Mars, Forrest

Forrest Edward Mars (1904-1999) was the son of Frank Mars, the founder of Mars, Inc., and Frank’s first wife Ethel. Forrest’s parents divorced and he did not see his father again until 1922, when he began working with Frank at Mars, Inc. Forrest later claimed that he invented the Milky Way bar, which was launched in 1923.
After a quarrel, Frank Mars removed Forrest from Mars, Inc. in 1932. Forrest was given $50,000 and the foreign rights to the Milky Way. Forrest traveled to Europe, where he claimed to have learned the chocolate business in Switzerland by working in various chocolate companies, including those ofTobler and Nestle. Forrest moved to England, where he consulted with Rowntree’s of York, assisting that company in producing the Kit Kat bar 1935 and subsequently other candy bars. Rowntree’s also began manufacturing Smarties, a small, round chocolate enclosed in candy. Forrest opened a factory in Slough, England, and began to manufacture a sweeter version of the Milky Way bar with a new name, the Mars bar. By 1939, Mars, Ltd. was ranked as Britain’s third-largest candy manufacturer. Mars opened a factory in Brussels, hoping to sell Mars bars across Europe, but the outbreak of World War II ended these activities.
In the United States, Forrest Mars went into a limited partnership with Bruce Murrie, son of William Murrie, the president of the Hershey Company. Forrest Mars put up 80 percent of the capital and Murrie 20 percent, and Forrest was in charge of the company, which was named M&M Inc., for the first initial of their respective last names. As a result of the partnership, Hershey supplied M&M Inc. with all the chocolate they wanted. Hershey also supplied M&M, Inc. with equipment and technical advice. The new company introduced M&M’s in 1940. Because sugar and chocolate were rationed during the war, Forrest bought a rice mill in 1942 and launched Uncle Ben’s Rice. After the war, M&M launched print advertisements in national newspapers and magazines, radio spots, and billboards. In 1949, Forrest Mars bought out Bruce Murrie for $1 million. The company, M&M, Inc., was eventually renamed Food Manufacturers, Inc.
Now completely in charge of the company, Forrest Mars hired Ted Bates & Co., an advertising firm in Chicago, to help market the company’s products. Bates came up with the slogan “Melts in your mouth, not in your hand,” which was an instant success. The company added Peanut M&M’s in 1954 and introduced the cartoon characters Mr. Plain and Mr. Peanut in the same year. Bates also developed a television commercial of M&M’s jumping into pool of chocolate; the company’s advertisements ran on the television Howdy Doody Show and the Mickey Mouse Club. By 1956, M&M’s annual sales topped $40 million.
Forrest Mars had tried to gain control of Mars, Inc., after his father’s death in 1934. For years, he was unsuccessful in this quest, but when Ethel Mars (Frank Mars’s second wife) died in 1945 she gave 50 percent of her stock to Forrest. This gave him a position on the board of directors and an office at Mars, Inc. In 1950, Forrest tried to oust the leadership of Mars, Inc., but failed, and he was banned from the company. He was eventually given control of several seats on the company’s board. In 1959, Forrest became chairman of Mars, Inc. and continued to acquire shares in the company. In 1964, Forrest Mars merged Food Manufacturers Inc. into Mars, Inc., which became the new corporation’s name.
In 1965, Mars, Inc. discontinued buying chocolate from Hershey and Forrest began to expand the company. To prevent trade secrets from leaking out, Forrest Mars required that all senior executive sign nondisclosure agreements. When Forrest Mars died in 1999, he left a fortune worth $4 billion and he was ranked by Forbes magazine as the among the most wealthy Americans, as were his children. Mars, Inc. was one of the largest companies in the world.

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