Still owned and controlled by its founding family, packaged foods giant Mars s one of the world's biggest private companies, with annual sales of around $33bn. In addition to its globe-spanning onfectionery brands, which include Snickers, M&Ms, Starburst and Skittles, the company is one of the leading worldwide manufacturers of petfood, through Pedigree and Whiskas and other brands, and also manufactures sauces and asy-cook rice-based meals under the Uncle Ben's umbrella. In April 2008, in by far the biggest acquisition in the ompany's history, Mars acquired gum and mint giant Wrigley in a substantial $23bn deal hich made it the world's largest overall confectioner. It was pushed back into second place two years later by the merger of Kraft and Cadbury. In chocolate, it still ranks behind Hershey in the US, although Mars has a far wider global spread. M&M's and Snickers are the world's best-selling confectionery brands.
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Adbrands Weekly Update 18th May 2017: It's comparatively unusual for one ad to be banned or withdrawn in a week, let alone three. In the US, a grotesque Mother's Day spot by DDB Chicago for Mars-owned Skittles, was voluntarily withdrawn after provoking a sizeable backlash in social media for its poor taste. The ad - which we had featured on our Facebook page - showed a grown man still connected to his mother by an umbilical cord, and as a result able to name the flavour of each of the Skittles she is eating. Perhaps the most disturbing aspect was his final comment: "I wish Dad was still here". We don't even want to think about what that means. In the UK, McDonald's and Leo Burnett London pulled a rather more heartfelt mother and son spot, which was accused of exploiting bereavement for commercial purposes. More dramatic perhaps was the ASA decision to actually ban Grey London's ad campaign for Volvo's Life Paint, a double Cannes Grand Prix winner in 2015. The spray paint makes clothing reflective in car headlights, but the ad suggested that it had a similar effect on the frame of bicycles. Luckily, no mothers, sons or deceased fathers were involved.
Adbrands Weekly Update 23rd Mar 2017: Mars is to launch its Maltesers brand in the US, only its second new chocolate launch in its domestic market in over 35 years. (It was preceded by the short-lived Fling in 2009). Maltesers were originally launched in Britain by Forrest Mars Sr in 1937, during his self-imposed exile from the US company founded by his father, and has been a household name there for most of the past 80 years. However, in that era before globalisation, a virtually identical malted milk ball product was introduced in the US two years later by another company under the name Whoppers. This product passed through several hands before ending up with Hershey, which also acquired US rights to the name "Malteser" in order to prevent Mars from launching its own product in America. A court battle ensued, eventually won by Mars two years ago, paving the way for the forthcoming launch.
Adbrands Weekly Update 12th Jan 2017: Mars Inc is to expand its petcare division, already one of the world's largest, with the acquisition of US veterinary group VCA for $7.7bn, or $9.1bn including debt. That company runs around 800 animal hospitals across the US as well as 60 large diagnostic labs and a chain of doggy daycare centres under the Camp Bow Wow brand. Sales were around $2bn last year. VCA will continue to operate as a separate division under the umbrella of Mars Petcare, and will take over management of Mars's existing vet division, which runs 1,100 pet hospitals under the Banfield, Bluepearl and Pet Partners banners. The deal will make petcare the single biggest business within Mars, ahead of confectionery.
Adbrands Weekly Update 3rd Nov 2016: Ads of the Week: "Keep Them Busy". It's quite extraordinary how cutting-edge CGI has transformed the way even commercials are made these days. We wouldn't be at all surprised if this delightfully destructive Christmas spot from Adam&Eve DDB for Mars' Temptations cat treats doesn't contain just as much behind the scenes computer wizardry as many a much showier spot. Cats are notoriously hard to herd (even if they single-handedly power the internet) so presumably every cat here was filmed separately and then superimposed into a single shot. What a task!
Adbrands Weekly Update 13th Oct 2016: Mars has taken full control of the Wrigley chewing gum business, buying out investment partner Berkshire Hathaway for an undisclosed sum. Mars teamed up in 2008 with billionaire Warren Buffett's investment vehicle to acquire Wrigley. Acting as financier to the deal, Berkshire contributed a total of $6.5bn to the purchase price. Around two-thirds of that sum was a loan to Mars, which has already been repaid. The remaining $2.1bn purchased a direct 20% stake in what then became a separate operating division combining Mars's sugar confectionery brands with Wrigley's gum brands. It has remained a separate legal entity from the main Mars business for the past eight years. Berkshire's preference shares in the business carried a guaranteed 5% annual return, which has netted that group around $840m to-date in dividends. The buyout allows Mars to consolidate Mars Wrigley with its main chocolate confectionery division. Current Mars Wrigley president Martin Radvan will lead the combined confectionery business, supported by Jean-Christophe Flatin as president of Mars Global Chocolate. Casey Keller, previously regional president of Wrigley Americas, becomes president of Global Wrigley.
