Mars knows chocolate sales are nothing to snicker at. The company makes global brands 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 labels. 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 company, making the family one of the wealthiest in the US.
The McLean, Virginia-based food company runs a global business with the help of some 135 factories in 73 countries.
As a rule, Mars likes to stay out of the press and maintains a virtually debt-free business, using its profits for expansion. The company operates through six segments: Chocolate, Drinks, Food, Petcare, Wrigley, and Symbioscience.
Mars Chocolate, based in Mount Olive, New Jersey, operates across nearly 20 countries and counts five billion-dollar global brands: M&M's, Snickers, Dove/Galaxy, Mars/Milky Way, and Twix.
Mars Drinks operates in seven countries with a portfolio of five brands: Klix, Flavia, Alterra, The Bright Tea Co., and Dove/Galaxy hot chocolate. It boasts a US headquarters in West Chester, Pennsylvania, and a UK office in Basingstoke.
Mars Food, based in Brussels, Belgium, consists of about 15 brands across 10 countries. The unit's billion-dollar brand -- Uncle Ben's (rice) -- is more than 50 years old. The segment also has several other brands: Dolmio, Masterfoods, Seeds of Change, Ebly, Royco, Kan Tong, Suzi Wan, and Raris. The business includes Mars Foodservices, which is focused on making brands available through food service channels the likes of restaurants, schools, hotels, hospitals, and other out-of-home outlets.
Mars Petcare, based in Brussels, Belgium, spans 50 countries and includes more than 40 brands, with billion-dollar brands Pedigree, Whiskas, and Royal Canin.
Wrigley, headquartered in Chicago, is a top global gum and confections maker, operating in 48 countries with a portfolio of more than 40 brands and two billion-dollar brands: Extra and Orbit. Other brands include Doublemint, Life Savers, Skittles, 5, and Starburst. Altoids, Juicy Fruit, and Wrigley's Spearmint are each more than 100-year-old brand names.
Mars Symbioscience, with brands CocoaVia, Wisdom Panel, and Seramis, operates in three countries from its headquarters in Germantown, Maryland. The health and life sciences operation consists of Mars Botanical, Mars Veterinary, and Mars Plantcare.
Five principles provide a foundation for Mars. Defining its culture and the way the company conducts business is quality, responsibility, mutuality, efficiency, and freedom. These principles, the company says, unite its geographies, languages, cultures, and generations.
Mars generates more than $30 billion in net sales each year, thanks to its diverse revenue streams through its six business segments.
Mars opened its first new chocolate plant in 35 years in March 2014 near Topeka, Kansas. The new $270 million facility will help meet growing US demand for Snickers candy bars and M&Ms. As part of its ongoing strategy, the company leverages the strength of existing brands to launch products that are extensions of popular core products. Indeed, Mars has been 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. Building on this service, Mars in 2011 rolled out a similar product named MyExtra for its Wrigley gum that allows consumers to customize wrappers on Extra gum packs.
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 names 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, given its size. Wrigley operates as a stand-alone Mars subsidiary.
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. In a bid to grow its pet food business, Mars in 2014 agreed to acquire the IAMS, Eukanuba, and Natura brands from Procter & Gamble for $2.9 billion. The company expects the deal to close in the second half of 2014.
The company is owned and operated by the founding Mars family.