The 24th of September 1883 is the date when the history of the Mars candy company originated. That’s when Frank Mars was born. Back then, nobody knew that he would make such a significant change in millions of people’s lives and make history. Frank Mars was a founder of the food company that created chocolate candy. More than a century has passed, but Mars, Incorporated, a 110-year old company, is still active and competitive. Even more, the company is a multinational manufacturer of confectionery.
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Frank Mars Before Fame
Surprisingly, Franklin Clarence Mars started his battle and journey when he was just 19 years old. He was born in Newport, Minnesota. There is not much information about his father. The only thing we know is that he worked as a gristmill operator in Pennsylvania. His mother was named Alva. Frank Mars learned a lot from her. In fact, his knowledge of making confectionery came from her. A famous story is that she gave him some culinary lessons as entertainment while afflicted by polio in his childhood. Unfortunately, it left him disabled for the rest of his life.
Frank Mars learned how to hand dip the chocolate candy during his illness caused by polio. He would have been pretty immobile as a kid. That must’ve affected him very much, and that was probably one of the main reasons why he spent so much time watching his mother. He managed to master his mother’s recipes and learned how to make Divinity, Fudge, and Peanut Brittle.
It seems like the art of making confectionery has been a part of his personality since childhood. He was head to toe into candy making, and his mother had a main role in supporting his talent. According to the stories, Frank Mars loved to do experiments on recipes. At the age of 19, he became pretty good at making Molasses chips (buttercream candies). He used to make them at home, in the kitchen, and then sell them to the local stores. It was his first candy and the first sales happened in 1902.
Frank Mars Struggle was Real
In 1902, at a pretty young age, he married Ethel G. Kissack, a schoolteacher. His first child, Forrest Mars, was born in 1904. It was the time when the candy industry started to wake up. The introduction of Hershey’s Bar changed the situation on the market. Different candy-making companies started to appear, and as a result, the competition got more intense. At that time, he was just under 20. He was young, without experience or knowledge of the business. Not surprisingly, the fierce competition, especially in Minneapolis, made his small business go down.
After his son’s birth, Frank Mars’ family struggled a lot. He worked as a chip salesman in Wadena. Even though he was working hard to support his family, he failed in doing so. At least that’s what his wife thought. He was looking for new opportunities and took his family to Tacoma, Washington, thinking that it would make everything better. However, fate had other plans. They kept struggling. Finally, the marriage ended in a divorce.
In 1910, Ethel filed for divorce. Divorce was pretty bad and raised a lot of tensions in a family that lasted years. Ethel won full custody and sent her son away to his parents in Canada. Young Forrest had a good relationship with his mother; Frank Mars, on the other hand, did not.
In the same year of his divorce, in 1910, Frank Mars married Ethel V. Mars. Yes, another Ethel as a wife (what a coincidence). After so much downhill and disappointment, he still managed to get enough energy to create his long-wanted candy business. In this case, his wife helped him operate the business. It was not easy, but they somehow managed to get the manufacturing going. His business went down three times in 10 years. After that, he failed, and creditors took all his stuff.
In 1920, Frank Mars and his second wife moved back to Minnesota. At this time, he only had four hundred dollars in his name. Eventually, he started a company called “The Nougat House.”. He and his wife were really trying hard. Frank Mars used to start working on candies as early as three in the morning, while his wife managed the selling process. That’s how they created the line of handmade candies, named after his daughter (by the second wife), Patricia.
Following the release of the next product, “Mar-O-Bar,” the candy was made out of chocolate, caramel, and nuts. It did not do great, but it was well enough to keep the business running, and he found a place in the candy industry. At that time, he also fired his first full-time employee, a candy maker named Thomas Dattalo.
Mar-O-Bar did not even come close to Hershey‘s or Curtiss’s Baby Ruth. However, it worked out and was completed as a business. It allowed Frank Mars to buy the house and gain some profit. At the time, he invited his son Forrest to a factory, where the situation between father and son was tense, but Frank Mars proposed an idea that changed the course of history. Soon, Mar-O-bar Incorporated became Mars, Inc.
The story goes on, and we will never know if it really happened or was made up. Forrest appeared to have gone overboard in Chicago, plastering advertisements for Camel on the streets. As a result, he was arrested. After his father bailed him out, they sat at a soda counter, drinking the chocolate-malted drinks. And out of nowhere, 18-year old Forest just asked: “Why don’t you put chocolate-malted milk in a candy bar?” This conversation was the turning point in the history of Mars, Inc.
Frank Mars used nougat in his candies a lot. Generally, nougat candy was invented in the 15th century, and using it in candy was not new. He started to use nougat in his candies in 1920. As we already mentioned above, he even named it “The Nougat House.” However, later on, he decided to mix it with chocolate, and he put caramel on top of it. That was how the “Milky Way“ was created. Candy was introduced in 1923.
Production of the Milky Way bar was a turning point. It tasted like chocolate malted milk. The name had a cosmic inspiration. Within a year, the sales rose rapidly and brought a profit of $11 million (in today’s money). Foster even said, “That damn thing sold with no advertising.”
Rise of Mars Inc.
In 1929, Frank Mars moved to Chicago. He settled in the Illinois River Forest. There, he worked at the police department and even became an honorary captain of Oak Park. Franklyn not only had a candy business, but he bought a couple of local farms called Milky-Way Farm. He loved horses very much. In 1930, he introduced the second candy bar that gave his company huge fame and popularity. It was a Snickers bar. Because of his love for horses, he named the candy “Snickers“ after his favorite horse. The Snickers bar was first made without the chocolate coating.
Frank had a very good relationship with Milton Hershey. Even more, he was one of the biggest clients of Hershey’s. In fact, he spent as much as $7.5 million a year on chocolate coating.
After Frank became very rich, Forrest started to think that there were more opportunities on the market than Frank thought. He wanted to participate in expanding the business. However, Frank did not really like that idea. After some arguments, his father gave him the $50, 000 plus the foreign rights to the Milky Way. As a result of all this, Frank moved to Europe, where he learned how to make European-style candies.
All of this inspired him to create “Mars Bar,” a sweeter version of the Milky Way. The sales were fantastic in Europe, and all that left Forrest with a good fortune. Later on, in 1941, he created the world-famous M&M’s candy, which was also a success. During that time, Forrest actually learned business really well and had his skills developed.
The End is Just the New Beginning
Franklin Clarence Mars passed away in 1934 at the age of fifty. After his death, his second wife, Ethel, took over the process. After Ethel, it was Franklin’s half-brother who came out on top. However, finally, when the company was not in good shape anymore, Forrest Mars took over. Because of him, Mars became much more than just a candy company. With Mars incorporated, Forrest created “Whiskas Cat Food” and “Uncle Ben’s Rice.” Today, his three kids run the company, which is valued at around $70.
After learning about Frank Mars’s life and discussing his decisions, it is still a mystery how he managed to pull himself together and keep going and going after what he went through. He had many failures and missteps. He went down many times. Since his childhood, when he survived Polio, problems did not go away. Failure was coming one after another. Frank Mars must’ve had a very strong personality to still follow his dreams at any cost. And as a result, he did it. He achieved what he always wanted and became remembered by not only his future generation but the whole world.
Nato is a content writer and researcher with a background in psychology. She’s passionate about writing about the candy industry and exploring the cultural significance of sweets and treats. She believes that the stories behind our favorite snacks can reveal a great deal about our values.
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