Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Forrest Mars

Today we honor the hero of sweet-toothed consumers everywhere: Forrest Mars. Mars (1904 - 1999) was responsible for developing his father's chocolate company from a regional success into a multinational seller of candy and other food products. Besides creating Uncle Ben's rice and the Mars Bar, Mars hooked the world on one of the most famous candies of the last century: M&Ms.

Mars started his career by taking a modified version of his father's famous Milky Way bar to England. There in 1932 he set up shop and produced his new bar, named after himself, which has been produced in much the same manner at the same location ever since. Later during his travels in Europe that same decade, Mars came across candied chocolates and was inspired to create M&Ms.

When Mars returned to the US, he had chocolate candies on the mind but not the resources to operate a plant. He went in to business with the son of a Hershey executive to produce the M&Ms (named after the proprietors Mars and Murrie). Since Hershey had a contract with the government during the war and chocolate was being rationed, M&Ms were made exclusively for the troops.

Forrest Mars is a great example of the entrepreneur as transmitter of ideas. No, he didn't invent sugar-covered chocolate candies. They may have been common in some region of Spain or wherever it was he found them. But without him, how long would it have been before the masses enjoyed such a treat? Five years, 30 years? Heroes of Capitalism don't have to offer profound insights - or originality. We celebrate them because they made notable contributions to societal well-being. Luckily Forrest Mars knew a good idea when he saw it, and his efforts make people like me happy every time we rip open a bag of those milk chocolate goodies.

MIT Inventor of the Week
NYT Obit
Mars, Inc Wikipedia


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Ramesh said...

Mars is my favorite after snickers.

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