The Milky Way candy bar got its name from a chocolate malt milkshake that was popular at the time it was created. The candy bar was supposed to mimic the shake, and it was an immediate hit upon release in the United States.
The Milky Way bar was first sold in 1923 after three years of research. It was the first candy bar with a distinct filling made of chocolate malt nougat and caramel, designed to emulate chocolate malt shakes, which had already proven to be a hit. The advertising slogan for the bar was, "A Chocolate Malted Milk in a Candy Bar." Milky Ways were the first large commercial success for Mars, Inc., which was previously known as the Mar-O-Bar Company.
Before the advent of the Milky Way, Frank Mars had smaller candy operations. Frank Mars sold butter cream from his house in Tacoma, Wash. before beginning the Mar-O-Bar Company in Minneapolis. The bars, while a precursor to Milky Ways, fell apart when shipped long distances. Mars' company had revenues of less than $100,000 a year. With the release of Milky Ways, however, sales increased to almost eight times that amount. In the years following the Milky Way, Snickers and 3 Musketeers were released.