Franklin C. Mars was born in 1883 in Minnesota and suffered from polio as a child. Since he couldn’t run around and play outside like other kids, his mother trained him in her favorite indoor art: candy making. By the time Frank was 19, he was making and selling his candy. After marrying first wife (and first of two ladies with the same first name) Ethel G. Kissack, their son Forrest Edward Mars was born. The couple divorced in 1902.
In 1910 Frank married Ethel (#2) Healy and they began to make candy from their home. They decided to open a small candy factory when the need outgrew their kitchen. Without refrigeration, candy was made and delivered in the same day.
In 1920, the company moved to a larger factory in Minneapolis called the “Nougat House” and changed its name to MAR-O-BAR, after the company’s first creation. The success of the Milky Way bar increased sales from less than $100,000 to $793,000. The company expanded and changed the name of the company (again) from MAR-O-BAR to the less-capitalized Mars, Inc.
In another Chicago connection, Mars Inc. moved a second time to the Windy City to take advantage of their position as a rail system hub. It took 3 years to develop and perfect the Snickers bar, which was released in 1930. The name came from Frank and Ethel’s favorite horse on their Tennessee farm (the Milky Way farm, of course), which died a few months before the bars were sold. I’d love to know what other names they were considering other than a recently deceased horse, but that appears to have been lost in the sands of time. The bars sold for 20 cents each, which was 4 times the price of the Milky Way upon its release in 1920.
Much like George Kanelos (of Andes fame), Forrest Mars didn’t like his dad’s small scale operation and wanted to mass market Mars products. Frank, ever the patriot, disagreed and wanted to stay solo in America. In the 1930s, realizing that they wouldn’t see eye to eye in their business visions, Frank gave Forrest the formula for the Milky Way bar and $50,000 to start his own candy business. Forrest took off to Europe and made his own way, creating a bar similar to the Milky Way that suited overseas tastes. When Frank Mars died in 1934 at age 50, his son merged the American and UK Mars companies together to form the candy powerhouse they are today.
In the UK and Ireland, what Americans called the Snickers bar was sold under the name “Marathon.” In 1990, recognizing growing globalization and the need for stronger branding worldwide, Mars changed the name to Snickers. Strangely enough, Snickers recently started selling an “energy bar” branded as Marathon. Hey, it’s a good name!
There has been some controversy surrounding ads the company has released. In the US the “accidental kiss” Superbowl ad created quite a stir and had many consumers wondering where Mars stood on issues of homophobia. In the UK, they released a similarly stupid ad in which Mr. T makes fun of a power walking man, goading him to do something “more manly”. Apparently, neither of these gaffs taxed their image or pocketbooks much. The Snickers bar is the best selling candy bar in the world, with over $2 billion in yearly sales and 15 million bars produced every day.
My personal take on Snickers? It’s not my favorite candy bar and I certainly don’t eat my share of the zillions produced each year. With all the caramel and peanuts smushed together, it doesn’t fit very neatly into my “easily disassembled” preference for candy. Their release of a peanut butter variety last year didn’t taste peanut buttery enough to me. And I have to admit that they horrified me a little bit three years ago with the creation of the Snickers Charged, containing 60 milligrams of caffeine. BUT, although I don’t think I’ve eaten one in a decade, I do think that the frozen Snickers ice cream bars are the bee’s knees. And one time I had a fried Snickers at the state fair and it was amazing. Real talk.
A standard Snickers candy bar contains 280 calories, 14 grams of fat, 150 mg. of sodium, 5 mg. of cholesterol, 36 grams total carbohydrates, and 4 grams of protein.