Forrest Mars – Controversial History of M&M’s Creator

We, who love chocolate very much, must thank Forrest Mars for his merit. He was the man who created milk chocolate candies that “melt in your mouth, not in your hand.”

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There is not a single person on earth who has not heard about M&M’s. Those sweet little treats are just like a festival of tastes. That crunch when you bite and the taste of sweet milky chocolate will make anybody immediately fall in love with it. 

He not only managed to invent the candy but also built a chocolate candy empire, the Multinational Conglomerate. Who was Forrest Edward Mars and how did he manage to create our very beloved candy? The story goes on…

Forrest Mars - Controversial History of M&M’s Creator

Early childhood 

Forrest Mars was born on March 21st, 1904 in Wadena, Minnesota. His father was Frank Mars, founder of Mars, Incorporated. His mother was Ethel G. Kissack, a schoolteacher. He was married to Audrey Ruth (Meyer) and had three kids: Forrest Mars Jr., John Franklyn Mars, and Jacqueline Mars. 

His parents were very young when he was born. The family struggled a lot financially. Back in time, his father had already tried the candy-making business. However, it did not work. 

Eventually, even though Frank worked hard to support the family, he failed. After his parents’ divorce, his mother won custody of the child. Divorce actually ended with a huge tension, which lasted for years and affected the father-son relationship a lot. They rarely saw each other. With the decision of his mother, Forrest was sent to Canada by his grandparents. His mother had a warm relationship with him, however the same can not be said about his father. It turns out, he offered very little in both, communication and child support money. As a result, they emotionally distanced from one another.

In Canada, Forrest lived with his grandparents and received a very strict Episcopalian upbringing. Forrest Mars had many insecurities and bad feelings towards his father for various reasons that were forged in those years of being away.

A Family of Strangers

In 1922, Frank Mars invited his son to meet him. He was a student at the University of California, Berkeley. He was 18 years old back then. By that time, Frank Mars had “The Nougat House” (Mar-O-Bar) candy manufacturing business. Forrest was invited by his father to get involved in the “family business.” His father wanted to discuss the budding of it, noticing that they hadn’t seen each other in years before that meeting,

The meeting must have been somehow awkward because of all the tension that had been building over the years. Nobody knows what was happening for sure, but it turned out to be legendary. Why? Because it ended with the idea of creating Candy’s Milky Way

Two “strangers” talked about the family business at the Minneapolis diner and drank some milkshakes. Frank shared Mar-O-Bar-s ups and downs. mentioned that it tasted fantastic; however, transportation was extremely difficult. Then the idea came, and Forrest Mars offered: Why don’t you make a candy bar version of a malted milk drink?

Who Created the “Milky Way”?

Time went by, and around a century later, the following fact about the Milky Way appeared on Mars.com’s official website. “1923: Father and Son Collaborate and Launch a New Candy Bar.” The corporation and families tied around it try to create the image of the Mars family as best as possible. However, since the founding of the company, there have been huge tensions. 

According to some sources, Forrest Mars mentioned once that the invention of the chocolate Milky Way was his father’s idea all along. 

There is the third thought too. According to the family members of Thomas Diallo, who was Frank Mars’ really good friend and “The Master Candy Maker,” He was the one who invented the Milky Way, along with other famous candies. They also mentioned that Frank had money, but he didn’t have knowledge. 

We will probably never know who was the true inventor of the candy. Even though everybody claimed that the idea was theirs, maybe Forrest Mars was the author of this idea, the money was Frank’s, and in the technique part of candy making, Diallo participated.

First Steps in Business

Forrest Mars graduated in 1928. His first university was the University of California, Berkeley. Later on, he was transferred to the University of Yale. He finished with an industrial engineering degree and had really good talent and business knowledge. 

While he was away studying engineering, business continued to grow. The business soon became Mars Incorporated, and they had a new building in Minneapolis too. This way, the distribution would be maximized and the expenses would have been much lower. Forrest Mars, in one of his interviews, mentioned that he was the one who came up with that idea of expanding. He had to push Frank Mars into pulling up the stakes. 

After the opening of the Chicago factory, Forrest Mars joined the Mars company. It’s no secret that father and son had a pretty tenuous relationship. So it seemed like a way to cooperate and finally unite as a family for the purpose. However, it did not go smoothly at all. 

Frank’s ideas followed old school, mainly when Forrest wanted something new. They both did some things right. For example, they launched two very successful candies. One was Snickers in 1930. Another one was the Three Musketeers candy in 1932. 

Family Feud

Eventually, after difficult years of working together, the tension between father and son was still huge. There was no way they could work together in a peaceful environment. Forest had an idea of expanding the business abroad and ran into a disagreement with his father. He demanded to be the owner of a third of the company Mars, Incorporated. 

Frank told his son that the company was not big enough for both of them. Well, some sources say that he told Forrest to go somewhere else and start his own business. If it was really so, it would have been very hurtful for the son. The first time he was sent away to Canada by his mother, and now his father was sending him away. Forrest Mars accepted the challenge. 

A New Beginning

Forrest Mars went to Britain with $50,000 and he also had the patent rights to the Milky Way bar formula. Even though father and son did not have a good relationship, his father respected and trusted his son’s skills. Forrest Mars modified the Milky Way formula and added the sweetness. This candy was absolutely his creation, and he called it the “Mars Bar.” The Mars Bar was introduced in the UK in 1932. That made him independent, and it was the beginning of his business career. 

While in Europe, Forrest worked for Nestle and Tobler companies for a while. There, he learned the art of candy making and especially milk chocolate. Even more, Nestle was created by Daniel Peter and Henry Nestle, and Daniel Peter invented milk chocolate. So, it must have been really productive for Forrest to learn the techniques of making good chocolate. 

Claiming His Rights

After two years of living in the UK, Frank Mars dies at the age of 52. Turns out, the son was so hurt by his father’s neglect for years, that the war continued even after his death. Frank left the majority of the corporation to his wife and daughter. 

After about a decade, when the Mars corporation was not in good shape anymore and started going down, Forrest claimed ownership of Mars incorporated. By that time, he had already managed to build his own business and had stepped into the food industry. He created Uncle Ben’s rice line and also started the production of pet food, Pedigree. They also managed to step into the production of canned meat for dogs and launched “Chappie’s canned food.”

Eventually, he created something that is still popular and loved by the people. He created M&M’s candy in 1940. He joined with Bruce Murrie, who was the son of the candy company’s president, and they created the candy, which had a hard shell coating and milky chocolate inside. The name M&Ms is short for “Mars and Murrie.” Peanut M&M’s were introduced in 1954.

Continuing the legacy

In 1973, Forrest Mars retired from Mars, Inc. The company went to his children. He did not have an easy life. It felt like he was always trying to outdo his father. Because of his childhood and the constant drama in the family, his temper was not good. He would often lash out at employees for missteps and was even strict with his kids. 

However, because he was so strict and so purposeful, he managed to create a huge corporation that is still actively competing in today’s candy market. M&Ms, Milky Way, Mars Bar, and many other brands were created by this company. His children respected Forrest Mars very much as an innovator, manager, and strategist. He became one of the richest people in the USA and continued his father’s legacy successfully.

Interesting Facts

  • M&Ms is short for “Mars and Murrie.”
  • Forrest Mars was ranked 30th on Forbes magazine’s list of the richest Americans. 
  • Forrest Mars had been allergic to peanuts his entire life.
  • In the United Kingdom, the “Milky Way” is called the “Mars Bar”. Their Milky Way tastes like the “three Musketeers.”
  • After retiring, Forrest Mars founded Ethel M Chocolates, named after his mother.
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