The European Division, known as Masterfoods Europe, is headquartered in Brussels, Belgium. The name Masterfoods originally came from a food business founded by the Lewis family in 1949 in Australia, and acquired by Mars in 1967.
The company announced at the end of 2007 that all business units were adopting the name Mars. Masterfoods ceased to be a business name but continues as the brand name of food products in Australia.
Mars is most famous for its eponymous Mars Bar, as well as other confectionery such as Milky Way, M&M's, Twix, Skittles and Snickers. They also produce non-confectionery snacks (including Combos) and other foods (including Uncle Ben's and British Pasta Sauce Brand Dolmio) as well as pet foods (such as Whiskas, Chappy and Pedigree brands). Mars' purchase of Doane Petcare Company in June 2006 significantly increased its position in the US dry pet food category.
On April 28, 2008, Mars, Incorporated, together with Berkshire Hathaway Incorporated announced the buyout of Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company, the world's largest chewing gum producer, for $23 billion in an all cash deal. The two companies together are expected to generate sales in excess of $27 billion and unseat Cadbury as the world's largest confectioner.
Mars is still a family owned business, belonging to the Mars family. The company is famous for its secrecy. Through the years, repeated attempts to get inside the company have taken place but to no avail. In 1992, a writer from The Washington Post was allowed limited access into the heart of the company. When the final article appeared, it supposedly talked about some of the more embarrassing and forgotten moments in the company's history. In 1999, for example, the company did not acknowledge that Forrest Mars, Sr., had died or that he had worked for the company.
The company argues that due to private ownership, there is no need to account to anyone but themselves. In the same spirit, Mars, Inc., does not cooperate with many widely publicized organizations, such as Fair trade, arguing that its own internal standards, rooted in the "Five Principles" deliver even better results. An example is the company's Cocoa Sustainability initiative.
Despite its secrecy, Mars Incorporated has developed a reputation across its leading markets to be excellent training grounds for managers. In the UK, for instance, many CEOs of large companies learned their trade at Mars, Inc. For example, former Mars executive Geoff Starr was appointed by Associated British Foods as the new CEO of George Weston Foods. Recently, the company caught on to that and re-branded their employer brand to "Mars - The Ultimate Business School".
Moving into fourth generation family ownership, the company recently passed from family leadership into non-family leadership; however, the business is still owned by the family. The global CEO of Mars, Inc. is Paul Michaels. Michaels is part of a new group of non-family management that has taken over since the retirement of John and Forrest Mars, Jr. The family now oversees the business as a council or board of directors.
In the United States the company has manufacturing facilities in Hackettstown, New Jersey; Albany, Georgia; Burr Ridge, Chicago and Mattoon, Illinois; Cleveland, Tennessee; Columbia, South Carolina; Columbus, Ohio; Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania; Greenville, Mississippi; Greenville and Waco, Texas; Henderson and Reno, Nevada; and Vernon, California.
Until sold in June 2006, a division of Mars known as Mars Electronics International produced, among other products, coin mechanisms such as those used in vending machines. MEI also manufactured bill validators, which were among the most common bill validators found in the US.
A further Mars business - FourSquare - utilise those products formerly made at MEI in their vending machines. Four Square comprises the Flavia and Klix brands. Flavia operates within the US, UK and Japanese markets, while Klix operates within UK, Germany and France.
In 2007, Mars Incorporated undertook a major rebranding operation which saw, among other global changes, FourSquare being renamed to Mars Drinks, the pet food division (formerly part of Masterfoods) being renamed to Mars Petfoods and Masterfoods itself (the largest division of Mars, Incorporated) being renamed to Mars Snacks.
In 1932, Forrest Mars, Sr., opened what was then Mars (Europe) headquarters, and remains Mars (UK) headquarters in Slough, UK on the then-new Slough Trading Estate after a disagreement with his father, Frank C. Mars. In this factory, he produced the first Mars Bar, based on the American Milky Way. In 1936, Mars separated the vanilla version of Milky Way to a separate brand, Forever Yours, which was discontinued and later reintroduced as Milky Way Dark and later still, Milky Way Midnight.
The bar formerly sold in the US as the Mars Bar is now marketed in that country as the Snickers Almond Bar and is not sold consistently in the UK where it has appeared with other special editions that are released occasionally.
Milky Way in Europe and worldwide is known as the 3 Musketeers in America. Similarly, the Snickers bar was previously marketed in Britain and the Republic of Ireland as Marathon until 1990; in the UK, France, Germany and the Netherlands, also until 1990; Dove is known as Galaxy in the UK, Republic of Ireland and the Middle East; and Starburst was known in the UK and Ireland as Opal Fruits until 1998. Chocolate and peanut M&M's were introduced in 1990.
The two factories in Slough were located on Liverpool Road and Dundee Road; the one on Liverpool Road closed in 2007, with Twix and Starburst production moving to the Netherlands and the Czech Republic.
In 1963 a large factory was opened in Veghel, The Netherlands. This factory has currently the biggest production volume of Mars factories and is even the biggest chocolate factory of the world. Most confectionery products for Europe are produced in Slough, UK and Veghel, The Netherlands.
During the US telecast of Super Bowl XLI, Snickers, a Mars, Inc. brand, ran an ad campaign with NFL approval and logo, portraying two men who accidentally kiss each other while biting into a candy bar and respond with violence. The ad's imagery created negative publicity, including statements from HRC and GLAAD, that led to the ads and those on their related website being pulled.
From 1 May 2007, many Mars products made in the UK became unsuitable for vegetarians. The company announced that it would be using whey made with animal rennet (material from a calf's stomach lining, and a byproduct of veal), instead of using rennet made by micro organisms, in products including Mars, Twix, Snickers, Maltesers, Bounty, Minstrels and Milky Way. The response from many thousands of consumers, particularly the Vegetarian Society's request for UK vegetarians to register their protests with Mars, generated a lot of press, and caused the company to abandon these plans shortly thereafter. It has reportedly decided to switch to all-vegetarian sources in the near future in the UK. In January 2008 the Metro newspaper reported that Mars had allegedly begun to incorporate animal derived rennet.
Mars has come under criticism by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals for funding animal tests which the group alleges are inhumane, including a study regarding angiogenesis and spatial memory in which mice were force fed catechins, a candy ingredient, compelled to swim in paint, then dissected. Other experiments involved life-threatening cardiac puncture of mice with inadequate anesthesia. PETA alleges that these experiments are not required by law, their only purpose being to promote increased consumption of Mars' products and that harmless tests can be done on humans.
There is evidence that Mars, and a number of other chocolate manufacturers, such as Hershey and Nestle, source cocoa beans from African nations that are known to use child labour. The State Department's year 2000 human rights report "concluded that some 15,000 children between the ages of 9 and 12 from poorer neighboring countries of Mali, Burkina Faso, Benin and Togo have been sold into forced labor on northern Ivory Coast plantations in recent years Furthermore, these chocolate companies lobby against United States legislation requiring "'slave free' labels on their products.
Other confections, no longer produced, include:
Mars Symbioscience Businesses: