Mars makes chocolates, snacks, and other products for Earth's consumers. It makes globally recognized brands M&M's, Snickers, and the Mars bar, as well as other confections such as 3 Musketeers, Dove, Milky Way, Skittles, and Twix. Through the world's largest chewing gum maker Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company, Mars owns the Juicy Fruit, Orbit, Altoids, and Extra brands. Its product portfolio also boasts Seeds of Change organic food, Combos and Kudos snacks, Uncle Ben's rice, and pet food made under Pedigree, Sheba, Whiskas, and nearly 50 other brands. The Mars family owns the historically secretive company, making Mars one of the nation's largest private companies and the family one of the nation's wealthiest.
Mars operates through four primary product groups: Confectionary, Petcare, Food, and Mars Edge.
Mars Wrigley Confectionary, based in Chicago, distributes billion-dollar brands M&M's, Snickers, Dove/Galaxy, Mars/Milky Way, and Twix, among other chocolate, candy, and gum products in more than 180 countries.
Mars Petcare, based in Brussels, spans 50 countries and includes some 50 brands, with billion-dollar brands such as Pedigree, Whiskas, and Royal Canin, as well as Nutro and Sheba. The segment, which contributes the most to total revenue, also includes veterinary clinics Banfield, VCA, and Bluepearl.
Mars Food, based in London, consists of about a dozen brands that are available in more than 30 countries. The unit's billion-dollar brand -- Uncle Ben's (rice) -- is more than 70 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 foodservice channels such as restaurants, schools, hotels, hospitals, and other out-of-home outlets. The food business boasts about a dozen manufacturing sites.
Lastly, the company's newest segment, Mars Edge, is dedicated to nutrition. It includes Mars Symbioscience, which offers CocoaVia cocoa extract dietary supplements.
It sold its Drinks business, which included the Flavia and Klix coffee brands, to the Lavazza Group in late 2018.
The McLean, Virginia-based food company runs a global business with hundreds of factories in some 80 countries in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, and the Americas. In addition to its headquarters, Mars' primary US locations include Chicago; Germantown, Maryland; and New Jersey.
Sales and Marketing
Mars sells its products worldwide through retailers.
As a privately held company, Mars does not release full financials, but it has reported total revenue of more than $35 billion.
As part of its ongoing strategy, Mars leverages the strength of existing brands to launch extensions of those popular core products. M&M's, for example, has seen a host of temporary and permanent varieties introduced in recent years, including Pretzel M&Ms, Crispy M&Ms, White Chocolate M&M's, and Caramel M&Ms, as well as M&M's chocolate blocks and cookies. In late 2018 the company began offering M&M's Chocolate Bars and in mid-2019 plans to launch Hazelnut Spread M&M's.
Although candy-loving consumers are important to Mars, equally key, if not more so, are canines and felines. The company is creating one of the world's leading pet care giants through both organic growth and acquisitions. Already a leader in the pet food business (with brands such as Royal Canin, Pedigree, and Whiskas), Mars has added veterinary clinics to its portfolio through acquisitions including the 2017 purchase of VCA. It is nicely positioned to capitalize on the booming pet products/pet care industry.
As it focuses on its traditional confectionary and fast-growing pet businesses, the company divested its coffee business. In late 2018 it sold Mars Drinks, which includes the Flavia and Klix brands, to Italian coffee brand Lavazza for an estimated $650 million.
Lastly, Mars is making a concerted effort to engage more with the public as consumer expectations change about how companies do business. It wants to tell its story of innovation, diversification, and growth, hoping to attract the next generation of employees along the way. This initiative includes more transparency in funding of scientific studies, more executive interviews, as well as more direct-to-consumer digital communication via social media and other avenues.
Mergers and Acquisitions
In late 2017 Mars acquired veterinary care chain VCA for $9.1 billion, including $1.4 billion in debt. VCA became part of Mars Petcare, which operates veterinary companies Banfield Pet Hospital and Bluepearl and manufactures pet food brands Royal Canin, Pedigree, and Whiskas. The acquisition strengthened Mars' dominant market presence in the thriving pet care industry.
Frank Mars invented the Milky Way candy bar in 1923 after his previous three efforts at the candy business left him bankrupt. After his estranged son, Forrest, graduated from Yale, Mars hired him to work at his candy operation. When Forrest demanded one-third control of the company and Frank refused, Forrest moved to England with the foreign rights to Milky Way and started his own company (Food Manufacturers) in the 1930s. He made a sweeter version of Milky Way for the UK, calling it a Mars bar. Forrest also ventured into pet food with the 1934 purchase of Chappel Brothers (renamed Pedigree). At one point he controlled 55% of the British pet food market.
During WWII Forrest returned to the US and introduced Uncle Ben's rice (the world's first brand-name raw commodity) and M&M's (a joint venture between Forrest and Bruce Murrie, son of Hershey's then-president). The idea for M&M's was borrowed from British Smarties, for which Forrest obtained rights (from Rowntree Mackintosh) by relinquishing similar rights to the Snickers bar in some foreign markets.
Forrest merged his firm with his deceased father's company in 1964, after buying his dying half-sister's controlling interest. (He renamed the business Mars at her request.)
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