea and turned it into M&Ms that entered the American market in 1940.

With the death of his father in 1964, Forrest took the family company and folded into his own businesses.  Now he could make Mars Inc into an international company.

Even after his retirement, Forrest didn't leave the candy business. In 1980 he created Ethel M Chocolates, whose factory I visited years back, then sold it to his children in 1988 returning the new company to the family fold.

Forrest Mars, Sr., lived a long life, finally passing away in 1999, at the age of 95. His companies survive to this day.

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