Mars knows chocolate sales are nothing to snicker at. It makes such worldwide favorites as M&M's, Snickers, and the Mars bar. Other confections include 3 Musketeers, Dove, Milky Way, Skittles, and Twix. Its products portfolio also boasts Seeds of Change organic food, the Klix and Flavia beverage systems, Combos and Kudos snacks, Uncle Ben's rice, and pet food made under the Pedigree, Sheba, and Whiskas names. Mars owns the world's largest chewing gum maker Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company, as well. The Mars family -- including siblings and chairman John Franklyn Mars, VP Jacqueline Badger Mars, and former CEO Forrest Mars Jr. -- owns the highly secretive firm, making the family one of the wealthiest in the US.
Mars has held its own in the confectionery sector against international rivals the likes of Nestle by inking its fair share of sweet deals. The candy company's savvy takeover of chewing gum giant Wrigley (valued at some $23 billion) in 2008 brought together a pair of iconic US companies, both of which already had a substantial worldwide presence. Indeed, Mars has greatly expanded its product lineup with such well-known brands as Altoids, Life Savers, and Creme Savers, along with the best-selling chewing gum brands Spearmint, Juicy Fruit, Doublemint, and a host of others. Together, the companies also flex increased global marketing and distribution muscle, as well as cost-savings in manufacturing and raw materials. Wrigley operates as a stand-alone Mars subsidiary.
The large acquisition spurred movement in the executive suite. Soon after buying the Wrigley business, Mars replaced its CEO and president William Perez with a Mars 19-year veteran Dushan "Duke" Petrovich. Petrovich took the title of president, eliminating the CEO position.
While the candy company counts on consumers who need sugar fixes, Mars also caters to canines. The company has taken a large bite of the pet food market with its Royal Canin, Pedigree, and Whiskas brands. As a strategic add-on business, the company's Pedigree brand peddles a product called Wisdom Panel, which is a DNA test kit for dogs that determines the pet's breed mix.
The company has built a business leveraging the strength of existing brands to launch products that are extensions of popular core products. Indeed, Mars in 2010 was lured by the trend of sweet-and-savory foods by launching a M&M's with salted pretzel centers called M&M's Pretzel Chocolate Candies. The company has further expanded its M&M's brand with limited varieties such as its coconut M&M's and flavors that tie into big-screen movies. The candy brand, first launched in the 1940s, boasts a service for consumers to create their own custom M&M's with phrases and photos.
The company has 135 factories in 68 countries. As a rule, Mars likes to stay out of the press and stays virtually debt-free, using its profits for expansion.
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