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Free for all users | see full profile for current activities: During the early years of the 20th century, company founder Franklin Mars had tried his hand at a number of ifferent confectionery businesses. All of them failed and in 1910 his first wife Ethel, also the mother of his infant son orrest, divorced him. He married again and eventually set up business in Minneapolis in the early 1920s, with a company which he amed Mar-O-Bar. His new product, launched in 1923, was a chocolate-covered nougat bar which he named Milky Way. Against all the dds, it proved a huge success, generating sales of almost $1m in its first year and finally making Franklin Mars a wealthy man.
Franklin had had little contact with his son over the previous 20 years, but in 1930 persuaded Forrest to come and work for the ompany, now renamed Mars Inc. That same year, Frank developed another new nougat bar, which he named Snickers after a favourite orse he owned. Two years later this was followed by 3 Musketeers, by which time the company's sales had grown to $25m. ronically, although the Mars factory made the nougat filling for its products, all of the chocolate used to coat them was upplied under contract by Hershey, already firmly established as the country's #1 onfectioner.
Despite Frank's attempts to patch up relations with Forrest, the two argued constantly, and Mars Jr also regularly vented his vil temper on employees. In 1932, the head-strong and confrontational young man tried to persuade his father to expand the usiness into Canada. Frank Mars refused, preferring to rest on his hard-won laurels as the #2 US candy maker. This led to their ost bitter row yet, and Forrest left the company. As a parting gift, his father gave him $50,000 and foreign rights to Milky Way nd then wrote Forrest out of his will.
Forrest Mars ran off to Europe. His first stop was Switzerland, where he took jobs as a production line worker at Tobler and estlé in order to learn more about chocolate manufacturing. He ended up in the UK where he started his own business, Food anufacturers Ltd in the town of Slough, west of London. In 1933 he launched a slightly sweeter version of his father's Milky Way, hich he named the Mars Bar. A year later he diversified into petfood, buying Chappel Brothers, a company which had carved ut a small niche for itself repackaging meat by-products as dogfood under the brandname Chappie. At the time, it was virtually he only company in the UK which sold food specially made for pets. Generally, household animals were fed table scraps. Mars potted an opportunity, launching a second brand, Pedigree, and managed to increase sales in his new venture to £100,000 over the ext five years.
In the same year that Forrest Mars launched himself into the petfood business, Franklin Mars died, leaving his business to his econd wife and their daughter Patricia. With his father now out of the way, Forrest was strongly tempted to try his hand building is own rival empire back in the US. In 1939, he returned home, leaving the UK business in the hands of senior managers. Just efore he left he reportedly made an agreement with rival British confectioner Rowntree ackintosh to license a process they had developed for hard-coating chocolate beans with a candy shell, which they ntroduced in the UK as Smarties. On his return to the US, Forrest recruited Bruce Murrie, son of the president of Hershey, as his usiness partner and launched his own version of Smarties in 1940 under the name M&M's (which stood for Mars & Murrie's). ike Mars Inc, M&M's bought its chocolate under contract from Hershey, but that relationship soured rapidly after Forrest icked out Murrie in 1949. Fearing the introduction of a competitive product, Mars began stamping a letter M on his M&Ms rom 1950.
Forrest Mars was also experimenting in other areas. During the early 1940s he acquired rights to a process for parboiling rice or commercial sale, and he launched the product in 1945 under the brand name Uncle Ben's. Like his earlier invention of packaged etfood, this was another ground-breaking step. Rice was a common enough commodity, but no one had tried to brand it before. Ad gency pioneer Leo Burnett, who specialised in character-led branding, was tasked with inventing a name for the product. According o company legend, the resulting "Uncle Ben" character was inspired by a waiter in a Chicago restaurant where Burnett nd Forrest Mars met for lunch.
Now Forrest turned his attention to his father's old business, still controlled by his stepmother and her family. Mars Inc had aunched several new products since Frank Mars's death, including its own Mars Bar in 1936 (bearing no similarity to Forrest's ritish Mars Bar). But none of the new products had come close to matching the success of Milky Way, 3 Musketeers and Snickers. In 945, Franklin Mars' second wife died, leaving a small part of her shareholding to Forrest as a gesture of reconciliation. He used his gift to wage war on the company's executive team. Arguing that the business was being managed poorly, he attempted to ersuade the board to let him take full control. Little by little he began to increase his influence over the company. Finally, fter almost twenty years of badgering, he managed to persuade his half-sister Patricia to sell her stake to him. In 1964, he inally took control of Mars Inc in the US, merging it with his existing businesses M&M's Inc in the US and Food Manufacturers n the UK.
The next step was to terminate the relationship with Hershey's, which had continued to supply coating to Mars. In fact that ontract accounted for 30% of Hershey's sales by 1964. Mars then mounted a brutally aggressive marketing strategy against the arger company, overtaking it as the #1 US confectioner by the mid-1970s. He also extended his petfood business, buying US anufacturer KalKan in 1968, as well as Masterfoods, a small business based in Australia which was the local importer of Uncle en's. Over the following years, the Masterfoods name was gradually adopted by the food businesses elsewhere in the group. At he same time, Mars expanded its range, launching several of his US brands in the UK. Snickers was introduced in 1968 as Marathon; &Ms were introduced as Treets. (Both brands were brought into line with the US branding in 1990s, at the same time as Opal ruits were renamed Starburst).
In 1976, having achieved his ambition to become the leading confectioner in the US, Forrest abruptly decided to give up the usiness. He handed over all his shares in Mars Inc to sons Forrest Jr and John and daughter Jacqueline, and went off to dabble in nother small operation of his own, Ethel M liqueur chocolates, named after his mother. (This too was inherited by Forrest Jr and ohn in 1986). The brothers had inherited their father's hot temper, as well as his rigorous control of the minutiae of the usiness. To set an example to his employees, Forrest Mars Sr had insisted on punching a time-clock every day when he arrived at ork, and the same rules applied under his sons. Staff were obliged to work long hours, usually in the most sparsely furnished orporate offices, and perfection was demanded at every stage of the manufacturing process. In compensation, however, the company as renowned for its exceptional salaries - managers could earn as much as twice the amount paid by competing companies, provided hey performed well.
However Forrest Jr and John Mars lacked their father's uniquely obsessive entrepreneurial zeal, and adopted a highly onservative approach to the business. Rather than invent new products of their own, the brothers instead chose to launch tried nd tested European brands such as Twix or Starburst in the US. These were only modestly successful, and gradually the company's ead as #1 confectioner began to be whittled away. Famously, the brothers made a huge blunder in the mid-1980s, when they refused ermission for M&Ms to be used in the film E.T. as the candy used to lure the extra-terrestrial out of the woods. Instead irector Steven Spielberg approached arch-rival Hershey for their lesser known Reese's Pieces. After the film's release, sales of eese's Pieces tripled. The company missed another huge opportunity when it turned down a chance to buy Peter Paul, the US onfectionery business of Cadbury. Instead Hershey bought the company in 1988, finally ushing Mars back into the #2 slot.
The company did however buy ice cream maker Dove Bar International, which became the core of a new line of Mars-branded impulse ce creams, later introduced into the UK. In 1995, Mars also played a key part in the establishment of agency M&C Saatchi when it withdrew its £230m Whiskas account from Saatchi & Saatchi after Maurice and Charles were ousted in a oardroom coup. In 2001 the group agreed to buy Royal Canin, Continental Europe's leading pet food company, for about E1.5bn. t was the group's first major acquisition since 1986. The deal was cleared by European regulators in early 2002 on condition that ars sell off certain brands to avoid a potential monopoly in the French and German markets. Mars divested its own Brekkies and dvance petfood brands, as well as Royal Canin's Royal Chien, Premium and Playdog products.
In 2002 the company launched an outrageously cheeky assault on the long-running slogan used by arch-rival Nestle's Kit Kat, announcing plans to launch a rival product, Have A Break. Nestle was unable to prove in court that its "Have a reak - have a Kit Kat" catchphrase constituted a trademark, but in fact the Mars Have A Break bar has yet to see light of ay.
John Mars followed his brother into retirement in 2003, handing over day-to-day running of the business to professional anagers, principally CEO Paul Michaels. Although this led to a growth in confidence and a greater willingness to try out new deas, some of the old habits continued, not least the intense secrecy surrounding all aspects of the business. Gradually, owever, those old attitudes changed and the group began to demonstrate new daring in both its marketing and its corporate trategy from 2006 onwards. See full profile for current activities
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